Designing The Future

Design as a Tool

Synthetic biology is a very exciting technology in its own right, but it has also spawned all manner of side fields and endeavours which are equally interesting and exciting. In many ways one of the most important resources in developing genetic engineering is imagination. Artists and designers have come together to explore just what synthetic biology could be,or what it should be. Design is an important first step – it gives us ideas to strive for and directs the flow of progress.

Design isn’t just coming up with ideas though, its placing these ideas in important overarching frameworks. For example, what is the role of synthetic biology within the city of the future? When we can build organic living buildings, does this fundamentally change the way we interact with the environments we live in? What kinds of consumer products can synthetic biology create – and how might they change our everyday lives? These are the sorts of questions designers seek to answer.

Safeguarding the Future

An older influence on synthetic biology is science fiction. Science fiction has always played an interesting role with science, inspiring and being inspired by it in equal measures. Science fiction about genetic modification goes back a long way, telling tales of warning or glorious dreams of utopia. As science fiction is becoming science reality, these works become pertinent and prophetic. Science fiction is a gold mine of ideas, coming from some of the most creative minds we have.

With the ramifications of a world full of genetically engineered technology bearing down upon us, many people are also examining the potential negative consequences of these actions. Threats of future bioterrorism, or mistakes with far reaching environmental, social, or medical ramifications are important to consider. Design and art attempt to bring these issues to the forefront of the minds of the public and the scientific community. It is only through community engagement and discussion that we can properly put in place appropriate regulations to ensure the safe development of these technologies.

Previously – Hacking Biology Next Up – Glossary