Natural History

Human beings have re-forged themselves into biomachines and are colonising the solar system and sending voyagers to the nearest stars.  But the highway has been seeded with hyper-advanced alien technology which seems to offer unlimited powers of transformation.  Will humanity survive the resulting crash as the potential for self-engineering runs riot and is there such a thing as a free lunch?

This book examines the links between the form of the body and the limits of the individual.

is available in the USA here.

4 thoughts on “Natural History”

  1. Hi Justina,

    My name is Robert Oppenheimer, I’m a student at the Synthetic Biology Doctoral Training Centre at Oxford University. I’m writing to you as an invitation to participate in a public debate at the Oxfordshire Science Festival. Our debate is titled, “Should we synthesise human genomes?”. We are planning to host the debate on Tuesday 20th June 2017, from 6:00pm until 7:30pm, at the Oxford Town Hall.

    In May 2016 an international project to synthesise a human genome was launched. You can check our more here –

    Our vision is to inform and inspire conversation about human genome synthesis through open discussion among a diverse panel of speakers. Ideally, our audience will both learn something about DNA synthesis and begin to appreciate the ethical and social implications of biotechnology. We would really appreciate your voice in this timely and important debate.

    Our debate would begin with a brief presentation on the history, current status and future potential of genome synthesis aimed at the general public. This will provide context for a debate between guest speakers, who provide 5-minute opening statements in turns, each beginning their statement with a short summary of the previous speaker. This process helps to foster a spirit of working together to understand and tease out ethical issues, rather than attacking people with different opinions. After the opening statements, there will be 30 minutes of questions and rebuttals between the panel, before opening to the audience for questions and concluding with a poll of audience opinion.

    In 2016 we ran a similar debate on the ethics of gene-editing in humans. We attracted an audience of around 70 people, including around 40 biology-related students from Oxford University, and received very positive feedback. This year we hope to attract an audience of 90-100 people. In 2016 our speakers included:

    – Lisa Melton, Senior News Editor at Nature Biotechnology
    – Dr Ben Davies, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics
    – Dr Andy Greenfield, Chair of the Nuffield Council Working Group on Genome Editing
    – Paul McAuley, UK science fiction author and former botanist
    – Elizabeth Bohm, Senior Policy Advisor for the Royal Society

    I am in the process of inviting diverse speakers for this year’s debate. I’ve currently confirmed Piers Millet as a speaker, who worked for the UN Biological Weapons Convention and has been an iGEM safety judge for some time. My shortlist for other speakers currently includes (in addition to yourself) synthetic biologist Patrick Cai, social scientist Jane Calvert, and Guardian science editor Ian Sample.

    We could pay for your travel to and from the debate, and we could organise a stall to sell and sign books after the debate.

    I would love to discuss the debate further if you have any questions or would like more information. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,


    1. I have to apologise for not replying to you much sooner, Robbie. I thought I had but apparently not…I’m so sorry. Anyway, I shall send email immediately, thank you.

    1. Thanks for the note! I will have to take a look at the whole book one day soon. Your film on Vimeo was very interesting 🙂

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