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LightBulb Chats: Designer Babies Science2DesignBabies4Society?

You are invited to join the next round of DesignLab’s enlightening conversation starters: The LightBulb Chats! This time, we will explore the topic 'designer babies'.


The world’s first designer babies, babies that have been genetically modified, were (purportedly) born late last year. Is this the beginning of a new medical revolution? Are we a few steps away from becoming superhuman? Or, do designer babies widen the gap between the rich and the poor? Will baby girls become a rarity in countries with a cultural preference for boys? In the second edition of DesignLab’s LightBulb Chats we explore gene editing in humans: the possibilities, the dangers, the grey areas. Join the conversation.

designer babies chat: the experts

Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko

Lecturer at Leiden University, teaching courses on posthumanism and intersection between art, ethics and biotechnology.

Agnieszka Anna Wołodźko holds a PhD in cultural disciplines at Leiden University. In her research, she investigates ways in which art, by using living bodies as its medium, reveal the overall cultural, social and political significance of affect in the contemporary understanding of biotechnologically manipulated bodies. Since 2016, she has worked at the AKI, coordinating biolab and teaching philosophy of art, lecturing in BIOMATTERs, an artistic research program that explores how to work with living matters. She was a member of organizing committee of the Sixth Annual Lowlands Deleuze Scholarship Conference “A Grin without a Cat” at the AKI Academy of Art and Design in Enschede in 17-18 May 2017, and an art curator and co-organiser of the workshop and symposium on Science-Frictions on 22 November 2017 at the DesignLab University Twente. Since 2017, she has been a lecturer at Leiden University teaching courses on posthumanism and intersection between art, ethics and biotechnology.

Jeantine Lunshof (joining us from Boston via video call)

A philosopher-ethicist in the Sculpting Evolution group at MIT that explores evolutionary and ecological engineering and invents new ways to restore and improve our shared ecosystems.

Lunshof holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Hamburg (Germany), an MA in Philosophy, with minor in Health Law, from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), and a PhD from VU University Amsterdam. Prior work has been pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine. For the Personal Genome Project (Director George Church, Harvard Medical School), Lunshof developed the innovative model of Open Consent. As an Assistant Professor at the University Medical Center Groningen (Netherlands), she has been investigating the normative questions raised by the use of genetic imputation within a population isolate.

Jan Kok

Professor in Molecular Genetics at the University of Groningen.

The expertise of Kok is in molecular genetics and genomics and in microbiology. Kok has been closely involved with the iGEM team of Groningen as the coordinator and one of the supervisor for a few of years now in this worldwide student competition to design “genetically engineered machines” (in fact, engineered bacteria or yeast). Next to this, Kok is the adjunct director of the Master Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, a former member of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, a member of the Board of the Groningen Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Institute, and finally a member of the Board of the Undergraduate School of Science and Engineering.


LightBulb Chats

DesignLab’s LightBulb Chats are enlightening conversation starters: open invitations to publicly debate controversial elements shaping our future today. They focus on intriguing topics that play a significant role in our everyday lives, and are likely to influence the world of tomorrow. Think: will artificial intelligence put humans in the backseat? Do you need a degree to be successful? And now we can ‘design’ babies, does that mean we should play God?

The Lightbulb Chats aim to build bridges between students, academia, civil servants, business(wo)men, artists, and other curious civilians. Join the discussion and our mission to engineer the future together!