The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and the Settlement of Space

Our Human Practices Project: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology in Space

As we develop the enabling technologies for space exploration, there are some questions about ethics and best human practices that must be addressed. For example, if there is potential for native life on another planetary body (e.g. Mars or Titan) do we, as humans, have any responsibilities towards that life? If our settlements will likely damage the native ecosystem or destroy that life, must we avoid settling? If we find life in a dormant stage, do we have a responsibility to revive it? Should we advocate a policy of preference for Earth-life, life in general, or non-interference? If we are able to decode an extraterrestrial system of genetics, do we have the right to manipulate those genetics, as we do with Earth-organisms? What is the role of synthetic biology in space exploration?

These are essential questions which will shape the nature of our civilization if and when we expand into space. However, they rarely come across the public radar because they seem so far out. But there must be a conversation before any long-term settlement of space begins.

For this reason, we spoke to experts in many fields related to space exploration to get their opinions. We interviewed many of the leading figures in astrobiology, synthetic biology, planetary science, SETI, and space policymaking.

Linked are the videos of these interviews, along with a brief biography of the interviewee and an annotated summary of what he/she said. These videos are intended to start the conversation. Click on the video link to the right! We hope you enjoy these knowledgeable viewpoints and come away with something new!