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The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

My keynote for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam brought together my years writing about digital and biotechnological change in performance. Here's the video...

TEDx Warwick

TEDx Warwick


On Saturday 9th March, I'll give a talk as part of TEDx Warwick. This will be the second time I've spoken at Warwick, the first being at the Virtual Futures event in 2011. My laptop broke on the way there and I ended up giving a somewhat retro talk using one of the latest pieces of software out there. It looked like this.

I've not yet decided how I want to focus the talk this year, but I want to bring together bioethics, bioart, biopolitics, biotechnology, citizen science, and social media to consider how we need to advance a compassionate, yet aggressively innovative, assault on our knowledge economy. Alternatively, I might just use it to explore a term I've been developing recently along the lines of 'viral cities'. This might work well since the theme is 'building bridges'. I want to build them with DNA infused data. Now there's a nice title.

Neohumanitas #bioethics

Neohumanitas #bioethics


I've recently joined the ad board of this new think tank in Switzerland. They've got an awesome amount of materials online already and publish in both English and French. Keep your eyes peeled for some cool things.

Bioethics and the Future of Sport

Bioethics and the Future of Sport


What: Scientific congress on genetics and sportWhen: July, 2012 Where:  Federal University of Sao Paulo Who: mainly genetic scientists

Here's a film from a talk I gave in Sao Paulo earlier in the year - translated into Portuguese. I also did a book signing while there for the Brazilian version of 'Genetically Modified Athletes.

Here's the presentation to accompany it

Design for Evolution

film from my lecture at Aalto University Helsinki in January.

Wasted Debates

Wasted Debates


Wednesday 8 February, 6pm -7.30pm, at the Bluecoat.

Watch live streaming video from wasteddebates at

Chaired by Roger Phillips of BBC Radio Merseyside

Next week, I'll be part of a panel on this debate related to artist Gina Czarnecki's exhibition at the Bluecoat Liverpool.

Should people be allowed to donate parts of their body to an artist?

Is it right for galleries to exhibit artwork made of real human bones, teeth or fat? Who owns our body parts when they are removed from us?

Does the use of human tissue in art serve any purpose, or is this just sensationalism? Should this type of art require formal approval?

The Bluecoat is inviting people to discuss these fascinating questions at a ‘Question Time’ style event with a panel including:

  •       Dominic Hughes, BBC Health Correspondent
  •       Canon Jules Gomes, Artistic Director of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
  •      Andy Miah, academic and specialist in cultural ethics, and
  •      Rt Hon Jane Kennedy, former MP for Liverpool Wavertree and Minister of State for Health.

At present, there are strict ethical rules relating to the use of human tissue from living people. Doctors and medical researchers must follow codes of conduct and get ethics approval (from the Human Tissue Authority) and consent from individuals to obtain tissue from living donors, for example to use tumour biopsy samples for scientific research. However, there is no ethical committee that has the authority to decide whether anyone else, an artist or museum curator for example, can obtain tissue from living consenting donors, for the purpose of making art and displaying it.

The Wasted debate seeks to open up a discussion about the ethics of ‘bio-art’ with a wider audience.


Gina Czarnecki has sought to make sculptures using human fat from liposuction operations, and bones from hip replacements. Even though legally, all she needs is the consent of an informed patient, doctors are reluctant to release the ‘waste products’ from operations because there is no way of getting formal approval.

Gina’s exhibition at the Bluecoat documents this process. Significantly the exhibition introduces her latest works. Wasted is a series of sculptures that explore the use of human tissue in art, the life-giving potential of ‘discarded’ body parts and their relationship to myths and history. The works draw attention to timely concerns such as stem cell research and issues surrounding the process of informed consent. Co-commissioned by the Bluecoat and Imperial College London, Palaces is a resin sculpture and participatory artwork made from thousands of milk teeth donated by children around the UK.  Palaces will tour to the Science Museum, Imperial College and the Centre of the Cell, London in 2012, and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry in 2013.

Free tickets are available from the Bluecoat information desk. Call 0151 702 5324 for details.

Anyone can join in the debate by visiting or tweet us @wasteddebates.

For further information or interview requests, please contact the event organizer

Kate Rodenhurst

07956 352 779

Values and Ethics for the 21st Century

Values and Ethics for the 21st Century


All publications are equal, but some are more equal than others and this is one such book for me given the other contributors. The book is published by the Spanish bank BBVA, as part of its OpenMind programme. It is a beautiful hardback book and a fascinating collection of essays, considering our present times. Thus, its sections are

  • Ethics in a Global World'
  • Ethics in Science and Technology
  • Ethics in Development, Poverty and Environment
  • Ethics in Business
  • Ethics in Finance

This may be the only critical academic book publication, published by a national bank,  to cover such subjects and the authors are excellent company. They consist of:

John R. Boatright, Joseph H. Carens, Thomas Clarke, Richard T. De George, R. Edward Freeman, Mervyn Frost, Francisco Gonzalez, Geert Hofstede, Bernardo Kliksberg, Peter Koslowski, Hans Kung, Andy Miah, Carl Mitcham, Mollie Painter-Morland, Reinhard H. Schimdt, Kristin Schrader-Frechette, Robert A. Schultz, Peter Singer, Charles Taylor, Mary Warnock.

My essay focuses on the Ethics of Human Enhancement, here's the pdf.

Design for Evolution

On 23rd, I give a talk in Helsinki for a lecture series at Aalto University, thematically associated with the World Design Capital in 2012.

Here's more info about the series, titled 'Human Design or Evolution', which includes Natasha Vita-More, Stelarc, Laura Beloff, Fiona Raby, James Auger & Jimmy Loizeau, Ritta Hari and Sissel Tomas (sadly not all at the same time).

Here's my talk, titled 'Design for Evolution':

How should we imagine the future of humanity in order to permit the utilization of human enhancement technologies, while remaining mindful of the risks that could arise from tampering with evolutionary processes. How can humanity design for its evolution, taking into account the range of capacities that humans may require in the future and considering the kinds of lives people wish to lead in the present? This talk will address the interface of design and evolution, so as to approach a responsible approach to human enhancement.

Bioart is changing the world

latest article for the Huffington Post focuses on the politics, philosophy and potential of bioart.

IN RECENT YEARS, a new breed of artists named bioartists have begun to infiltrate gallery spaces and scientific laboratories in pursuit of creative expression and new knowledge. Their number includes some of the world's most adventurous avant-garde artists, whose core currency is the playful and sometimes political exploration of new media through which to create art that will change our way of seeing the world. One such artist in this field, Gina Czarnecki, is having her first UK retrospective opening on December 8th at The Bluecoat in Liverpool. Yet, there is a great deal more at stake with this new form of creative practice.

In the past, the medium of such artists might have been oil paint, water colours, or in more recent years, film, video, or digital technology. Today, their medium is biology – our biology to be more precise, and that of other species. However, their work does not simply derive from our present, post-genomic era; it also foregrounds what comes next. They conduct sociologies of the future, shaping the ideas of science fiction writers, film makers, and the work of scientists. By envisioning new forms of biological transformation and utilization, their ideas become constitutive of our era, in the way that artists before them did.

To this end, bioartists also scrutinize contemporary bioethical issues and scientific practice, such as the utilization of embryonic stem cells, or the development of transgenic species. However, it is far from clear that the intention of such artists is to resist such processes. Indeed, some are seeking their development in order to make their art possible, such as Stelarc, the long-standing performance artist who regularly alters his body for his art.

Beginning with live body hook suspensions in the 1970s, Stelarc’s most recent enterprise involves creating an ear on his forearm, grown from a cell culture and sculptured over a period of six years. The next stage for this work is the utilization of stem cells to create the precise ridges of the ear that only nature has been capable of perfecting, so far.

If this were not evidence enough of how artists celebrate the transformative aesthetic potential of biotechnology, then consider the subsequent stage of Stelarc’s Extra Ear. The end goal of the project is to implant an auditory device within the ear and for it to be remotely connected to the Internet, so web browsers can hear what the ear hears creating a distributed auditory system.

Other artists, such as Ionat Zurr & Oron Catts from Australia are scrutinizing the need for us to farm animals, at a time when environmental activists point out the amount of energy needed to sustain one animal life – and indeed, the harmful gases generated by such life forms! As an alternative, they have developed something called victimless meat, grown from cell cultures, which has the neat consequence of also attending to animal rights concerns, since there is no sentient life to speak of that is harmed by the consumption of such products.

Biology has been a medium for artists for some time. Everything from saliva to human excrement has entered the play space of artists over the years. The difference in these new works is their experimentation with cutting edge scientific applications, such as stem cells, cosmetic surgery and biotechnology generally – technologies that are at the margins of human experience and about which there is considerable controversy.

The resulting works vary considerably and they range from the weird and wonderful, such as Eduardo Kac’s fluorescent, transgenic bunny, to the sublimely curious such as Julia Reodica’s designer hymens, a collection of synthetic hymens, which invite questions into the role of virginity and its loss in the 21st century. Alternatively, Yann Marussich’s whole-body secretion of a blue dye in a piece of live art called ‘blue remix’ heralds a new era of performance..

These artists have varied intentions and, like all good work, their art invites numerous and sometimes contradictory responses. It would be a mistake to suggest that they are pursuing anti-scientific ideologies, since this would radically limit the willingness of scientists to open their doors to such practice. Instead, the emphasis is on collaboration and shared vision, about nurturing new ways of interrogating the end goals of science as the utopian visions of humanity.

However, one can read a deeper politics into such desires. Their gentle tip toeing into labs raises important questions about how we organize society and understand our own humanity. For instance, why do we privilege scientific knowledge over, say, aesthetic, as evidenced by the way in which funding is skewed in favour of the former? In short, the efforts of bioartists is doing nothing less than attempting to disrupt the global knowledge economy by reinstating art as the primary medium of developing insights on the, as yet, unstudied future.

In so doing, the work of bioartists also raises difficult ethical questions. For instance, it requires us to consider by what codes of ethics such work should be governed? This is often the initial response of critics who find such work disturbing, offensive or potentially illegal: how could one play with transgenic science simply to create a new aesthetic artifact? However, there are good reasons for refraining from such judgements and this is because the aesthetic content of such works is only one way of evaluating their worth.

The more relevant ethical view to take reveals itself when inquiring into some of the challenges that such artists have faced in the pursuit of their work. For instance, in 2004, US bioartist Steve Kurtz was pursued by the FBI under suspicion of bioterrorism, after petri dishes with biological matter inside them were found in his home.

Such artists would want us to see them as acting on our behalf to make science more accountable to a broader public and for their work to engage us more fully on its long term goals and aspirations.

So, the transgenic art of Eduardo Kac invites us to consider the limits of ‘Playing God’ and he is quick to point out that scientists have already undertaken such experiments, we just don’t hear very much about it, or it is cloaked in some remote chance that the experiment will lead to knowledge that will assist humanity in some specific way. In any case, if one wanted to read Kac's fluorescent bunny as the next era of personalised pets, what should be our objection? Doesn’t our desire for pets necessarily commit us to their objectification and servitude, even though we might claim they are our companions?

In the end, if we are to experiment with creating new forms of life with synthetic biology, cloning and genetic modification, shouldn’t we just admit that it is for little more than our own amusement, whether that is the amusement of our own existence, or that which we find in witnessing great art?

Smart Drugs

Smart Drugs


In advance of one event I'm involved with at the Battle of Ideas this weekend, I've written a brief article for the Independent. The title is'People should be free to take smart drugs if they choose to'. Here's the link and the text below.

People should be free to take smart drugs if they choose to

If you could take a pill that would instantly improve your memory or increase your ability to make sense of complex ideas, perhaps even make discoveries worthy of a Nobel prize, would you? What if you could enhance your capacity to assimilate new languages in a fraction of the time than would otherwise be necessary to become fluent? Answers to these questions may now become more urgent as a range of cognitive enhancements are quickly becoming available via pharmaceutical research.

Many of the early signs of these prospects arise from drugs that are presently used primarily to treat medical problems, one of the most famous of which is Ritalin. However, the candidate drugs that could enhance our cognitive abilities is endless and all we are asked to do is decide on whether or not we think their use for general enhancement rather than just therapy is a good idea.

It seems beyond question that many of the benefits of smart drugs would be valued my most people. Who wouldn’t want to make ground breaking discoveries or be able to perform better in exams? Just this week, the journal Annals of Surgery reported improved performance of doctors who use the cognitive alertness drug modafinil.

However, there are also practical reasons for why we would want to improve our cognitive ability on a day to day basis. Being able to remember where we left our keys or what we had to buy at the supermarket spring to mind. Of course, it’s unlikely that people would risk any serious long term health problems that may arise from using smart drugs, so a major obstacle to their use is being able to reduce these concerns.

After that, we may then need to consider what counts as being smarter, so as to have a better idea about what we need to enhance. Answers to this question have eluded artificial intelligence researchers for years, though we do know that there are different kinds of intelligence – logical or emotional, for example – and the improvement of each may require quite different techniques and imply quite distinct consequences. Equally, we would want to know if there were any trade offs in cognitive improvement. For instance, is advanced logical functioning detrimental to the more empathetic dimensions of our humanity?

As well, one of the big questions that follows from a society of brain enhancements is whether their use may be justified for state intervention, perhaps in trying to improve the memory of witnesses in courts of law where evidence depends on it. Alternatively, might society seek to improve the empathetic capacities of criminals so as to more effectively facilitation their rehabilitation?

There can be no doubt that all of these alterations will dramatically change who we are, the conditions of our existence and the order of things within society. No longer would a great school or good parents be such a great influence on whether or not one is able to excel in life. No longer would people who have been unable to excel as youngsters for whatever reason be restricted by this past.

Some would argue that these magic bullets to self-improvement are in fact ways of cheating ourselves, as they would rob us of the journey or process that is required to achieve great things. However, there are many things we do presently that require little effort, but which can have similar enhancing effects – such as sleeping well, drinking coffee every morning, or eating oily fish.

We don’t worry about whether these tactics compromise some sense of our own authenticity, so why should drugs be any different? Neither do we worry that they undermine some other route towards self-improvement, such as studying very hard or paying attention to what’s happening around us.

It seems to me that life is hard enough as it is and the prospect of smart drugs could improve the overall circumstances of many people. If more people have improved levels of all forms of intelligence, then we would find ourselves in a much richer society. This is also why we value education, because we believe that an enlightened mind can make a greater contribution to society and may even lead to a more enriched life. This does not mean that only formal education is valuable, but that the merit of learning is universally shared.

Smart drugs may be no different from a range of techniques that we currently employ to educate people more effectively. Of course, there is always some doubt about whether these are actually improvements. For instance, as many people like the idea of learning via an iPad as learning through a blackboard and chalk, but the really smart people realize that each has its use and that new technology does not negate the value of other methods of self-improvement.

This is why individuals should be left to make their own choice and take their best guess at trying to improve their lives. It is also why the state would be obliged to make smart drugs – which are sufficiently safe – available to all. Indeed, it could not afford to do otherwise.

Throughout October and November, The Independent Online is partnering with the Institute of Ideas’ Battle of Ideas festival to present a series of guest blogs from festival speakers on the key questions of our time.

Humanity 2.0

The RSA has just published the video footage to the Humanity 2.0 debate I chaired with panellists Professor Steve Fuller, Dr China Mieville, Dr Sarah Chan & Dr Rachel Armstrong.

Battle of Ideas

From 28-30 October, I'll be speaking at the Battle of Ideas in London. I'll take part in two sessions, both broadly focused on the ethics of biological modification. The first is on Saturday and are titled 'Designer people: is technology making us less human?' (Sun, 1230pm, Lecture Theatre 1) and 'Smart Drugs: Magic Bullet or Cheating Ourselves?' (Sun, 345pm, Lecture Theatre 1)

Here's a brief outline of the programme with other speakers:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday 12 August 2011
Media Contact: Patrick Hayes 07782 133399 / 020 7269 9222
7th Battle of Ideas Festival Programme Announced
The Institute of Ideas today unveils the 7
featuring a line-up of 350 speakers participating in 75 debates on society’s big issues and
unresolved questions (see:
The main weekend festival, held at the Royal College of Art, London on October 29-30, showcases
keynote debates entitled:
Battle against the fates; Profiting Responsibly? Business in the Big Society; Creativity and Curiosity:
do we make stuff up or find it out? Has tolerance gone too far? Loyalty in an age of whistleblowing and Wikileaks; Is individualism bad for society?
Seven strands run through the format of the festival weekend, allowing in-depth examination of a
subject. They are entitled:
Battle for the World, Battle for Morality, Food Fight, Society Wars, Battle for our Brains,
Reassessing... Politics and Sporting Contests.
In addition there are a large number of standalone discussions on subjects including:
The Tea Party – defenders of the American Dream?    Life off Earth: are the aliens out there?
Burlesque: female empowerment or posh stripping? Islamophobia: the new racism or liberal angst?
Ain’t misbehaving - do British children need the army to sort them out?   Smart drugs: magic bullet
or cheating ourselves?    Olympic expectations: can't see the games for the legacy?   Through a glass
darkly: why do atheists love the King James Bible?
Commenting on the launch of the festival programme, Claire Fox, Institute of Ideas director, said:
‘In a period in which we are seeing hugely important cultural shifts, from nihilistic rioters looting and
burning up their own communities to many longstanding institutions – including the police, media
and political parties – hollowing out and being called into question, never has the need for rational
debate been more important.’
‘The Battle of ideas festival 2011 will provide two days of the kind of high-level, thought provoking
public debate that is currently urgently needed. We aim to avoid lazy platitudes and to interrogate
what is really happening in society both in the UK and internationally. Free speech is allowed!’
Confirmed speakers at the Battle of Ideas festival 2011 include: David Aaronovitch, columnist, The Times; author, Voodoo Histories; Anne Atkins novelist, columnist
and broadcaster; regular contributor to Radio 4's Thought for the Day; Simon Baron-Cohen, director,
Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge; author, Zero Degrees of Empathy; Daniel BenAmi, finance and economics journalist; author Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and
Cowardly Capitalism; Melvin Burgess, award winning children's author, novels include Nicholas
Dane, Junk and Kill All Enemies; John Cooper, leading criminal and human rights barrister; regular
columnist, The Times and Observer; editor, Criminal Bar Quarterly; Claire Fox, director, Institute of
Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze; Frank Furedi, professor of sociology, University of Kent,
Canterbury; author, Wasted, Politics of Fear and On Tolerance: in defence of moral independence;
Clare Gerada, GP; chair, Royal College of General Practitioners; Tom Holland, award-winning
historian; author, Rubicon: the triumph and tragedy of the Roman Republic; winner, 2007 Classical
Association Prize; Simon Jenkins, columnist, Guardian; chairman, National Trust; author, A short
history of England; Irma Kurtz, writer; broadcaster; agony aunt, Cosmopolitan Magazine;
author, About Time: growing old disgracefully; Philippe Legrain, advisor to José Manuel Barroso,
President of the European Commission; author, Aftershock: reshaping the world economy after the
crisis; Kenan Malik, writer and broadcaster; presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4; author, The Quest
for the Moral Compass (forthcoming);  Paul Mason, broadcaster; author, Financial Meltdown and
the End of the Age of Greed; Andy Miah, director, Creative Futures Research Centre, University of
West Scotland; Tim Montgomerie, co-editor, Conservative Home; co-founder,; member, advisory board, Centre for Social Justice; Ruth Padel, poet
and writer; author Darwin - A Life in Poems; Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic
studies, University of Oxford; author,The Quest for Meaning: developing a philosophy of pluralism;
Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law, George Washington University; legal affairs editor, The New
Republic; author, The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America; Brendan
O’Neill, editor, spiked; William Saletan, journalist, Slate; author, Bearing Right: how conservatives
won the abortion war; John Sutherland, Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of English Literature,
University College London; author, The Lives of the Novelists; George Szirtes, reader in creative
writing, UEA; poet; editor; translator; author, The Burning of the Books and Other Poems; Raymond
Tallis,  author, thirty medical and non-medical books including Aping Mankind: Neuromania,
Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity; Gáspár Miklos Tamás, visiting professor, Central
European University; president, Green Left; author, Les Idoles de la Tribu; Tom Watt, actor, writer
and broadcaster: best known as Lofty from EastEnders, David Beckham’s ghostwriter and Fighting Talk’s
Champion of Champions 2011; Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics
commentator, Financial Times; author, Fixing Global Finance; Zoe Williams, columnist, The
Guardian; Cathy Young, contributing editor Reason; and many more.
Press passes for the weekend are available and a wide range of Battle of Ideas speakers are
available for comment. Contact: Patrick Hayes 07782 133399
Notes to editors:
1) The 7
Battle of Ideas festival weekend is taking place on the weekend of 29-30 October at the Royal
College of Art, London. For the full programme and list of confirmed speakers, visit: Battle Satellite events are organised with a range of national and international partners taking place
throughout October and November. Full details of the programme can be viewed online here:
3) Press passes for all events are available and a wide range of festival speakers are available for media
comment on issues being discussed at the Battle of Ideas before and during the event. Contact: 07782 133399 / 020 7269 9222

Deporte, ética y derecho

In Octubre, estare hablar sobre deporte, ética y derecho en Barcelona por el Universidad Pomeu Fabra. Es un conferencia en la escula de derecho y abajo tiene la programa. Within my talk, I will weave in themes about democracy, freedom and the good life...

Presentación: ¿Por qué es importante el deporte para la filosofía del derecho?

Prof. José Luis Pérez Triviño Prof. Titular de Filosofía del Derecho. UPF. 10-10,30 h.

Why Anti-Doping Will Not Last: Bioethics & Sport in an Era of Human Enhancement

Prof. Andy Miah Director Creative Futures Research Centre Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies University of the West of Scotland. 10,30-11,30 h.

Las lesiones deportivas y el Derecho Penal

Prof. José Manuel Ríos Corbacho Prof. de Derecho Penal. Universidad de Cádiz. 11,45-12,45 h.

Dopaje y paternalismo

Prof. Claudio Tamburrini Investigador del Centre for Healthcare Ethics. Facultad de Filosofía. Universidad de Estocolmo. 12,45-13,45 h.


thumbnail image by Andy Miah, Iraq 2003 protest in Barcelona

Humanity 2.0 RSA

On 6th October I will chair the launch of Professor Steve Fuller's new book 'Humanity 2.0'. Find below the brief for this sold out event:

How will we ascribe status to human life in a ‘post-human’ world? Should we take post-humanism seriously? If so, how do we define and value our humanity in the face of a future that will only otherwise confer advantage on the few? As we re-engineer the human body, and even human genome, are we attempting to realize dreams that hitherto have been largely pursued as social-engineering projects or are we doing something new?

From traders and dreamers to technogeeks and philosophers, whose ideologies run the gamut from collectivism to libertarianism, a large constituency is already engaged with our enhanced future. This constituency may radically reconfigure the global political space.

The RSA gathers a high-profile panel of speakers to explore the hidden agendas behind our values and attitudes toward the place of ‘the human’ in today’s societies, and debate what must now be a key issue for the 21st century.

Speakers: Professor Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, the Department of Sociology, the University of Warwick and author of 'Humanity 2:0'; Dr Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow and co-director, AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) in Architecture & Synthetic Biology, The School of Architecture & Construction, University of Greenwich; China Miéville, author of several works of fiction and non-fiction; and Sarah Chan,  Research Fellow in Bioethics and Law, University of Manchester.


Find below some live blogging notes from today's 'Brain Gear' conference in Groningen on Neuroscience. There were many interesting talks, but stand out findings for me were about science communication and journalism and the absence of scientific underpinning to commercial neurofeedback clinics.