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Opening up the future(s) of synthetic biology

Frow, E.   Calvert, J

Futures   48 (April) 32-43

April 2013


Much of the discussion surrounding synthetic biology involves some degree of speculation about the future. This paper reports on two workshops we held with the aim of ‘opening up’ and exploring possible futures for synthetic biology, one at the Synthetic Biology 4.0 conference (Hong Kong, October 2008) and the other at the BioSysBio meeting (Cambridge, UK, March 2009). We developed an interactive ‘causes and consequences’ exercise for these workshops, with the aim of creating a space for members of the synthetic biology community to discuss issues about the future of the field that they might not regularly explore in their daily work. We analyse the outputs and discussions from these workshops in the light of three key themes: the connections between social and technical issues in synthetic biology, the roles and responsibilities of synthetic biologists in shaping possible futures for the field, and the suitability of this method for opening up discussions about the future.

Keywords: Synthetic biology: Expectations; Futures; Science and technology studies; Reflexivity