Life's Imagined Futures

Life's Imagined Futures (Current book project)

"Life’s Imagined Futures" argues that we can’t make sense of our biotechnological present without understanding its roots in science fiction. Following the figure of the biohacker from 1980s and 1990s cyberpunk fiction to the pages of scientific journals and real-world biohackerspaces, the book demonstrates that synthetic biology – a postgenomic field that aims to make biology easy to engineer – was conceived in the context of exchanges between researchers and science fiction authors who speculated about a coming biological century in which life and technology would converge. The biohacking paradigm that emerged from these interactions shaped the ethos, methods, and aims of synthetic biology and related efforts to make its tools available to non-professionals. However, biohacking is ethically and politically limiting in the way it configures life forms, technologies, and social modes of life. Thus, "Life’s Imagined Futures" also identifies alternate futures – including feminist utopias and contemporary neo-cyberpunk novels – that have the potential to influence how we utilize life-shaping capacities in the years to come. Drawing on textual analysis, participant observation, and oral history, "Life’s Imagined Futures" provides a uniquely cross-disciplinary treatment of recent developments in the life sciences, speaking to critical conversations in literary studies, the history of science, science and technology studies (STS), and bioethics.