CRISPR, Biohacking, and AI with JJ Hastings

Today, we’re chatting with artist and scientist J.J. Hastings. Her research explores self-experimentation, genome editing, machine learning and the future intersections between tech and the human body. She has long-standing roots as a biohacker—having co-founded two community labs, London Biohackspace and Melbourne’s BioQuisitive—and now has the first garage lab start-up in Australia to be approved by the OGTR to work with genetically modified organisms.

Her work has been exhibited at venues across Europe, India, Asia, North America, and Australia. J.J.’s career in scientific research spans over 15 years. She is an alumna of New York University, Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and Central Saint Martins with advanced degrees in Biology, Bioinformatics, and Fine Art. Her research fuses and folds together the fields of machine learning, bioengineering, space exploration, new media art, and ethics.

In our episode, we’ll probe J.J. ’s mind about the ethics of gene editing, using gene drive to eliminate disease, the biohacking movement and her provocative approach to art. She’ll also cover artificial general intelligence (AGI), the impact of quantum computing on biotechnology, and the possibilities of our sci-fi-esque future, and her own lab—Bioquisitive


  • 2:00 How did JJ come to be who she is? How did she get involved in so many interesting projects? Is she an expert in all of these topics? And how did she end up in biohacking?
  • 5:00 Has JJ chased being a provocateur? Or is it the product of pure curiosity?
  • 7:00 JJ discusses the book Dark Emu and seed modification. How might this relate to our future settlement of Mars?
  • 11:00 How are machine learning, CRISPR technology, and biohacking all interrelated?
  • 14:30 JJ discusses theoretical biology, quantum computing, and whether or not biohackers pose a risk.
  • 17:00 Is it out of control to utilize biohacking to cull species or eradicate disease? Will gene drive be widely used? How might this impact human and ecological health?
  • 21:00 What is the history behind CRISPR? How is it still unfolding? JJ discusses the the recent gene editing scandal in China. Is genetic engineering justified?
  • 25:00 What are the ethics behind genetic modification? How far is the law behind the technology? How should we concern ourselves with our genetic privacy?
  • 32:00 How does JJ feel about sci-fi? Which sci-fi movie most likely depicts our future? Gattaca, Altered Carbon, Star Trek, The Island?
  • 38:00 How close are we to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)? How does the accessibility to CRISPR and AI tech change our research? How much do we really understand and how much of our thoughts around these processes are purely hubris?

Dark Emu – Book

JJ Hasting’s Homepage

The Island – Movie

Change Agent by Daniel Suarez – Book

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