Alternative uses for biotechnologies

8 11 2007

Here I report one interview I read in the Design Interactions Catalogue 2007 from RCA. The speaker is Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Queen Mary, University of London.

#    What does it mean for you when designers/artists create or design alternative uses or intentions for biotechnologies? 

Science and technology never exist or develop in vacuum: the meaning of scientific discoveries, it has been said, lies in the hand of future users. In debates about the ethics of science and technology, it is enormolusly helpful to have concrete designs to focus thinking about these future meanings by looking at how these technologies will be put into use. We can greatly expand the sophistication and indeed the realism of ethical debates by applying the combination of imagination and sound engineering principles which underpin interaction design: it can help us tease out the ways the social is embedded  in the technical , the conscious and unconscious desires new technologies perform, and the moral choices that lie in design pathways. By imposing the discipline of product design on the biotechnological imaginary, we can better understand the space of both moral and technical possibilities. This is a great enrichment of and improvement upon the sometimes banal, and sometimes hysterical (and sometimes both) debates about the new technologies of life that are being played out in both the media and the academy.

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