Workshop 6: Futures: May 8th-9th

WALTER PICHLER. Small Room (Prototype 4), 1967 Photography: Werner Kaligofsky.
Generali Foundation, Vienna. © Generali Foundation

WALTER PICHLER TV-Helmet (Portable living room), 1967

This workshop explored ways in which the contemporary obsession with insecurity is generating new forms of technical promise, offering control and protection in the wars against terror and environmental apocalypse. Discussions ranged from Double Agents in the post cold war era, how design thinking is integral to understanding, envisioning and provoking thoughts about the future, how risk assessment and scenario planning creates its own future and how the war on climate change has been created from the same language and motivations as the war on terror.

‘Design and Futures Thinking’ by James King

The MRI Steak: The Meat of Tomorrow

Nanofilter: Fossil from a Nanotech future

‘Design and Futures Thinking’ by James King (designer)

Check out his presentation here

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.

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Workshop 4: Protocols, Procedures & Institutions

Read more about the Protocols, Procedures and Institutions workshop here>

Tower Hamlets Unregulated Zone
The Tower Hamlets Unregulated Zone

A CONFIDENTIAL MEMO discussing the IF-POLITICS membership and duties of the Lancaster University Expert Assessors of Tower Hamlets Unregulated Zone from the UK Government Regulation Office, Division 3496723. Source: ANON

Dawkins + Venter discuss “Life: A Gene-Centric View” UPDATE!



Richard Dawkins and J Craig Venter meet to discuss the future of evolution and synthetic biology entitled LIFE: A GENE-CENTRIC VIEW at the DLD (Digital Life Design), a high-level Munich conference for the digital elite.

Read the German Press reactions:

>The Future of Selection from the SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG via Edge
> Craig Venter wants to email life from Spiegel Online via Edge
>Venter Institute Scientists Create First Synthetic Bacterial Genome

The full transcript from the video:

JOHN BROCKMAN: Thank you, Steffi and thank you all for coming.

It’s not every day you have Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter on a stage together. Richard Dawkins is responsible for possibly the most important science book of the last century, The Selfish Gene, published in 1976, which set forth an agenda of the gene-centric, or gene’s eye, view of life, which has become the basic science agenda for biologists for the last quarter century. And without that worldview, you wouldn’t have Craig Venter changing the world the way he is today.

Craig Venter is the man who led the private group that decoded the humane genome in 2001. He’s working on the forefront of artificial life, synthetic biology. He’s traveling around the world on a sailboat finding millions of new genes in the oceans and in very dramatic fashion. And most recently, in June, his lab was responsible for transplanting the information from one genome into another. In other words, your dog becomes your cat. What we’ll do first is a conversation between Craig and Richard, and then if any of you have questions, please raise your hands.

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Visions of the Future BBC4 series- Dr. Michio Kaku

VOTF_Honda Asimo

VOTF_growing bladder

Last November BBC 4 ran a three part series called “Visions of the Future” presented by Dr. Michio Kaku. Here he discusses a range of emerging future related topics from robots & brain pacemakers to in-vitro grown organs and meat to the theories and practices of Neil Gerschenfeld’s self fabrication bits & atoms department at the MIT. YouTube clips for each episode: intelligence , biotech, quantum

Bronislaw Szerszynski, a Senior Lecturer and Director of CSEC (The Centre for the Study of Environmental Change now based in Lancaster’s Department of Sociology) has critiqued the series.

To read the review please download from here> Szerszynski’s critique of Dr. Michio Kaku’s Visions of the Future BBC4 series

Related links:

Buried But Not Forgotten?: The Secret of Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain repository diagram Nuclear waste markers Landscape of Thorns Blue Yucca plant nuclear waste markers

Brian P. Bloomfield & Theo Vurdubakis – Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University

ABSTRACT: Yucca Mountain in Nye County, Nevada (USA), is the site of a very ambitious project to construct an underground repository for high-level nuclear waste. The object of scientific research and planning for over 20 years, and still facing significant political and legal challenges, the project aims to transport thousands of tons of radioactive waste from sites across the USA for storage at Yucca Mountain where it is meant to be kept safe for some10,000 years. Examination of the project highlights the relationships between social boundaries (proximity), language, and risk, geology and technoscience, in which the effort to realise safety materially (through the repository, and its situation within the local geology and geography) is complemented by efforts to communicate the dangers held within the mountain to the unknown (and unknowable) peoples of the distant future.


US department of Energy: Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

Yucca Mountian homepage

Peter Schwartz (founder of Global Business Network & wrote The Art of the Long View: see my FOSK blog entry) writes about the future of Yucca Mountain on The Long Now Foundation blog

C’elle: Stem Cells in Menstrual Blood

Menstrual Cup

A company called Cryo-cell International Inc. has launched its proprietary cryopreservation service, C’elle, which offers women the opportunity to bank stem cells from their menstrual blood. Using a menstrual cup to collect their blood is at the same time offering some vague belief that in the future you might be able to be saved by the possible stem cells collected from it. This company has already been under criticism from scienctists deeming the process to be all ‘hypothesis and hype’.

A caption taken from the C’elle promotional website:

“When it comes to making major life decisions, there is no time like the present. And when it comes to something as important as collecting potentially life-saving stem cells found naturally in menstrual blood, the ideal time is NOW. Thanks to C’elle’s patented technology, and easy-to-use collection kit, you have the reassurance and peace of mind you need, when it comes to collecting, isolating and preserving menstrual blood. Welcome to C’elle – where every month holds a miracle. ”

Read more about C’elle at BBC news and Bionews>

The Museum of Menstruation is unfortunately closed down but check out what the owner has to say about menstruation knickers and his menstrual cup ball gown.

Film series: CRASH

Crash by JG Balllard
CRASH by David Cronenberg

On 26th November, Bruce Bennett from Lancaster University introduced the screening of Crash (Cronenberg, 1996) at Dukes Cinema as part of the NSOP:DSL film series.

Crash is the 1996 film adaptation of a 1973 novel by British writer JG Ballard. It was directed and adapted for the screen by Canadian director David Cronenberg who is a particularly appropriate director as his films share Ballard’s preoccupation with the way identity and experience is shaped by modern technological society. His films are also marked by an impassivity and formal restraint that neatly parallels the emotional coolness of Ballard’s writing.

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Design – Introductory workshop – 4-5 Oct 2007 – Day 2

Design session

Cindy Weber introduced the design speakers from RCA, LICA &Imagination@Lancaster, Lancaster University, Department of Computing, and Department of Organisation, Work and Technology.

Fiona Raby on critical design
Fiona Raby
of Dunne + Raby discussed feral nature of critical design, and the accidental political nature of what it does. It works with the mismatch between official truths and what happens through the design.
Design is about problem solving: this is what designers do well. But what happens when the projects become so complex that there are no easy solutions? How does design respond to that? How does it deal with persistent dilemma? In contrast to social sciences, to question is not normal for design. Design sits at the centre of capitalist worlds.

The example of the alcohol salesman’s cane – it would siphon the alcohol in a way that preserves the norms of good manners and hospitality. A lot of the work reflects attempts to deal with imperfections.

Fiona and the alcohol salemans cane
At the Science Museum, a piece on the future of energy tried to do something with the impossibility of predicting the future of energy. The exhibit was aimed at children 7-14 years. Three scenarios resulted: 1. using meat products-based microbial fuel cells; it would have stylised blood-bags to fuel ipods; and manuals to help people relate to this. 2. Human waste becomes an important commodity: how would toilet design change? lunchbox that carries food to school and poo home. 3 Hydrogen is probably a solution: households might compete to produce energy, families are energy productive units, birthday contracts between parents and children to manufacture energy throughout their lives, for instance by wearing hydrolysers during play. Children had discussions with their parents about the objects.

‘Technology makes us smart savvy people in control of their lives.’
The work of J.G. Ballard paints a world filled with insecurity in the midst of technology. ‘Therapy culture’ means that we are not robust enough to deal with strong feelings. Fears of being kidnapped, abducted abound. So Raby and Dunne designed an object people live with, made of flooring materials. The object opens so that you can dive in and protect yourself from such feelings. Rather than being a victim in this space, it would give you pleasure. It was important that you could slide it open easily, even with one finger. The boxes were later used in a photo fashion street, a collaboration.

The Huggable Atomic Mushrooms was made before the London bombings. Different versions used different scales and materials.

huggable atomic mushroom robots

There are many robots in Japan. They are either becoming more human-like or becoming ubiquitous. They disappear into the environment. Is there a different way to imagine what a robot could be? There could be a purely autonomous robot, a red ring, that is only distracted by electromagnetic fields. It moves out of them. It runs your home, but does nothing for you except offer an electromagnetic free space. Another robot could have an identity that comes from itself. The possibilities of sensing are manifold, but who decides what is dangerous? This robot would be paranoid because it has to make decisions about what is dangerous or not. Another robot would be awkward to hold, you have to stare deeply into the eyes of a wooden thing. The issue here is eye-contact. Do robots need us less than we need them? The domestic robot needs to be moved constantly. Who is control here: it or us? Each robot is a seed to open questions. With all of them, the idea is to jump straight into making something.

After many years working with digital technologies as designers, the biological and DNA-based research seemed a long way from everyday life, and from designers do. Could designers engage with biotechnologies? There so much mis-communication around biotechnology. With design, it might be possible to intervene in everyday life rather than making big statements. What happens as some of this becomes products? R & D tried to create a platform that would allow people to engage. Bioland is an out-of-town shopping centre where all bio-needs could be purchased. It has a hospitals, clinics and shops.

The Zebra-fish pollution detector was too expensive to use and ended up as an exotic pet. Featherless chickens allowed cheaper production. Behind all this, the promise of the technology is pervasive. For instance, people giving tissue samples on the promise of future therapeutic interventions. There are ethical difficulties in certain projects: for instance, to get bone materials, only the wisdom teeth can easily supply it (see Ian Thomson’s work at Imperial College).

Mr Ventner offered at one time for £400k to predict what illness you might die of, as well as CD with your genome on it. Would future health really affect your life? The Evidence Dolls come with indelible pen and represent a change in the nature of dating and love relationships. They would be based on DNA analysis. Samples could be stored between the legs of the dolls Women were asked to re-evaluate their lovers in terms of genetic potential using the Evidence Dolls. Each doll represented an interview about a lover. Women said that they would get DNA analysis done on their lovers hair sample. Why not have the best nature can offer? Perhaps cloned in the form of a dog. The desire to put DNA into things and possess them is there.

evidence doll and penis dna drawers

Final point: people find out about things too late. Design can be a point that makes things visible thing earlier.