Dr. Markus Schmidt
Dr. Markus Schmidt is founder and team leader of BIOFACTION KG, a research, technology assessment and art-science company in Vienna, Austria. With an educational background in electronic engineering, biology and environmental risk assessment he has carried out environmental risk assessment and safety and public perception studies in a number of science and technology fields such as GM-crops, gene therapy, nanotechnology, converging technologies, and synthetic biology.
He carried out several research projects, for example SYNBIOSAFE, the first European project on safety and ethics of synthetic biology (2007-2008), COSY on communicating synthetic biology (2008-2009), TARPOL on industrial and environmental applications of synthetic biology (2008-2010), CISYNBIO on the depiction of synthetic biology in movies (2009- 2012), or ST-FLOW on standardization for robust bioengineering of new-to-nature biological properties (2011-2015).
He produced science policy reports for the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (on GM-crops in China), and the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (nanotechnology and converging technologies). He served as an advisor to the European Group on Ethics (EGE) of the European Commission, the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, the J Craig Venter Institute, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Bioethics Council of the German Parliament and is currently member of the EC’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) working group on synthetic biology. He is the author of several peer-reviewed articles, edited a special issue and two books about synthetic biology and its societal ramifications, and produced – together with Camillo Meinhart - several documentary films.
In addition to his scientific work, he engages in the collaboration between art and science, e.g. producing the BIO·FICTION Science Art Film Festival series (2011 and 2014), the art exhibition synth-ethic (2011), also engaging and supporting a number of artists to explore artistic and creative ideas on the future of biotechnology.
FUTUREBODY: Speculative Techno-Biology
Artificial Intelligence AI represents a form of information processing that is largely decoupled from biological systems. It is not impossible that AI will one day act partly or even completely independent of human control. At the same time the importance of AI in shaping synthetic life forms is constantly increasing. This means that we have, on the one hand, a divergence of organic and in-organic intelligent systems that could lead to a new form of machine wilderness, while on the other hand, previously wild organism will be tamed, standardized and programmed with the help of machines. In this context of animated technologies and engineered life, the question is: How will the bodies of the future look like?
So far, this question has only been tackled by a few artists and in particular science fiction authors. Also, some brave evolutionary biologists risked their professional reputation and created the field of Speculative Biology in order to explore future evolutionary paths. Speculative Biology, however, doesn't bear the mechanisation of life in mind. Navigating at the interface of art, science, engineering and philosophy, it is time to devote ourselves to Speculative Techno-Biology.