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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 5, 2016 5:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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i have seen it close for seven and a half years. we don't do anything to help low-wage people with the minimum wage. we bury people in debt when they are trying to get an education. we have totally ignored climate change, as we see miami beach getting swallowed up with water. it wasn't long ago, and i was there, when republicans used to engage in thoughtful policy. mcconnell ordered republicans from promoting any policy supported by obama or democrats. orders,g mcconnell's
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the republican party has become a hollowed out shell of its former self. i gave a speech, as some of you remember, on this very subject. now, trump is the nominee. he is the leader the republican party deserves. the republican party is trump's party. be hearing from donald trump live at a rally in charleston, west virginia, coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. eastern time on c-span. secretary, we probably give 72 of our delegate votes to the next president of the united states. [cheering] ♪
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recently, our campaign 2016 bus made a visit to pennsylvania during its primary, stopping that grow city college, slippery rock university, washington and jefferson college, and harrisburg area community college where students and officials learned about our road to the white house coverage and our interactive resources found at www.c-span.org. visitors were able to share their thoughts with us about the upcoming election. our trip ended in warrington, pennsylvania where we honored ninth graders for their
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participation in our student cam competition. you can view all of the winning documentaries at studentcam.org. now a debate about human genetic engineering and synthetic biology. panelists include scientists who created a hacker space for bio scientists in his garage. they discuss ethics of altering human embryos, cloning and gene-altering technology. shaping san francisco is the host of this discussion. >> yeah, welcome to c-span. welcome to the vast audience that sees c-span programing across the united states and across the world. we're very happy to have you all with us at our shaping san francisco talks. this talk tonight is on
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synthetic biology. diy meets big capital is the title we gave it, and it is really borne out of a long interest i've had, in way roots of shaping san francisco is community participatory history project but was rooted essentially in a critcan relationship to technology. we started in the mid '90s during big boom of interactive multimedia and kind of way before there was even web 1.0 really. we were already working on this project and we've gone through quite a few iterations. we've lived through endless rounds of hysteria that technology will save us and take us to the promised land and so on and so one of the interesting topics for me is try to think about what is the moment in history that you're living through. it is very difficult to get your head wrapped around that. tonight was a chance to take a pause and invite people who are working on this from various points of view to come together and help us get a grip on a big part of the current tech boom.
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we talk about it in terms of social media, google, but the big mystery in san francisco is a huge part of our economy is medical. a large part of that is rooted in biological science. we have this phenomenon of huge investment going into that world , changing what we know about longevity and health. that is part of what we will get into tonight. there's also this underground that is kind of claiming that same world from a hacking point of view, and we have somebody to help us get a handle on that. perhaps some of you in the audience will be able to events one or more of those threads. withf our talks start lovely people who come to give us their expertise, and then we open it up to you to participate. for the second hour, everybody that is here has an equal chance to participate. we will bring the microphone out to you, so your voice gets recorded. we record these and save them
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online. all of our talks going back for 10 years most of them, ones that successfully recorded online and hunt through the talks and and -- find your way into all the interesting things discussed. i will read you quick bios of the three speakers in order they appear. first, we have elliott housman, a staffer at the center for genetics and society. elliott's advocacy work has included money, bail reform, and a campaign at the center for human rights, legal aid and impact litigation at transgender law center. elliott's research focuses on vulnerable bodies and populations under surveillance and apartheid, particularly intersex, neural
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diverse, disabled, and racialized youth. in december 2015, elliott was invited to attend the international summit on human gene editing in the district of columbia and live tweeted event for the center on genetics in society. elliot will be first followed by tito jankowski, his bio doesn't start with the name so i'm saying that first. bill gates was quoted if he were starting his career, he would be bio hacker. five years ago, we, this is tito's voice, opened the first community biotech lab in the world. bio-curious, with the motto, experiment with friends. we're a community of amateur scientists engineers, who are curious about biotechnology. come learn about how this new model for innovation is reinventing the field of biotechnology and how you can apply this creative approach to your own work. tito janikowski, one of cofounders of bio curious. runway incubator, a 30,000 square foot startup incubator home to 84 start-ups downtown this san francisco in the
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twitter building, our favorite place in town. finally we'll have pete shanks who studied philosophy and polics and economics at oxford university and moved to the california in the mid-1970 ace. active in a range of local and international political movements while mostly making living in publishing industry, especially on productive side. he enjoys the craft of book making. apalled by the eugenic againic possibilities of bio engineering. he is author of human genetic engineering a guide for activists, skeptics and very perplexed published by nation books and is regular contributor to bio political times. so we're excited to have all three of you. we'll have one come up here after another of the elliot, if you don't mind, take it away. thank y'all for coming. [applause] elliott: okay.
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i'm adjusting the mic as told. okay. so i am, so excited to be here. thank you so much for having us, chris. i am really glad we're having this conversation particularly not only in this city but in this neighborhood, right? so the last week we've seen really brutal police violence just a few streets from here. i don't know if you following in the news, but i really think we need to think about not only, you know, i'm going to talk a bit about imperialism, a little bit about sort of pioneering values driving a lot of technological innovation today but also how that violence manifests and how we make space, right, for more innovators to come into the city and what that looks like. so, yes, so this is me. we are at the center for genetics and society. i really want to talk specifically about putting biotechnology sort of in this idea of the empire of
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technological innovation. so here we go. does anyone know what this is? it is not the death star. okay. [inaudible] yeah, okay. this is a rendering on a computer, this is not the real thing. looks more like a, what is that called, hangar right now. but you know, the economist says that may be the most expensive headquarters in history. i really want to think about this. what is manifest destiny look like in the current moment? you know as we're clearing space, and we're thinking about this is cupertino but this is sacred land. i have want to think about, are we moving from this idea of manifest destiny towards the west and through the web and through big data and now looking at sort of the manifest destiny of the genome? what are sort of some of these frontiers that we're looking at and what does innovation look like from this vantage point.
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so i want to kind of, try to piece together i think a lot of the strands that i see happening in our city right now. i want to kind of work through this idea of solutions through technological innovation and tie them from the app for that economy. tie it to some of the work that we witnessed at center, right? which is genetic determinism. the idea that our dna is the code of our bodies and try to pull out some of the assumptions and reductionism of that. and then i want to ask our, is this new moment of technology something where we look at organisms as there is an org for that? do we need, new orgs for different solutions of our lives? so you're going to -- but app for that probably in the news and i think a lot of this is right like, app for that has been in the news but i think there is a lot of similar values. we look for a gene for that and an org for that.
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so i will start here. one of the pieces i think that is really interesting, there is a lot of text, you don't have to read it, one thing i think is really interesting, what are the underlying values for the app for that economy? this idea if we could only have this critical mass of bright minds in a room somewhere and if they were working on our hardest problems, then they would come up with an innovation and we would all be okay, right? i think there is almost this, hopefulness, optimism and unilateral solutions and certain very smart mind would work on a global scale. so you know, some of this uses a lot of language of empowerment. democratizing, revolutionary, that we're sharing things. a lot of this priority tieses -- prioritizes customers and convenience and certain classes over rights of workers and over social consequence that flow from a lot of errant wastefulness of venture-capital, thinking that high-risk is very normal. so trying to you know, we're laying that out there. and then the gene for that. you know, when i was growing up
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it was very not okay to be gay at all. i didn't come out until i was 24. one of the things, right, when i heard about this idea that gay gene, well that makes sense. finally my parents will listen to me, right. finally, it is not my fault. there is genetic basis why i am who i am. on flip side of that right, like what if we found that gene, or thought we found that gene? what could be the flipside, are there consequences? you know a lot of things that we've seen in our work at the society or the center have been sort of almost super absurd genes for that, right? used to have a column on our blog, biopolitical times, called gene of the week. we kept seeing research emerging. there is a gene for being liberal. there is a gene for being promiscuous. this is taking a turn in regard
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to behavioral genetics. not only like there is gay gene potentially, it gets kind of risen from the archives of pseudo science, couple years in the scientific journals. i'm not sure about the science, but we also see it in really toxic ways when it comes to things like criminality. there is, there is scientists that say oh there is warrior gene, there is gangster gene and what is the implications of that? what if we do if we thought we found the gangster gene? would go inschools to screening kids or segregate them from the other students? we need to be very careful when we use metaphor like code, blueprint and map when we talk about dna, this is the reference, right, there is no gene for the human spirit. we are not our genes and, this is this idea even if we thought there was genetic link, that it could be really stocks in pre-adult testing in so many spheres for that.
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that is the gene for that. i want to talk a little bit about -- oops. orgs for that. i will talk about two separate spheres. this vegan cheese is something tito has been working on so props to tito but i want to, i'm going to link it together with this idea of technological solution but i want to talk a little bit about the, this idea of glowing trees has been really interesting. i've seen this on in the news over the past few years and this idea, what if we could use really exciting new organisms to replace some of the sort of environmentally toxic things we have in our life? like electrical lighting. trees could replace street lambs. i find that fascinating. this idea of a vegan cheese. take animal out of animal product not only get away from utilitarianism of using animals but moral implications people
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have with animal products. but i want to turn to the biotech sphere to see how some of these things can be really toxic. with golden rice, i think food writer michael pollen has real interesting comparison on this, i don't know if you have seen the four-part netflix series. it is really good. he has this idea, postwar, we're in america and we've moved from this idea sort of like whole grain flours down at local stone mills and all this stuff, we moved into the commercially processing where we used food we created for soldiers overseas and brought it back into america and we have this pretty -- flour now. we've done it in really commercial way. doesn't have the nutrients the flush really has. we'll have add vitamins into it and call it enriched flour and tell it to the people that it is better than the original stuff. this is genetically modified rice which has vitamin a into it. it is sold as a biotech solution
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to malnutrition in developing countries. i want to sit on that idea. the idea of hornless cows that uc-davis is working on. they used this genetic technology that will come up tonight called crisper 9. and there's a variety of ways this is kind of popping up in our agriculture. how can we make our animals convenient for the industrial farming that we do? we think a lot about animals as biomedical models. it's important to know how we are treating animals. so i want to talk a little bit of the history of fixing life and this is something with the new editing tools, these are new on the scene in the last three years, they are cheaper, they're quicker and easier to use and a lot of people have wondered if we have the capacity to now modify a lot of organisms, should we do it with humans, should we do it before they're born in maybe the same met -- metaphor before the cow?
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what he's basically saying, you know, as oppose the sterilizations, the way we segregated people that we didn't want away from society, now we are able to do this and now seemingly sterile mocular level. and he's also bringing the point that i'm going reiterate with another person, the idea that we sometimes assume that biotechnology is the most effective tool for social problems and i really want to interrogate the idea with you tonight because i'm not sure that it is. another person ruha, you can watch the videos on line at the the national academy on site. she really was pushing back on the idea that they were rigged for humans and wants us to think about life and interface, identities interfees -- interface with sint -- scientific categories. rather than dealing with social conditions that affect us all, just global poverty, inequality,
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mass encargs ration, housing and food storage that we see all over in san francisco and oakland. not only does it sort of give people the ability to opt out the social treatment if they have access or resources, but also tries to get the issue out of sight. we don't even think of it as a problem that we are investing in solving.
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we only bright minds in the room to solve, that's okay. who are the scientists, can we call it that and what is democracy look like in the new spaces specially backdrops to all of the contents by biotechs, giant billion-dollar baa --
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patent battles, right? are we going to rely on the idea of freedom of expression. how do we define what i see in the codes of conduct assort of peace and respect for the environment, thinking about the beginning of this, how do we protect the environment from these spaces and are we engaged sometimes in the idea of public deficit model of public participation. who is the observer and who is the student and who is the teacher, and lastly, i really wanting to back in the idea of interrogating equity and access
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-- is this the equivalent of trickle down and what values are being mechanized if we bring biohacking to market. so this is our motto, responsible uses of human genetic technologies and thank you so much. [applause] >> next up tito jankoswsky. i'm going take this one off. thank you.
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tito: thanks, elliot, that was really great. lots of nods from me. hi, everybody. let's see. biocurious, a hacker space for biotech. when we started five years ago, our goal was to get more people doing science stuff. we started labs in our garages and our apartments and then we
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got a kick starter and said, we want to make this bigger, so we raised $35,000 to make that happen. we got aware -- awarehouse and a mailing list of people that were interested. five days later i went to ask the question is biocurious successful and what does success mean? in silicon valley it's pretty easy to define. innovations. it means start-ups, it means inventions, an idea that's spreading. is biocurious successful in that way? first off we have the plant, it was actually the idea of isn't it neat the things in biology glow, living things can glow in
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a dark, what if we could make a plant that could glow in the dark, how would that work? it took off, okay. start-ups, yes. another one. real vegan cheese. they are using genetically yeast to use cow's milk without cows. so another start-up that's come out of space. that's pretty cool. how about inventions? we also have a group that came together to create this printer,
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bioprinter, the long-term idea to be able to print living things and what they've done is they've used basic electronics to make a kit that's being used in universities around the world because this is the type of thing that normally would cost hundreds of thousands -- or millions of -- millions of dollars and so it allows more people around the world in universities, at least, to try
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out this idea. so start-ups, yes, inventions, yes. when we first started biocurious was the first of its kind in the world. a whole bunch of people told us it would never work, who wants to go back to high school and take a biology class. five years later, all the other people around the world who
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started calling themselves, do it yourself biology or biohackers or biocurious. so that's interesting. five years later is biocurious successful by the definition of silicon valley. are there start-ups, yes, the idea spreading around the world, looks like it to me. but that's not what i came here to talk to you about. when we started biocurious i came at it from the aspect of biotech, genetic engineering, synthetic technology. that was me. let's get all the equipment together and let's do biotech. it's much more about curious. hey, this is a cool idea. this is a cool concept. this is something that i never thought i would learn about. this is a topic that i walked out of freshmen year knowing i would never look at biology again and that's the curiosity that i've really discovered at biocurious and i wanted to share some stories about that. a group of students that we brought in to do a workshop in a lab. the most interesting things is we bring in people from all around the world who are like what is going on at biocurious and i remember we brought in this one group and it was -- they're from switzerland and
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they were all in suits and business high heels and things like that and we were doing this experiment where we were looking to discover new antibotics in nature. you probably walked by a couple on the way here. somebody just discovered like a new species of bug in new york city. the eliad project. let's get plant samples from the world around us and let's mix them up with bacteria. if they die that means it's an antibiotic and if it doesn't, it doesn't have antibiotic properties. what i remember about this was i was walking with this woman into the backyard of biocurious, it's not like a jungle backyard that's supercool, a corporate -- it's like asphalt. [laughter]
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we were wandering around, she's stepping over this bush, we are like trumpi through the corporate flower gardens that are evenly spaced and she's stepping over the bush and reaches a redwood tree and grabs a piece of it and turns to me and says, do you think this is going to work in our experiment and i said, i have no idea, let's try it. we shared this moment because she hadn't had the ability or room to just try something in a really long time and that's -- that's what we have been able to do at biocurious, give that space to try something and not know that it's going to work, and that's okay. i have a picture of some different lab experiments. people getting together to try things out, a lot of people come to biocurious who has never been to a biotech lab before.
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that's like, well, welcome, this is your first step towards checking this out. another experiment that we did at biocurious is called the microsoft community project. a team working on building a high-end microscope, a 20,000-dollar lab microscope. we want to build this at 100 or $200. i remember i was sitting at biocurious and a group was coming in and people started going around the room and introducing themselves and i remember the first person that talked said, hey, i'm here, i'm
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really excited about the microscope project. i'm from valejo. valejo is two hours away, you drove here two hours to be interested in this microscope project. next to him is this women, i worked at google, i don't do anything relate today -- related to biology and i was pretty uncomfortable leaving work early but i did because i wanted to come check this out and next to her is eric, he's one of the regulars at biocurious, leading the design of the microscope project and it's this cool mixture of different people that never would have come together if we had said, let's start a company to build a microscope.
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if you wanted to start a company to build a 100-dollar microscope, you say we need a machine call engineer, electric engineer, electronic's engineer, and i think that's a really cool thing i have seen at biocurious, you build teams that you would never predict. and so what i've worked on over the past five years is biocurious, what i can learn about that, i think if i were to share with you the secrets of biocurious it's about people, places and public. it's changing all of those things, it's about changing the people that you work with. if you work at google, student
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at a university, change it up and go work somewhere elsewhere there are people you don't work with. it's a nonprofit and everybody that comes there is there by choice, no one is made to come there, which is very different than your normal job or corporation or things like that. and changing the places so you get different people, maybe that means if you work in an office just go to the other side of the office and switch seats with somebody, it sounds crazy but it changes your view and your experience. lastly, public, if you have a project at your office that you're -- you think nobody would ever be interested in and you've told your friends about it and they're like, oh, okay, bring them in, bring one person in to work on your project, whatever
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it is, maybe it's accounting, maybe it's human resources, maybe it's designing better lightbulbs for projector things. if you just bring people in, there's something interesting about it. and that's what we have done at biocurious, create these open projects open to the public and bring people in. so that's kind of the summary of what i've experienced at biocurious, it's really about the curiosity. biocurious is ten letters, three letters are bio, seven letters are curious. that's the right balance. it's really about curiosity because we are not allowed to be curious about a lot of other things. can you be curious about climate change? it's so scary, you can't even wrap your head around it. this is the topic that you can come and be curious about and it works and so that's what we've helped build, biocurious 501c nonprofit and open to public and would love to give anybody a tour, we would love to hear from
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you, my e-mail is tedo at -- tito at biocurious.org. i'm also -- i just got accepted to mini labs which is a branch of the gordon and betty moore foundation, so i'm trying to take some of the lesson that is i learned at biocurious. if you think that's a great idea, great. if you think it's a terrible idea, let me know. i would love to figure it out. so thank you very much. [applause]
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>> next up is pete shanks. pete: i want to set this up with the time. are there any basketball fans? [laughter] so it seems plausible. okay.
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start that. i know where i am. i think we have three different complementary presentations going on, which is great. i'm going to focus a little more on the big capital although they all tie in together and this is my first introduction to computers. famous 1960's slogan button that we all love is development of the computer technology has a lot of people drawing parallels between that and biotechnology in various ways nowadays, some of that is reasonable and some of it is a little off. but a little later, i actually worked -- i didn't work directly on the -- this kind of computer, but i sent requests to the department to produce data calculated on this, which is probably about smartphone-level of power, i'm not quite sure. you had these guys and this is
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really where people have tried to make comparisons with the home computing of the early mid-70's which definitely led to apple. this is steve, was, in the famous garage. but still, we move on. by 1981 i was working in type-setting type with a mini computer, and we actually had to refrigerate the room and stuff like that, but it worked and i bought myself a computer. that's not me. that's someone else.
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but that's the computer i bought. it was a lot of fun. this is the famous star that turned jobs on and here in san francisco where a book designer was using one of the early ones to design and what jobs produce was mac, whereupon it sort of stop being a thinkers game. you had to have professional people to go and deal with it and expand it and so on. and, of course, that led to this and such. around time that it was getting going, the human -- sorry, i keep pointing left because i can see it. the project was trying to figure out how many genes people had
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and they really didn't know. they didn't know until shortly before the end of it by almost in order of magnitude, most people were guessing a hundred thousand or more, seemed to be a nice number and turned out to be like 20,000. 23, some people have said 19. it's all in the sort of area, which is kind of interesting. it won't have happened without advances of computer technology. and can you read this one? it's one of my favorite cartoons. god has to change the password, but what do you do? you've got all basically digitized information about the genome and what do we do with it? that's just what we do. that's actually what biocuriouss
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do at some level but at some point they use computers that take up full rooms and to do effective thinker, you want to change the way they run, they've been working on that for 25 years. the history already in this, although as elliot mentioned, i think, the big jump was three or four years ago when -- we are not going to get in into how it does it because no one can explain how it does it. i have been looking for an explanation for the intelligent layperson and at some point if you're intelligent enough to follow it you run into this black box, it just does. it enables scientists to target exactly with success exactly where a given gene they wish to either shut off or replace. and that's sort of like jobs in the mac, that's it.
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you don't need to know any more than that. it's worth knowing that it's not perfect at this point, that there is an error factor involved, they've been working on reducing the error factor but conceptually that sort of happens and so, of course, people started experimenting on embryos, the first paper came out just about a year from now
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that chinese scientists attempted to make emb, -- embryos, some of the changes were not as predicted. it was a failed experiment. it showed that you could do something and that -- just think about it a moment, that's scary and basically in a scientific world where we have to talk about this, we've all got to talk about this, what should we do, can we do, what shouldn't we do and this started a process which is continuing now. i will come to that in a bit. but it's continuing.
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the uk government officially gave approval in principle to a research team to do a particular type of experiment on embryos, they're not going to get implanted, there's no question of making a genetically modified person out of this, but it's still -- that's crossing a big bridge and i don't want to get into, you know, the abortion and question of where life begins and all this kind of thing, you can be completely pro-choice and still go -- you have to talk about this, you have to figure out what the appropriate responses, maybe this research could be valuable, but under what conditions? what are the limits, what should we do?
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wouldn't you know it, last week another chinese team did another set of experiments with the attempt to make embryos resistent to hiv, there are some evidence that genetic combinations, i think it's the way to put it, that do make people unusually resistant to hiv, that's attractive. that still didn't work, really, but as one of the scientists in the field put it, it didn't tell us something that we didn't already know so why do the experiment. it does mean the stuff is moving
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very fast. it's right on us right now and if we can get some kind of consensus, then we could be in trouble. yeah, i sort of include this one. maybe i should have put it before. as you can see from this chart which is about a year old. the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. it's far more efficient, far cheaper, far quicker than press technologies although some of the previous technologies are actually more advanced in terms of getting towards clinical trials that have used. but you just look at the number, the bottom-left one that i put the oval around and go, oh. credit where it's due. these two are generally thought
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to be the discoverers, jennifer is in san francisco, emmanuel is european, she's now in berlin. fingan is in harvard and he holds the patent right now because patent law jiggery, the holding of it has been appealed. essentially berkeley will get the patent or harvard will get it. we probably won't know till a couple of years and it could be worth a lot of money.
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by the time the patent decision is made, it might be worth nothing. there might be a complete replacement. we don't know that. george church is also worth mentioning. he's also from the new england side of things. he's the one with the beard if you didn't know. he's currently the most quotable mainstream radical scientist. he's really in favor of doing this stuff. he's talking about making himself reconstituting the mammoth. he talks about an awful lot of things. he's a real true believer. the point that i wanted to make, this is coming back to jobs, these ain't hippies. these are very, very secured,
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successful professionals, and they've got a lot of money behind them. they all founded companies, details on a couple of them. editors was founded by most of them, basically because to of the patent fight, i think. that's how it goes. so editaf, originally had a terrible name and then someone , which isth editing gene editing for humans.
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hundreds of millions right now already. it's a joint venture between her andr company, caribou and a whole bunch of venture capitalists and similarly several hundred million bucks. countries don't mean that much. i'm serious, countries don't mean that much for these people. they move around internationally . in $350 million, five-year deal with bayer and lots more money. this brings us back. this is the context.
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i want to put the big question. this is the big question as i see it. government's regulation and control of which people, by which people and for which people, and this is something where i think we can -- i think biocurious has an interest as well. some of us have a financial-kind of interest, some of us have a social-equity interest, some of us just have safety interest, but what can we do, what should we be able to do when -- when should we be able to do it and who decides. it's kind of a big deal. i'm sure that biocurious doesn't want to generate anything that is going to be a pathogen that gets out of the lab that causes
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damage. in fact, i would actually like to hear you talk about that may be at some point, what if any protection needs to be made at that level. but if you are talking about diy, you are talking about hundreds of different locations, all of them small, and they don't have cops around every corner. it's not -- if you look at it as being a problem, that's not easy to regulate at all. on the other hand, if you are tellia and crystal therapeutics, they've got $1 billion. that's not easy to regulate. they've got access to the resources to get around things. in cgs.just throw
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cgs closely associated with , and i completely agree. i think we should draw a line at intervention to generate genetically modified humans. heritable.meaning we have germ cells, sperm, changes and if you make to them, the changes go into the germ line, the human genome in general. they get replicated. they go on. we simplified it down to seven reasons not to do it. i'm not actually sure of what my timing is. maybe you can just look at them there, but who you're doing the experiment on, number one, if you're producing a baby you've got -- it's an unethical experiment.
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the insufficient variables and there are sufficient -- there are sufficient variables that are unknown and could have very profound effects. it's being sold to us as a medical cure for heritable genetic diseases, but a point of fact, on almost all of those, you can avoid them by testing pregnancy.nning the there are very, very few cases in which a given couple cannot have a related child that's healthy.
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they are grasping. honestly, they are overstating the medical benefit, in my opinion. they are doing it by treating people like things. that ties in with some of the stuff that elliott was raising questions about. they come in heritage -- the the worlditage, health organization came up with p there's been a lot of talk in the last 40 years because people have relied that professional bioethicists realize this was coming. viewing the collective human genome as part of our heritage -- that's something that the european union and the unesco, i
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is -- itve both agreed has a level of being sacred, whether or not you are religious in any conventional term, and, of course, there are a bunch of nations which actually have put that into law that you should not make germline interventions. if some people try and do it, it's really going to throw the legal cat among the pigeons. it's also very unpopular according to opinion polls. and we really need science to be trusted. look at climate change. image most of the pele in this -- i imagine most of the people in this room except that climate change is a reality, and there are questions about how we might deal with it. i certainly do.
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but then we are living in a society where a lot of people hold antivaccination believes, s, many of which are based on extremely dubious, if not false, claims. be able to trust in science, and broadly, the scariest thing, and actually what got me into this, was the cs wherebychno-eugeni a few people could get very expensive enhancements for their , and as professor lee silva it more than 15 years ago
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now, and up dividing us into the gen-rich and the naturals. the idea that the class divisions in our society would become genetically reinforced is just horrifying to me. so winding up, the society for genetics and society put out a report last december, which i was the lead writer on more thao now, and up dividing us into the gen-rich and the naturals. . it was a collective effort, which has a lot more on what we see is going on in extreme genetic engineering and the human future. it's available at both of the websites, or you can just search for it. dd finally, this is jennifer oudna. that's a bit scary. i will leave it at that. [applause]
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>> okay. now it's the chance for everybody else to get into the conversation. who is ready to jump in with a question or a comment or an angry rebuttal or anything you have? i have a million questions. i really appreciate it trying the frame the questions in terms of democratic participation, elliot you did that in the beginning and i think everybody comes back to that inevitable and i wonder if you can all speak a little bit about this. i'm driven by the fascination
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that all of us in our relationship to the work we do, whether we do it as an exchange for money as a job or as biocurious participants do because they're fascinated and curious, to what extent do we bring with that experience ability and responsibility to participate what we are doing and why the hell we are doing it, and from the biocurious point of view, do you have discussions? what is this for? why are we doing this, why is this interesting? we all like little games that we can solve problems. is there a larger mission that's debated and sort of the mainstream and highly capitalized bioengineering world. how much are you encountering technicians, people who do the work in the labs and the scientists who are at the front end of this stuff who are willing to step back and engage
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on the questions on ethical terms and in terms of we make the world with the work we do and this is one of those moments where it's super in our face and it feels like it's not discussed, like the implication science and technology is simply under discussed, and the fascination for getting it done overrides all the possibilities of stopping and thinking about, why am i here on the planet and what the hell am i doing? i just wanted to get that philosophical discussion started. i invite all three of you to respond however you like and i'm sure by then other people will jump in. whoever wants to go first. in my experience, people don't like talking about human genetic modification. it freaks people out.
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there are some people who are gung ho for it. "i want to be green." allant to have horns," kinds of things. i'm talking now about people who are concerned with gm foods. you think they would be a natural audience for jumping into this discussion. yuck.f them go, that's about it. it's very hard to get the discussion going, because people don't want to take part in it, because it's scary. elliott: so i want to answer this in two ways because i think it's a really important question and so i think in the curriculum, right, when you're actually -- you know, taking
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microbiology at uc berkeley, why do we have to take the course, if it's even a requirement, there's sort of this idea that it's sort of messy and gets in the way and i think that's really about how much we specialize education in in days, i didn't know what sociology was till i was in law school. i really need sociology right now. like the law, this is really complicated stuff and we are talking about this as if it's politically neutral. i really need sociology right now, and so had to work that into my curriculum even though it wasn't super available. jenniferit context of i think they have been having conversations amongst themselves when rumors started occurring. people knew this was going to happen before april 2015.
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both of these major journals rejected the paper, and they had to find a minor journal to publish this in. there is some good in that. i think they are considering this, and we have a responsibility to talk about this. putting together the summit on decembere editing in -- i mean, at the same time, if you ask a lot of people out in the street right now could we make genetically modified humans, i don't think they would know. if we are relying upon the idea scientists trickling down to a public discussion, i don't think
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that's sufficient at all and i think, you know, i think it really has to do with the fact stem away from humanity and away from having ethical discussions. >> so the question i heard was biocurious people come in to participate hands-on, and i think one of the things we started at biocurious we were always open to bring people in for presentations and give them a tour of the lab because that was a very new thing, people had never been to a lab before. and what we started doing is getting people involved in environments, it was not just hearing about it with your head but feeling it with your body and your hands and seeing what do you think of this stuff, and the idea is that gives a better perspective to come at it, is this right, is this wrong. now it's -- i know there's a lot in science if you expose more
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science, then they'll be ok with science. that's like rubbish. i don't really believe in it. we get a lot of people at biocurious that come in, here is what i think of this, here is why i am not comfortable with this. we do a live discussion. we have -- just as another important piece of information, it's a biosafety level one lab. it is the equivalent of a high school biology lab. that's by design, if you give me a board and a lever, i can move the earth. it's not like if i had a billion dollar harvard lab, then i could move the earth. it's about let's give people a few of the basic tools that are safe and then we can kind of experiment and be curious. it's like creating a sand box for biology.
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something where people can try things and given these certain boundaries, we don't do anything with human cells, anything pathogenic is not happening and not allowed at biocurious. we have a safety board that reviews projects that come in. we have a completely open lab like this. there aren't doors and locks. you can walk up and see what somebody is doing and ask them. we take safety very seriously and i think that the best proof of that is if somebody comes up with an experiment that we know is total crap and it's never going to work but safe, great, we've done our job. and that's the idea, we know this is never going to work, but as long as it's safe, that's exactly what biocurious is for, the sandbox where you can experiment and ask questions. i've seen a huge transformation in people with everybody being happy and excited and then went home and that was it to, we did the powerpoint presentations and
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bring it to the lab, hey, here is this experiment. i remember this guy, we were doing -- what was it? it was something with flowers and, you know, people are following instructions. this one guy jumps in and turns red like the color of your shirt and everybody was like whoa, it was a mistake, but for a moment everybody was, wow, that's a cool color. the mistake wasn't a mistake, it was actually you got to try something and depending on what you thought working was it was pretty cool. and it was something that was safe, you know, something that you did have the boundaries to try that. and that's why biocurious is a level one lab, you can be constrained so that you can
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experiment and be curious. >> thanks. so, chris, i'm going to take a stab at your question, actually, about whether the scientists who are in the front lines of developing these gene editing technologies, do they talk about what they're doing it and what it's for? you know, i think it's a complicated and important question and you can't generalize, some of the scientists that you saw on the slides, george i'm thinking of, he's an enthusiastic about technology. george church also starts every talk by putting a slide up that has, i don't know, 20, 25 corporate logos on it, and says
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this is my conflict of interest statement and everybody laughs and then we move on. and so it's a combination that can be very powerful and very poisonous between financial incentives, power incentives. wow, we are changing the world, we are changing life. curiosity, and just, you know, i'm -- there's the mountain, i'm going to climb it. i don't think we can underestimate the force and the dynamics of money, of commercial forces that take on their own momentum, and i really appreciated pete's analogy to the personal computer market and we can see how much that can change the world and how much technology really does affect how we -- you know, who we live, who lives, our circumstances of life, and yet we don't have -- we don't really have common mechanisms of democratic participation and democratic control over the shapes of
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technologies, and we don't have habits of mind where we think about what that might mean. and i think that's a very dangerous situation that we are in. i think it certainly was with the technologies that we see have so much control over our lives, the ones that are causing climate change that got started a couple hundred years ago, the information technology that have changed our lives in our own lifetimes, and now the life sciences that are really poised to do that. and i think, you know, it's -- you know, now i want to come to tedo and the emphasis on curiosity, and, boy, i can really resonate with that and it's attractive with the idea of sandbox and idea of experimenting sounds a lot of fun. but i wanted to tell a story about a colleague of ours, he's a developmental biologist, stewart newman, when he was a
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kid in high school, he wanted to be a physicist. he decided he was going to keep science and politics completely separate from each other and so he decided to be a developmental biologists and of course, nothing worked out the way he thought and now he's deeply involved in the politics of biology and the reason i tell the story to make it totally clear is we can't really separate that really well. and when we focus so much on the coolness of being able to play
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in the sandbox of biotechnology, i get worried that unless there's also -- i think this is maybe what you were alluding to, chris -- unless there's a very deliberate and very completely entwined effort to under the political forces, the commercial forces, the social and cultural forces in the larger world, then those technological developments are going to run away with us and techno enthusiasts are going to be left in the sandbox wondering what hit them. in fact, what happened to steve in fact, what happened to steve wosniak that we never hear about, most of us because steve jobs took the mac and apple where he took it. >> yeah, i mean, hopefully we
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can move after away from bioethics, one of the things is i'm reminding of 16 years ago when eduardo, a brazilian artist, did the glowing rabbit and he contracted a french laboratory to fuse this jellyfish gene and made a glowing rabbit. and he was playing with it. but, you know, they were all kinds of questions about bioethics. i don't know if i have a question with this, but i feel like there's a lot of pushing today with arts and and science and all
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these programs are programs in schools that are merging and i just wonder what's your opinion on that. >> anybody want to take a stab at that? >> yeah, i mean, i think it's really fascinating. so i scan the news every morning when i get into the office san jose has machine -- parts, people are thinking of putting together organisms in a more mechanical way. one thing i appreciate is the art that is the problem of what is happening, and that is important. heather has done a piece where she goes around new york city and collects gum off the street
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and tries to come up with phenotype of what the person can look like and she has a gallery of faces. this idea that we think dna is anonymous, and don't worry, we don't worry, we will take your name off of it. maybe we can become just through a piece of gum on the sidewalk. i think that's fascinating, so, yeah, i don't know. art goes in any direction. does anyone want to talk about art? no. ok. >> next question. >> i want to ask a direct question, maybe you can answer it because i'm getting a lot of comments and i'm not hearing a response to the comments necessarily, and maybe there aren't questions to these comments, but is there a red line in terms of where you do not go beyond in terms of
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science and discovery? and, i mean, i can see how this new technology might offer a cure to cancer, for example, and would you want to draw a line that would prevent scientists to take the step beyond what you feel may be ethical where the rewards whether it's financial, political, whatever, the end of the day, it could be a cure for a very serious disease. so what is the rid line? and not the obama red line, but a real red line. [laughter] >> the line that i draw personally is heritability.
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i have no problem with gene therapty, the kind that restores the way the person was, thought they were. and they are doing a lot of work on tumor analysis and all this stuff about genome of the cancer as oppose to the genome of the person and then if they can do an intervention there. it might be a way towards curing cancer, which i think would be great. i prefer to keep it that one simple line because it is simple and i'm willing to give up -- i'm willing to disappoint a very few people who could not have related children without, you know, a genetic intervention of that kind. there are for few of them, not
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many, and it would disappoint them. i don't think -- i think that the consequences of opening up the society to having heritable and genetic alterations are horrendously wrong and potentially widespread, and so that's a line you can draw. when it comes to modified fish, you know, glowing fish in tanks, glowing plants, i'm not sure about plants on the street. i don't like that myself. i think there are much more complicated discussions that we could have. i don't have individuals, no matter how well intentioned they
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may think they are to run the rest of us. >> to add to what pete said, the line that pete just described, yes to genetic modification in existing patients who can consent to it and all that, if it's safe and if it can be made accessible. but not just pete, but many scientists and the laws of dozens of countries, they draw the line that pete described where we are not going to modify genes that are passed down to future children to future generations.
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and the reason for it are what pete showed and not safe and jumping into the very last point, open it is door to, you know, new kinds of discrimination, new kinds of inequality, a new high-tech eugenetics and that's not the road we wanting to down on. the most medical statement you could make would be it would prevent the birth of a child, to avoid the birth of a child with that condition, but as pete said, we can already do that in other ways. everyone who is at risk can have a healthy child and almost everyonem like 99.99%, can have a child who is both unaffected by that condition and who's related to both members of the couple, both parents, so we
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don't need it for medical reasons. and the conclusion that many people come to, that, in fact, if the medical argument is that tenuous people whether they , admit it or not, they really want enhancements. they want to have children and future generations who are somehow improved genetically and there we are in dangerous territory socially. [indiscernible] >> i had a great statement earlier and i had been thinking it over. , whatk your question was is the role of curiosity? is it this thing you can
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separate or can you separate technology from society? -- of my favorite experts excerpts that inspired me, as a technologist, i approached the world for a long time, this idea how technology changes society. waswhat open my eyes when i looked at the reverse. how does society change technology? that is social. how does that drive designs that happens? this idea of a redline, how does that drive science? atat i have seen tha -- which is theurious abo role of experts and send all
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this information off with experts and we will trust them to have it work. one experiment that comes to so a dna tests, a test for breast cancer, and however efficient it is does not matter. what matters is the $2000 patented test. and what i can tell you that i wish you could his experience 20 centssts about of chemicals and would be the illegal for us to sell as a product. lab,re able to do it as a from thisple take it intellectual ideas that i did this experiment and so did a bunch of other people, and we got to ask the question, what is up with that? is that how things should be? how might they be different?
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it does not have to be this way. in some ways it is good because it means the test tested with your doctor so it is not just people testing themselves. it sparks all these questions of curiosity around science and curiosity around the bigger question of science and society. i think that bracket test puts it in perspective because it is pennies of chemicals and stuff you can order online, and if you have the right machines that used to cost a lot tens of thousands, millions of dollars, now it is stuff you can buy on ebay and see how it works. so how should that -- it is a great example because it is such a contrast. here is this test that costs a little and takes very little expertise, but on this other side to come it is inaccessible
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unless you have thousands of dollars. scientifically, it is a boring experience -- experiment. not a big deal from a biology standpoint. it is a procedure that is used for dozens, thousands of other types of experiments. in this case, the specifics he quits dna you're looking at, i have a lot of other questions that are attached to it, and that as an example of how this curiosity in bringing other people in to that discussion is pretty powerful. i think it is potentially a really great way to enhance science, to bring people in and be curious about science, the curious about culture and society, the curious about economics, about startups, about the philosophy behind what it does is right or wrong. so thank you for your question. pete, i hear your arguments about the human genome editing,
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but i want to challenge what you are saying insane this is not where we want to draw the line in terms of talking about ethics, because i think in some ways we are falling victim to cognitive ease, when we think about human editing being hard-line that he can draw in terms of bioethics. i think it is easy for the public to look at that and form opinions on that. i want to track back to some of elliottgs that titi and were talking about. before i get to that i want to make points of things i see in the field. easy is relative. you make this claim about how you editing is becoming easier and easier. -- ink the point has to be think the point has to be made that we have run into significant challenges even the smallest changes in mammalian cells, so more involved organisms are harder to edit.
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that has to do basically because their dna is more protected. bacteria have dna that is completely unprotected, so they are valuable in terms of what we can change. i think there is a scale issue that is hard to grasp when talking about changing bacteria. we think of a bacteria something we can change, modify, enter away. ouromething has changed world it has been bacteria. our whole evolutionary history has been changes that has been driven by changes in bacteria. i question is, how do we engage the public on these huge, massive scale issues where something very simple comes very complex in a global context? and the question i have for you, tito, is where we could define the bounds of safety? the top of the simplest things that at least currently are not pathogenic, but if you drop analogy to coding, computing
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programming is very subtle. there's nothing dangerous about computer programming, but in the beht-hand simplest tools can developed into something that is not the plan not safe. so how do we navigate these nebulous issues that are difficult for the nonscientific public to think about and engage in? >> that's a wonderful question. i think what's interesting is that, a lot of the work that's been done by scientists to try to make this issue which is super complex, super nebulous and super global, is to try to make it simple by using metaphors. metaphors can be helpful for public buy-ins but they have downsides. so when pete was talking about the series of gee gnome editing ools, we talked about it
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splicer, every news outlet will make reference to a word processor, it's as easy as cut and paste. but it's not. i want to bring it back to the point of genetic determinism. it's not computer code. we use computer code to think about it, to try to understand it. but there's so many levels of ambiguity, the fact that we refer to 98% of the gee gnome as junk d.n.a. is a problem, that we're going to be cutting and pasting it. it's really hard, you want public buy-in but at the same time, this is an issue that's way bigger than christopher, it's way bigger than any particular field of science. and the point i tried to make earlier, they the idea that we treat the public like they're stupid, you have to have expertise to talk about stem. and i love the fact that, leek you're saying, some people hated their biology class and didn't feel like they could be curious
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or make mistakes because there's a sort of expertise involved. we can't keep referring to scienc-- scientists as the people we need to go out and people what's up. i think what marcy is saying with the need new ways of shaping technology that means taking the public seriously. recognizing that we all have expertise and that it's influencing technology and science as well. you don't just get expertise working at burger king. you are part of this debate and you're important and your voice matters. and so much, we went to the summit in d.c. and as amazing as it was, right, to be rubbing elbows with noble laureates, there was a certain point when the conversation edged toward ceaseology, you saw famous people rolling their eyes at us. and it was frustrating. but like, you know, what can you do? so i think we really have to get
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away from the idea that public engagement means talking down to people about what science is and try to bring them into the conversation of, science isn't about experts telling us what is safe, especially when so many of the risks are bigger than the biological risk, they're about social and political risk. what does this mean on a global scale? we don't have an easy answer for how to convey this to the public use,ut this met forthat we gene editing, because we want to make it something people can attach. to we ne to complicate that met forand once we have people's attention, complicate it again. this isn't actually gene editing. >> trying to think of the right answer to your question. -- question was,
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how do we deal with the unknown unknown of synthetic biology. maybe it's gee gnome editing or something much more general. >> i can tell you how we do it at biocurious, how i think personally about it. we have a safety board that reviews each project that comes in. we're a b.s.l. 1 lab, biosafety level one. there's nothing pathogenic new york human cells, nothing that can be harm to feel humans. we look at the projects that come in. look in a different direction, to me, safety is around bring manager people into the work and into the conversation. i think that the brca will have 1 experiment i talked about -- the brca-1 experiment i talked about was one thing. it's not about bringing people
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to be pro science. it's an opportunity for science outreach they feel word outreach, you're kind of like grabbing for people, to grab them or something. i think the opportunity is really to go to where people are , talk about topics that they're interested. in brca-1 is a great one. it's not about is science good or is science something we should leave for other people, instead it's, here's this experiment. how do you do a test for breast cancer what do you think? let's get all the information so you can wrap your head around it. g.m.o.'s, that's a giant topic. to me that's where my concerns about safety come in it's about -- what is unsafe is when people aren't up to speed on this stuff. people don't feel like they can have an opinion. people feel like they're not -- this is something that should -- we should leave to other people.
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i think the real opportunity for science and the public is, the public doesn't exist. it's you, it's you, it's you, it's you, it's you, like there's no public out there. if you're not engaged in these conversations, that's it. if you are, great. but if you're not, then, like, come check out biocurious or start, you know, reeding stuff online and talking to other people about it. that's what's missing, is you. and that's how things become safer and more engaging. we can have you involved in the conversation. i just want to say thank you to everybody asking these fantastic questions tonight. they're very thought provoking questions. thank you. >> as to how to address the public, i'm going to come back to both of your comments.
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i think art is a wonderful way of doing it, the bioart. artists can take risks, they're not ruining the reputation which is, i think, a concern for a lot of scientists. and it can reach a general public in a large way and in ry creative ways and they -- the fluorescent rabbit, alba, that created so much discussion about some of what we're talking about here and he never even got the rabbit, you know. it wound up dying in a lab in france. but the point being that what his piece became about was the discussion that happened based on what he did. there's a lot of other artists that are working in a biofield that are doing very, i would , y, controversial content
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selarc is one of them who had an ear and mounted it on his arm because no one would mount it at his ear to give him a third ear. you've got scientists and artists working together. i think they can reach a broad audience. i wonder what you all think of that because it winds up dealing with some of the very hard topics we've been talking about in a very public way, but it does start a discussion that is sometimes hard to do in other enues. >> so one of the things i was going to put in the slides that i didn't have time for, i got like 20 slides. most of them were things like the drone, i'll get into that later. but there's a person, ryan hammond, doing this thing called open gender codes, open source gender codes, i'm forgetting the name right now, i'm sorry. he started in baltimore a d.i.y.
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lab, i'm forgetting the name of the lab too. it was in the slide. so he's working really at the intersection of d.i.y. hacking andard and also sort of queer theory. what he's doing is trying to draw attention to a lot of problems you're talking about. the brca-1 test. he said what if we could not only bring queer people to the lab but bring the lab to queer people. i'm not even sure if what he's trying to do is going to take off or if it's safe but he's genetically modifying tobacco plants so you could grow your own gender hormones if you're trying to use those hormones. a lot of things he's engaging, he's got his three-minute kick starter video but he's got a 20-minute video of queer history and all this knowledge and it's wonderful because he's talking about what he's trying to do. what i'm seeing out of this is, yes, i agree, privatized health care is crap.
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and the amount of surveillance and control over queer and transbodies for hundreds of years and the forcible hormone therapies that people went through is crap. and i really am really engaged with this. at the end of the day i'm also not sure if the hormones that they're going to extract from tobacco plants will be safe or if if -- if people will know if their hormone levels are getting in dangerous zones. it raises questions for moe. i appreciate how much work he's put into it this 20 minute video going through the history, explaining why it's important. i think it's fascinating. i think it's also a question of, like, ok, there's certain things we can't control and there's certain things sometimes the market takes out of our hands, the woss knee yaks. sometimes you create something beautiful and the market takes it over and it becomes something else system of what can dewe do to make sure that even our best intentions, right, that there's some kind of containment strategy that they don't, kind of, get away from us is one of the things i'm thinking about.
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>> doesn't really speak to your question but it sort of provoked a thought. a couple of thoughts. one is that when i got into this it's marcy's fault. there was a presentation, there was a reading list at the end and i went and read it. went, this is a reductio add absurdum of modern capitalism. doing human genetic engineering is just -- it's the logical extreme of modern capitalism as we've seen it. we'll point that out to people and maybe we'll have a revolution. it didn't really sort of work out, yet. but i think there's some truth
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to that. and i think we have to remember that all these things are rooted n the social and financial setup that we've got, including art. there's very little art nowadays that is not trammeled by financial consideration. for valid reasons. and just as the evening is winding down a bit i want to make sure that one other thing gets in. which is related to money and technology, which is that we don't like saying, for very good reason, we're spending a million bucks to give someone a heart transplant. it's coming out of insurance or the government or even their own pocket, you know. we're t million bucks,
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talking round numbers here, you could treat 10,000 pregnant women. something. you know. you could do major health interventions for a very large number of people. and i think that's a really difficult problem to think about. we in this society value the individual, i'm an individual, i want to get treated if i'm -- if i'm ill. i was ill a couple of years ago. i got treated. it cost me directly practically nothing because i have good insurance. but it cost the system quite a lot. now, i know people, i've seen people in watsonville and salinas who, frankly, whole families would have benefited from what was spent on me. i'm not even dying.
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so i'm just tossing that, you know, technically irrelevant but i think it does help to ground everything in the societal context. >> i think a lot of what we need to think about more in this conversation is helping us all -- and this conversation is helping us do it a little more than we get to do it in our daily lives is the context of technological choice. how it's implemented, how it's invented, how it's applied, etc. i want to reinforce the point about claiming expertise back from the experts. i think that's at the heart of the discussion and crucially part of what we need to do with this particular rem of technology. obviously there's things about it that's dangerous that we need to know noah about those limits on their own terms. but in just -- but just to point out, things equally dangerous, like nuclear power used to be left to guys in white lab coats to tell us it was safe and don't worry you don't need to meter
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it. but we as average citizens learned about this, by having conversations like this, and working hard grass roots organizing. another case in point, how much medical care changed because of women organizes themselves to organize their own health care. these are incredibly good examples of society appropriating technical knowledge from experts and diffusing it broadly in the population so we don't accept experts as readily as we once did and in this case i think that's helpful. it's obvious, the guy that left already was putting out the cancer magic bullet is the holy grail of this technology, like this is always some version of that lurking out there. there's a pitch, we'll all live forever, be immortal, never be sick again, fill in the blank. there's some fantasy like that. i think all those things are obviously sales pitches.
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and that the reality is technology is invented and controlled by people who plan to make huge profits. i was interested about the fact that you were able to duplicate this very expensive test essential forly for nothing in a lab and i wondered to what extent it brought forth a political conversation in that room about how ridiculous it is that somebody is allowed to control patents on these technologies. that's like what's happened to software and digital media in general. that's an implication hiding in there. the last thing, to give you the possibility, push all the stuff aside for a moment is there any reason why we should be excited about this stuff? what is your best case fantasy of where we're going with this? because i can't think of one. i wonder what it would be. maybe you guys who have been immersed in this in various -- combating it or welcoming it as the case may be might offer some vision that gives us a reason to think, well, we should spend some time and energy on this as
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a society because it does have implications that are worth pursuing. i don't know what those are. i'm not convinced there are in. maybe you guys have a better dea. >> the brca experiment i talked about, that is, like i said, scientifically we can do the science in an hour. the science is -- if you've done other experiments, you've seen the same science. we're just changing the letters around and now it's completely different. it does bring up those questions. it comes up with a conclusion you have that it's a ridiculous system, no, it comes up with different answers. people have different perspectives from, you know, it costs money to develop these tests. it was 20 years ago that it was patented. all the way to yeah it's completely ridiculous and should be open sourced and what can we do to make it open sourced, maybe take a patent and modify
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it just enough to make it open sourced. that's something i did with p.c.r., the prelim chain reaction, it's nobel prize winning technology in every biolab in the world. originally it was a patented technology. when patents expired in 2010, a friend and i started building p.c.i. machines in our garage, put it on kick starter and the stories i got were fantastic. they were from, one that comes to mind a high school teacher who, she wrote me and said, you know, i had written all the people on kick starter and say, why did you buy one of these things? have you seen it? it's a ball of wires, why did you buy it? the lady said, you know, i'm just closing out my semester of high school biology and i bought a machine on ebay because we don't have much budget. when i turned it on, it breck because it was a used machine. my students didn't get to do
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p.c.r. this year. my hope is that by building -- building this machine, my students get to do the experiment and students everywhere get to do this experiment system of i think whether it's a lab tool that kicks off a discussion around patents and -- or an experiment that kicks off discussion around patents, that's where, all my knowledge around patents and ethics all comes through the perspective of biotech. my whole understanding of how to be democratic and how to vote comes from this one time where we were at california voting on whether g.m.o.'s should be labeled or not and i went really, really as deep as i could into, i read the bills, i had never done anything like that before. i read all this stuff on it tried to figure it out. and so i think that back to your question about, what can be -- what's promising about that? it's curiosity. curiosity is what's promentsing. whether it's biotechnology or something else. we're culturing that curiosity. whether it's about policies,
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whether it's about patents, whether it's about biotech or about something that's completely unrelated to biotech. it allows people to get interested and learn something. because everything -- every piece of the universe is kecked to every other piece of the universe. that's a butchering of a john muir quote. but that's completely true. you can't separate society and technology. and what you really do is embrace that they're the same thing in a lot of ways. it's all connected together. so from my perspective, biotech and curiosity is the way, that's the door for me and maybe for somebody else it's something different. but i think it always starts with some type of curiosity. >> so i struggle with this question, right, of what is the best case scenario for biotech and i think so much of it is, when we're going best case scenario, worst case scenario, things like that, it's in this
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vacuum. we're thinking like, the context won't influence it somehow, and i think the -- so the human gee gnome project. we remember in 2000, get on the stage and they're like, guess what, you guys, we're 99.9% the same. and everyone was so excited, oh, finally, right, we have all this commonality, like, it's so wonderful. what immediately happens? what immediately happens is that we start whining that .01 -- we start mining that .01%, call it race, call it sexuality, and call it everything. like, you know, so i don't know, for me i want to harness the passion and curiosity that i see free throwing in your biocurious labs and turn it away from the cool stuff and away from the technology and all that stuff and i want to put it back onto this idea of social problems and it's not so much about the
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can do or what we what we can fix or what we can make happen. it's about the curiosity of what happens next. whash the consequences of our actions? so much of this world we're living in right now is so high risk. it's like, you know, we're assuming that nine out of 10 startups will fail and don't care because 10% will be so amazing. and like -- but what about that 90% of what we're doing? i want to be curious about that i want to be curious about how rapidly this neighborhood has changed in the last 10 years and how i can go to school three years and watch gentrification happen block by block. so maybe it's that we're focusing on the wrong things. maybe biotechnology could be really awesome but maybe we need to marry it to a lot of other things first. like maybe this is like the original question that you asked. you know, what is -- are we having ethical, philosophical, should we do these conversations
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at the same time as we're experimenting in the lab? i think your space is lovely because it's exploring those kerkses on a day-to-day, funded lab level, i don't think it's happening. and if that's going to continue to happen, then it's going to be the elite who has those degrees, who are making the tools and has the p.r. people to sell the tools to the public. and that scares me system of you know if we look at the human joe gnome project as an example, even though we can be fwiven this beautiful message from biotech, market forces, centuries of racism, you know, systems of privilege will warp that beauty system of we need to really start looking at these social problems. beyond technology. we can solve so many of them with humanity. like we don't need, you know, like techno fix for climate change. we don't need a techno fix for global inequality. w.e.c. do other things instead.
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[applause] -- we can do other things instead. [applause] >> part of my we was answered by your brilliant statement already. but as a layperson and artist also, the concept of danger or safety within tinkering or playing or being curious with science and that maybe, you know, just like that metaphor with the small lever you can move the world kind of thing. the danger really has only to do with the extent to which science is separated as you were saying from, not just ethics and sociology but also the greater vision and what our purpose
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really is. we'll be wanting to add to that is like two things, one, the space a space that cultivates just a core curiosity a awesome and also harnessable, as you were saying, to greater things. it is not a rare thing, my impression, very much like the american culture here is very much the expectation to have the brilliant individual discovering things, going where no man has gone before and finding things. that is what i perceive the general culture to be. what is more rare and what i would love an incubator space for is the other thing. those questions we never actually ask about ok, what do we actually -- what would make life bet her what do we -- where do we actually want to go with this? and that this might be an afterthought for after you
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discover new things, what are the applications thereof. but actually be something that comes before and secondly, not only that, not being something that is perceived like a hindrance or like a dampener or wet blanket. we have all these ethical blocks, things they are keeping us from. this this attitude is actually, this process driven sort of world and all these kinds of things have actually kept us from exploring incredible possibilities. like if we could infuse that curiosity precisely in a different way of approaching all this which is like what new, incredible societies could we get to if we harnessed our genius in a purposeful way in that direction? you see what i mean? like turning it on its head.
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>> we've really run out of time but last comment from the panel, i would welcome it. last chance. last short, sweet comment. >> i totally get what you're talking about because i've seen it. i've seen it over and over again. the biggest opportunity for biocurious 2010 was getting equipment together. getting maybe $ million worth of lab equipment we bought for $20,000. that was the opportunity. that opened it up to a couple thousand people. a couple thousand labs around the world. the biggest opportunity for biocurious now is giving permission to other people to come in we've established that people that are really curious, really driven can come into biocurious and do experiments and make their way there. what the opportunity is, is to add the ability to bring in more people. to say, you have permission not
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to lead. you have permission to ask a lot of questions. you have permission to not have a project. i think that's the next step for biocurious is more around the basic classes, basic education, bringing in different people who have different insight into biotech and opinions on things that might involve biotech but aren't, you know, that top layer of people that are so driven they're going to drive two hours to come to a microscope project. it's amazing to see. and now the opportunity in 2016 to grow beyond that, to really bring in people that otherwise are kind of like, yeah, i don't know realy where i fit in but when you -- if you give them a place, a way to have conversations about that, they start to ask really good questions. so i get what you're saying. it's something we use. we learn through our experience. that's the biggest opportunity for us.
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>> ok, i'm going to call it a night. tito, pete, thanks for coming to see us. come back again in two weeks an we'll have a discussion on oil, keeping oil in the soil with our panel, we'll have a very good discussion that night. and we look forward to having these kinds of conversations on an ongoing basis so if you have ideas for future panels, please talk to me. we look forward to resuming this one again, it's a discussion that's not going to end in our lifetimes, obviously. so thank you very much. [captioning made possible by espn, inc.]
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