"HACKING IS NOT A CRIME," blasts a block-lettered bumper sticker slapped on the door to the laboratory on the fifth floor of a sprawling former factory building in Downtown Brooklyn. "Hacking," in this case, is shorthand for "bio-hacking"; it's a kind of half-motto, half–bill of services for Genspace NYC, New York's first and only DIY biological laboratory. Today, the hackers would learn to use CRISPR, molecular "tools" derived from the chemistry of microbes that have taken the bioengineering world from messing with yeast DNA to editing human embryos in four years flat. Not everyone is happy about that.
Sally Warring has promised me a peep into a hidden universe. In her laboratory on the fifth floor of the NYU genomics building, Warring, a Ph.D. student in biology, prepares a microscope, pipetting a single drop of green pond water into a dimple at the center of a petri dish. She focuses and refocuses the lens, and at first nothing resolves. Then, suddenly, the viewfinder explodes in green stars — tiny bright orbs, clustered in twos and threes, their contours blurring and resharpening in an endless succession of little visual ripples. The whole scene quivers like a mirage.
On a sweltering July Monday at Google's New York headquarters, in a conference room four floors above Chelsea Market, a dozen queer teenagers were introducing themselves to one another. "Danny, he/him pronouns," said a seventeen-year-old from Queens with long hair and fingerless gloves. He'd been writing video game storylines since he was eight; this was his second time at Maven, a week-long free summer camp for LGBTQ teenagers interested in tech. As an icebreaker, the teens had been told to name a genderless green fuzzball with eyes — and to give it a backstory. The fuzzball had to have a weakness, and Danny decided that it was compulsive reblogging. The team named it "dat boi" after a viral image of a cartoon frog riding a unicycle; it was their homage to a "dank meme." The rest of the room fluttered in approval.
In a world where tech companies like Google are displacing queer people of color like these campers, what does it mean to bring them into the companies' offices?