A tipping point for bio


Bio hacking lab at Share Conf 2013

It’s both my job and a great pleasure to be looking out for signals that point to something fundamentally new and interesting. Something that might be driven by a technology (or a combination of technologies) that will have a massive impact on the way we live – or at least offers that opportunity.

Over the last ten years, just to name a few, these mega trends (or tectonic shifts) include the whole way we connect more deeply online through what today is called Social Media and a normal part of our everyday lives; the way these connections started following us around more seamlessly through the mobile web; the way manufacturing and “reproduceability” changed through 3D printing and the fabbing movement; how the physical world joined us online in the Internet of Things, turning our physical environment more responsive.

Let’s look at all things bio

But for a couple of years now, there have been more and more signals – weak and odd and quirky at first, but quickly gaining strength – around biology: bio synthesis, DIY bio hacking and the like.

Just like 3D printing before, this all very much happens in the space of atoms – or of the organic – but with the thinking of the web overlaid. A combination of atoms & bits in the most literal way. And much like what later became known as Social Media started out with a myriad of competing terminologies (ubicomp, social computing, web 2.0…), I don’t think that the final terminology has yet emerged, making it somewhat harder to follow the many parallel discussions around bio/organic hacking in a structured way.

This phase of competing ideas and terminologies is usually a good sign that something is interesting enough that stakeholders from different angles are feeling out the same area, trying to figure out what’s going on there and where to take it. It’s when stuff is at Peak Interesting, long before the real impact becomes tangible. And no doubt, this area will have massive, profound impact on society, business, medical, industry. And no doubt this impact will come in many unexpected ways.

Tipping point

We’ve been talking about this for a while, and just a little while back I remember mentioning that the the signals are still just a little bit too scattered for me to fully engage. Not quite there yet, for the way I operate. But just now, this recent brief blog post over on O’Reilly Radar about the BioFabricate Summit kind of put me over the edge. I mentally mark this as a personal tipping point for the signal-to-noise ratio that triggers my dig-deeper impulse.

So I’ll be reading up on bio fabrication, bio hacking, bio synthesis. If I find enough interesting stimulus, the next step for me will be to think about a new conference around the issue: I still find it the best way to dive in and get all the players together.

If you’re aware of interesting stuff happening around this, particularly in Europe, please do share. Thanks!

Updates for February: ThingsCon, UIKonf, NEXT Berlin, new portfolio


Not that I’m about to start writing regular weekly updates again, but here’s a quick snapshot of what’s been going on, what I’ve been up to, and what I’ve been thinking about.


The Call for Proposals has ended and we’ve just notified the submitters. It’s painful to have to reject good proposals, but of course at this scale it’s impossible not to. (We had almost 50 proposals just through the official form, plus countless more on all kinds of other channels.)

Realized all of a sudden just how awesome & comprehensive the whole industry is going to be represented at ThingsCon. As far as I can tell, there will be representatives of Intel, Highway1/PCH, Bosch, BERGCloud, Good Night Lamp, reaDIYmate, Silabs, Fairphone, Phonebloks, Dustcloud, Ultimaker, Xively, Blaze, Provenance, Technology Will Save Us, Product Club, IxDS/Fritzing and many more. It’s going to be quite wild.


The Call for Proposals at UIKonf is still ongoing – it’s a different process altogether. First of all, it’s completely anonymous to foster diversity and give a better chance to lesser known names. It’s closed for submissions now, so we enter the phase where feedback can be given and we’ll start the voting phase next week. Check out all proposals here (all you need to vote & give feedback is a Github account).

NEXT Berlin

We’re getting to the point where a concrete program is emerging out of the mass of proposals and potential speakers.

New portfolio site

Taking a hint from both friends and clients, I am (at last!) preparing a portfolio site of sorts. Basically a quick overview of what I do, to make it easier to share with others and make introductions easier for those introducing me.

I might also transition my business into a new company of sorts, but for now it’s mainly a communications thing.

Part of this is to also make it even easier to recognize how I split my time between client work and self-initiated projects (like ThingsCon, UIKonf and a few as of yet largely announced ones). Scribbles like this one help me structure my thoughts:


Scribble: my process and value chain


So what about that new portfolio site? The draft is live at guildindustries.com:


Screenshot of guildindustries.com


Yes, it’s live, and yes, it’s a draft. If you’re wondering about the name – I wanted to reflect that I tend (and try) to work with external, trusted experts whenever possible. While my skill set is necessarily wide so I can connect the dots and discover the best opportunities for both clients and my own projects/products/services, I find it tremendously helpful and effective to work with experts whose skills go deep rather than wide. Domain experts that truly know their field inside and out, people who don’t just know the field damn well but also advance and shape it. Which is kind of what I associate with a guild in the best, traditional sense of the word.

Since a good deal – and my main motivation – of my work is knowledge transfer (aka Empowering Others To Be Even More Awesome), I find it useful as a metaphor for sharing the insights of these innovators.

What can I say? It’s a work in progress. Things might will change. Once I find it’s ready I’ll probably flip the switch and retire my other site (peterbihr.com) that currently serves the same function.

What do you think?