As we continually develop new areas of technology, how do we think about how that technology might cause harm? In this talk, I draw out some lessons that can be learned from how Americans have built scientific cultures and governance mechanisms for constructing and governing security concerns in the life sciences. These cultures andÂ mechanisms are built on a set of assumptions about the structure of knowledge and the relationship between science and the state that, while not related to practice, can be found everywhere. Novel technical areas offer opportunities to restructuringÂ these assumptions, and outline how the area of synthetic biology is a space where some of that restructuring is being attempted.
This talk was part of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’sÂ Conference on Catastrophic Risk, held at Clare College, Cambridge from 12-14 December 2016.