The MRI Steak: The Meat of Tomorrow
Nanofilter: Fossil from a Nanotech future
‘Design and Futures Thinking’ by James King (designer)
Dressing The Meat of Tomorrow
There is a real technology that allows us to take a small sample of animal tissue and encourage it to grow, separate from the original animal’s body, to form a piece of ediblemeat. Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, who are two artists working with this technology call this food “disembodied cuisine”, but is also known as Lab-meat, Semi-Living Meat, In-Vitro Cultured Meat, and perhaps most importantly for vegetarians: Victimless Meat.
So, imagining that this technology is successful, and becomes the most cost effective, the
highest quality, most humane way of producing our meat, then it is easy to imagine it
becoming a normal, everyday thing at some point in the future.
So what will be different about this meat?
What size will it be, if it is not limited by the size of any animal? What shape will it have if this is no longer limited by the anatomy of any animal? How much will it cost?
Who would buy it? Would we be happy eating this?
Would there be anything to remind us where it came from?
Well, perhaps a particularly enterprising Chef of tomorrow will become bored by the formless,
shapeless food and will strive to add authenticity to his creations. He does his research and learns about these historical animals.
He becomes excited by old text-books with colourful illustrations of the anatomy of the
animal, such as these cross-sections through a cow’s stomach. He selects parts that he finds most interesting.
Not the boring bits that we eat today, but the more intricate and beautiful patterns found in the anatomy of the stomach. He makes a mould into which he can grow his meat. And serves the results in his restaurant to an appreciative clientele who are also hungry for a more authentic form of food, and willing to pay for it. So, this is the title of my talk.
I am here to show some of my projects that all deal with the future in some way.
I would also like to talk more generally about the sort of practice that I am developing at the
moment which combines these two things:
Design and, for want of a better word, “Futures Thinking”
It says on my badge that I’m an Artist, which isn’t really true: I am a designer.
A designer is someone who has the skills to pre-conceive and visualise things that don’t
exist yet. They normally work in a commercial context, designing products to be released onto the
market in the near future. The time between designing an object and taking it to market can vary enormously, but normally designers will have to think a year ahead at the most.
The projects I am showing today are all set much further into the future: 5, 10, 20 years
So, That’s a designer, what is a Futures Thinker?
Professional Futures Thinkers have many different titles such as “Foresight Analyst” and
“Trend Forecaster”. They work in many different fields, from fashion to finance, but tend to
specialise on a particular subject. … it is about facilitating a debate on the role of emerging technologies.
By creating tangible objects that embody a particular vision of the future, it becomes possible
to discuss them and test their desirability.
A debate about whether Biotechnology is “good” or “bad” can become less abstract, and you
get to ask all sorts of new questions:
– How much should it cost?
– Does it look appetizing?
– Would you eat it?
The tangibility of this work also allows it to propagate through the media and reach more
people. This is a spread from the March issue of Wired Magazine.
Fossils from a Nanotech Future
I’d now like to talk about another project.
It also deals with an emerging technology:
… nanotechnology, which is loosely defined as the application of our ability to control and
manipulate matter with a precision of 100nm or less.
I wanted to focus on the way that this technology is visualised.
Normally, nanotech is visualised at the nano-scale in images generated from powerful
microscopes, heavily processed they often looking like computer renders.
I wanted to visualise this technology in new ways, at a human scale.
This is a paper plane made from an A4 sheet of graph-paper. This is the same thing, but 20 times smaller.
Its the same shape, and made of the same material but it has different properties. It looks
clumsy and badly put together. Also, it doesn’t fly. Eventually I focused on dust.
There was a lot of discussion at the time amongst policy-makers about how we should
regulate nano-particles in the environment. They were seen as something that is potentially
If we did use nanotechnology in a particulate form, and we did release them freely into our
environment in order to perform some useful service for us, then we would experience them
as a sort of dust. I wanted to visualise what our environments might look like. So here is an interior and there is dust everywhere. Its *clean* dust, obviously, otherwise someone would have cleaned it up.
I’m not interested in the function of the dust, perhaps it keeps the house sterile or has some
other strange properties, but what is important is that were are living with the stuff everyday. Perhaps we’d need tools to manipulate it. Perhaps we’d comb it onto our surfaces. Perhaps we’d need filters to breath through to stop it getting into our body. How do we keep
it in certain areas, and not in others if it is too small to regulate in any meaningful sense.
I’d now like to talk about one more project. This is a futures project that I did after I
graduated from the RCA. Its done with a client.
I undertook this project with Lloydspharmacy and the Helen Hamlyn Centre in order to do
some thinking about the shape of pharmacy in the next 5-10 years. I decided to focus on this, which is the relationship between an expert and a patient. So in the case of a pharmacy, it the character on the left represents a pharmacist.
Its not my drawing, unfortunately, its by the American artist, Saul Steinberg. Unlike the other projects I’ve shown you, I decided to design a range of possibilities, rather
than focus on a single theme or scenario.
So, I designed 5 different pharmacies and the way I visualised them was through their
advertising and their signage: their public face. The first one is the Open Pharmacy. Its based on the idea that you could solidify things that are happening on the internet into bricks-and-mortar. For instance, you would be able to rate all the medicine on display, as you can do with books
on Amazon.com. The Pro-Scribe pharmacy is the most authoritarian. The pharmacist is much more like an oldfashioned doctor. Perhaps there has been a backlash against the proliferation of health
advice that can be found on the internet, where everyone’s opinion is valid.
People would go to the Pro-Scribe pharmacy to speak to an expert and they wouldn’t
necessarily care what their mum thinks. The pharmacist would have the ability to proscribe you from a particularly unhealthy activity.
So rather than just dealing with *pre*scriptions, they would deal out *pro*scriptions as well. Self-Health pharmacy was highlighting the possibility…… for a completely automated form of pharmacy. This is my favourite. Coffee + Pharmacy is based on the idea that when people are ill, and
especially if they suffer from long-term conditions, then they don’t necessarily like to be
reminded of that fact.
If you have to go and pick up the same medication, week-on-week, month-on-month, then
if this process can be eased into your normal daily routine, it wouldn’t be such an unpleasant
experience. Its primarily a coffee shop and the pharmacy is kept out the back somewhere.
You hand over your prescription, you order your drink, you read the paper for 20 minutes,
pick up your medication and leave.
There has been no indication that you are in a *healthy* environment. You haven’t had to be
reminded that you are not like other people. As I’ve said before, I’m not trying to predict the future. Nor am I saying that these pharmacies are all a good idea.
Instead, its about creating a range of possibilities that help to inform decisions made today. This project has been written up in a book and you can contact me if you’d like a copy of it.
And that’s the end of my talk. Thanks!
Different approacheds to visualise the future, for public debate or for commercial ventures to think about it more. Think about the choices we make today.
How do you see the development of visualising the future will evolve?
Sci-fi eg Jurassic park, bad ot bioenginner
But we look at everyday issues, through internet ofr example. What DI is doing is ot develop it by making it moderst and specific and allow richer sets of questions that are posed by epic sci-fi where it is all abot the ne do fth worl all we live haopy ever after. It is grey not black and white.
Is there a political desire to deal with in thes method, is there political context?
It depends Ian peroan is into robots and geeky side ot the future. When he talks to scientist, whe he asks the what is your vision how will it affect me? It potentially shapes technologically development.
Eg fantasy to want to live with robots,
Meat project + the island
Felt less repulsed as he ws more familiarised behind the tech
CRITICAL DESIGN is it having an affect on commercial outputs now? Is it becoming more important to industry?
He works as a risk analysist and crisis manager. James make sit more visual and visible. He would like to collaborate to take that way of working to industry . tahing a non commercial context to industry as valuable rather than think in short term. Desing should bemore strategic and thoughtful and provocative rather than the next trend the next fashion range.
Sustainability of life
Nanotech what is it?