Hope Against Hype - Accountability in Biopasts, Presents and Futures


  • Nik Brown


hype, genomics, expectations


We are today wholly accustomed to being daily bombarded with (often competing) claims about the seemingly limitless potential and promise of transgenics, predictive medicine, reproductive science, bioinformatics and much else besides. Stories of new breakthroughs and advances mesh with ‘our’ culturally embedded sense of the steady march of enlightenment progress. Each announcement seems to index a sequential pulse in the accomplishment of the ‘biotechnology revolution’. In more grounded terms, the talking-up of biotechnology prizes open the accounts of funding agencies and investors, in addition to winning the necessary support of various critical allies (patients, publics, regulators, etc). In equal measure, hyper-expectations feed into and fuel the complex counter concerns of oppositional cultures (new social movements, NGOs, etc). And yet these accounts of revolutionary potentially sit uncomfortably alongside our equally familiar experiences of unfulfilled promises, the awkward absence of future benefits, treatments, rewards and profits. This is not always the case, but more often than not, early hopes are rarely proportionate to actual future results. This paper charts key features in the ‘dynamics of expectations’, documenting the relationships between new hopes and emerging disappointments. It explores the routes of agency in the construction of the present’s future and touches on the possibilities for greater accountability in the political economy of biotechnological expectations.


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Research Papers



How to Cite

Brown, N. (2003) “Hope Against Hype - Accountability in Biopasts, Presents and Futures”, Science & Technology Studies, 16(2), pp. 3–21. doi: 10.23987/sts.55152.