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What is amateur biology?

  • --Jasonbobe 02:19, 16 June 2009 (EDT): I would ask instead, What is non-institutional biology? This would subsume "amateur biology" while not exclude professional biologists who choose to practice biological research outside of more traditional settings. Some of the most active members of DIYbio have professional training.

What kinds of people are amateur biologists?

What have amateurs already done?

What are amateur biologists trying to do?

--Jasonbobe 03:11, 16 June 2009 (EDT)(1) Exploratory Biology: Utilize DNA sequencing technologies to better understand the molecular world, e.g. BioWeatherMap and (2) Constructive Biology: Build novel biological machines, e.g. iGEM

Is amateur biology regulated?

Is the DNA synthesis industry regulated?

Could amateur biologists create biological weapons?

Who can create biological weapons?

Mother Nature.

  • Ahessel 14:37, 15 June 2009 (EDT): Living organisms, including us, face constant challenges. Common skin bacteria under the right circumstances can become opportunistic and life-threatening. Any well-trained cell biologist, virologist, microbiologist, or physician could today, if they were intent to do so, might be able to develop a weapon of some kind. Many countries, under the umbrella of national defense, could legitimately do R&D on BWs. Some offer that as costs fall and technological improvements are made to genetic engineering, almost anyone could make a BW. Yet this would require a world devoid of regulation or monitoring, and where there are supportive resources for design, manufacture, and testing of such agents. Using synthetic tools, any activity of this type would leave suspicious digital trails that, given the specialization, may be far easier to detect that conventional terrorist activity. As effective defensive and bio-monitoring architectures are developed -- as they were for computer systems and networks -- the list of who could truly create and deploy BWs could end up being very small.

What can we do to make the world a safer, better place?

Engineer a way to not get infected by viruses (i.e., by not allowing them in to your body).

  • Ahessel 14:18, 15 June 2009 (EDT): Is this realistic? Our immune system is very effective at blocking the vast majority of viral and bacterial challenges. Our best antivirals are vaccines that leverage the immune system. I offer that because of electronic communication, information about viruses can spread globally faster than any infectious agent. Perhaps building a real-time viral agent sensor network would help make the world a better place, one that allowed positive ID and provided powerful data streams that could be utilized by WHO, CDC, hospitals, physicians, researchers and developers, and last but not least, citizens who need accurate data (as opposed to media stories) in order to choose how to behave. If a low cost, standards compliant, wi-fi or cellular network-compatible sensor could be developed, it could be widely deployed, as smoke and carbon monoxide sensors are today.

Build on existing thought leadership and include non-institutional biologists and amateurs in the efforts

  • Ahessel 12:55, 16 June 2009 (EDT):Much better answer. :)