On the state of bioDIY/biopunk culture
Right now bioDIY feels a lot like early hacker culture. The discussions are about how to build a cheap centrifuge or a 15$ PCR-machine. It's about finding cheap functional solutions, DIY and sharing. I think Drew Endy and friends capture the tone with OpenWetWare and BioBricks. Many participants seem to have one leg in computer and open source culture.
Most outsiders don't know that bioDIY exists, when they hear about it they fall into two categories. Those under 30 say "Wow, this is cool. Where can I find out more about it?". Those over 30 say "Wow, this is cool. Which stocks should I buy?".
I've asked people inside the community if they think the culture can become as big as the hacker culture. They say definitely. There has so far been at least one high school team doing quite advanced stuff at iGEM. The idea of hacking life is enticing to everyone, especially so to young people. Even though bioDIY hasn't yet leaped from universities to basements and garages, everyone seems to believe it will.
A good example of biopunk to me is this, it's part of an IM conversation from last week with kanzure. It's quoted here with his permission:
A few weeks ago I had somebody in school complaining about her eating
disorder, Ceiliacs disease or something, and how she can't eaten
certain foods because of it. She has mentioned this before, and frankly
I was tired of it, so I spent just *20* minutes on the internet during
my lunch period and found a cure hidden in the patent database, and
then told her how to use http://e-oligos.com/
and then http://biohack.sf.net/
to get the materials
she needs from http://labx.com/
to implement the solution in some
gastrointestinal bacteria and cure it herself. Problem freakin' solved.
Kanzure also got slashdotted
This is madness?! This is Biopunk!