Synbio x Im a Mortal
In the context of health, innovations in synthetic biology often have the potential to change what we mean by the term, human. Although the health applications of synthetic biology usually are therapeutic or diagnostic in nature, we were interested in how humanity can be enhanced and if we could redesign ourselves just as we do with bacteria. Can we engineer ourselves to be smarter, stronger, or happier or are these ideas at most science fiction?
When exploring these futuristic scenarios in our group discussions, we came across another concept called superlongevity and that prompted us to ask, “Why do we age? Why do we change at all?” We took to the literature and learned that many scientists interested in longevity approach aging and life extension as fundamentally an engineering problem. However, we felt as though there was much more to learn beyond what we could simply read about.
Being of particular interest to one of our team members, Marvin Yan, he alongside another McMaster student, Sufal Deb, decided to start Im a Mortal; a separate educational and outreach project focused on life extension and aging. Although the backgrounds of many of our team members are in science, we recognize the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration. As such, Im a Mortal was created not just to garner perspectives in science, but also those in ethics, religion, philosophy, sociology, and economics as well.
Since May 2021, Marvin and Sufal have interviewed over 40 different experts on Im a Mortal’s podcast such as Luigi Fontana, Bhagwati Gupta, Liz Parrish, and Tarris Rosell. The discussion topics varied by guest but included questions such as: Is cancer a function of age or time? How accepting would Christians be of therapeutic or enhancement-based technologies? Is it against the Christian doctrine? How would a person’s memory and perception of time change if they lived 1000 years? Should we be altering human biology at all? What are the implications of everyone becoming a centenarian? Can we have equality in a society where some people accept certain health enhancements whereas others reject them?
McMaster SynBio worked with Im a Mortal and supported this project with guests closely related to synthetic biology, by suggesting questions for guests and providing transcription to increase accessibility. At the moment, Im a Mortal is continuing to release interviews and have plans to broaden their education to videos and articles as well. McMaster SynBio will continue to support Im a Mortal as the project continues to develop and more and more students at McMaster get involved.