The New Worlds of Synthetic Biology—Synopsis

A diverse and dynamic field that should not be judged as a whole but rather by its specific new features.
Part of the Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment book series (ETHICSSCI, volume 44)


Synthetic biology is a young and heterogeneous field that is constantly on the move. This makes societal evaluation of synthetic biology a challenging task and prone to misunderstandings. Confusions arise not only on the level of what part of synthetic biology the discussion is on, but also on the level of the underlying concepts in use: concepts, for example, of life or artificiality. Instead of directly reviewing the field as a whole, in the first step we therefore focus on characteristic features of synthetic biology that are relevant to the societal discussion. Some of these features apply only to parts of synthetic biology, whereas others might be relevant for synthetic biology as a whole. In the next step we evaluate these new features with respect to the different areas of synthetic biology: do we have the right words and categories to talk about these new features? In the third step we scrutinize traditional concepts like “life” and “artificiality” with regard to their discriminatory power. Lastly, we utilize this refined view for ethical evaluation, risk assessment, analysis of public perception and legal evaluation. This approach will help to differentiate the discussion on synthetic biology. By this we will come to terms with the societal impact of synthetic biology.


Synthetic Biology Environmental Ethic Intellectual Property Right Artificial Living Standard Genetic Code 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment GmbHBad Neuenahr-AhrweilerGermany
  2. 2.Philipps-Universität Marburg, Fachbereich BiologieMarburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryTU BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Chair of Philosophy 2Otto Friedrich UniversityBambergGermany
  5. 5.Fundación BBVAMadridSpain
  6. 6.Zentrum Für Literatur- Und KulturforschungBerlinGermany
  7. 7.Universität BremenBremenGermany

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