Category: Essays

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Intimate Technology

Intimate Technology: the Battle for Our Body and Behaviour

Technology is nestling itself within us and between us, has knowledge about us and can act just like us. Think of brain implants, artificial balancing organs and bio-cultured heart valves. Technology therefore becomes a part of our bodies and our identities. It places itself between us on a large scale; we use social media to show ourselves to the outside world and to communicate with each other.

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Food Technology

The Carnery – A Cultured Future with In vitro Meat

Imagine London 2025. The first in vitro carnery ‘Counter Culture’ opens its doors. The restored 1970s-era English brewpub boasts an expansive bar of reclaimed mahogany and booths upholstered with magnificent in vitro leather. Steaks are grown to precision inside giant steel vats, decorated (functionally) with illuminated green algae tanks. A disorienting mingling of global spices flavor varieties of exotic and heritage meats like boar and Berkshire, all of which are cultured on site. The large charcuterie board, consisting of mushroom-media duck foie gras, coriander mortadella and crispy lobes of sweetbread pairs perfectly with a shortlist of probiotic cocktails (try the rum and kombucha).

In vitro meat has the capacity to transform meat production as we know it, not only offering new and diverse types of product but also introducing an entirely new way of thinking about and interacting with food. One day, growing meat may seem as natural as making cheese or beer.

By ISHA DATAR and ROBERT BOLTON – From The In Vitro Meat Cookbook

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Food Technology

In Vitro Meat: Animal Liberation?

Perhaps the most uplifting promise of in vitro meat is that it will be good for animals. Animal cells are needed to make it, but only in small amounts, and if algae can be used to feed these cells, no animals need to suffer for this meat. In 2008, the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) offered one million dollars to whoever could develop marketable in vitro chicken by 2012 (1).As that deadline proved to be too tight, PETA used the money to subsidize in vitro meat research. Many other people, too, welcome in vitro meat primarily because of what it may mean for animals. Even though they often find the idea strange and perhaps even a bit uncanny, the promise for animals is widely felt as a source of hope.

By COR VAN DER WEELE and CLEMENS DRIESSEN – From The In Vitro Meat Cookbook

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Tube-Meat
Food Technology

Growing the Future of Meat

Biology grows. In petri dishes or bodies, cells grow and multiply, self-regulating and self-repairing. By taking advantage of the power of biological growth, a single stem cell can theoretically be nurtured to grow indefinitely. Outside of the limits imposed by the edges of an animal’s body, the cells can reproduce and multiply until they exhaust the nutrients and space provided, filling petri dishes and vats to grow the future of meat.

By CHRISTINA AGAPAKIS – From The In Vitro Meat Cookbook

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Anthropocene

The Anthropocene Explosion

 

Biologically, there is nothing remarkable in the fact that humans are agents of ecological change and environmental upset. All species transform their surroundings. The dizzying complexity of landscapes on Earth is not just a happy accident of geology and climate, but the result of billions of years of organisms grazing, excavating, defecating, and decomposing. Nor is it unusual that certain lucky species are able to outcompete and eventually entirely displace other species. The Great American Interchange, when North American fauna crossed the newly formed isthmus of Panama to conquer South America three million years ago1 is just one among countless examples of swift, large-scale extinctions resulting from competition and predation.

What is remarkable, however, is the stunning speed of human adaptation relative to other species, and that our adaptation is self-directed. From sonar and flight to disease immunity, humans can “evolve” exquisite new traits in a single generation. The Anthropocene represents a catastrophic mismatch between the pace of human technological evolution and the genetic evolution of nearly every other species on Earth. As with many other geological epochs, the Anthropocene has been heralded with a mass extinction, one which is generally accepted to be the sixth great one to occur on Earth.2

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Food Technology

No Future for Traditional Meat

At Home in the Lab with Mark Post, Father of the In Vitro Hamburger

We’re standing with Professor Mark Post in front of the three biggest bioreactors in the Netherlands, the machines humming faintly and filled with millions of busily dividing cow cells. While the term ‘bioreactor’ might call to mind a gleaming, swimming pool sized tank, the reality is far more prosaic. You’d be forgiven if you thought they were refrigerators.

Post, the man behind the world’s first lab-grown hamburger, aims for no less than a total transformation of the way we produce meat. “My goal,” he says, “is to replace the entirety of livestock production with in vitro meat.” Post’s relaxed manner belies the scale of his ambitions: “I dream that, at some point, McDonalds will approach me to produce all the hamburgers, all over the world.” By raising meat entirely in a lab, starting with stem cells and ending with full-grown muscle, Post hopes to make meat that’s cheaper, healthier, and more sustainable than the real thing. The everyday quality of the bioreactors in his facility acts as a metaphor for in vitro meat itself: a science-fictional achievement that aspires to not only be normal, but natural.

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Baby
Humane-Technology

Love Your Monsters

Why we must care for our technologies as we do our children.

By BRUNO LATOUR

In the summer of 1816, a young British woman by the name of Mary Godwin and her boyfriend Percy Shelley went to visit Lord Byron in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. They had planned to spend much of the summer outdoors, but the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia the previous year had changed the climate of Europe. The weather was so bad that they spent most of their time indoors, discussing the latest popular writings on science and the supernatural.

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Designed-by-Evolution

Pyramid of Technology

How Technology Becomes Nature in Seven Steps.

By KOERT VAN MENSVOORT

From stone-axes to mobile phones, throughout history people have given birth to a wide range of technologies that extend our given physical and mental capabilities. Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without technology. Every human being on the planet employs technology of some sort, and every human has to cope with technological change at various points during his or her lifetime. Yet, despite our deep-rooted relationship with technology, and the fact that we are wholly surrounded by it, most of us are still relatively unaware of how new technologies are introduced, accepted or discarded within our society.

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Designed-by-Evolution

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

Since Darwin we tend to look at the biological world exclusively in economical terms. The idea that monkey’s, frogs, or even ants do more than simply propagate, doesn’t find much acceptance among scientists. And yet, even crayfishes at times seem to displace objects just for fun.

By DAVID GRAEBER

My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.

“All animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of modest triumph. “See what I mean?”

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Fake-nature

Next Nature and the Curse of Oil

The Next Nature network is admirably raising awareness of the fact that our received and even critical understanding of nature as something opposed and underlying culture (“old nature”) is outdated – if it ever has been valid. Following this, the project wants to take the insight further by insisting that because nature has always been cultural, the next step is to embrace and celebrate how cultural artifacts are (and always have been) escaping control, becoming autonomous, and thereby forming the eponymous “next nature”.

By TERE VADÉN

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Innovative Nostalgia

Innovative Nostalgia

A battle is underway between designers and engineers; at stake is the design of our technological future. It rages subtly like a moorland fire. Koert van Mensvoort adds fuel to the flames, but also offers a solution. The impact of new technology on our lives is hard to overestimate. Read more

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Dynamic-architecture

Living Among Pests – Designing the Biosynthetic City

Biosynthetic design is usually discussed at the scale of the individual product. But the city – itself a mixture of synthetic interventions within biological systems – can be considered a more complex piece of biosynthetic design. Conversations in urban planning have moved away from blunt engineering and the evisceration of species to serve human convenience, towards balanced management and co-existence. Joyce Hwang discusses the challenges for designers, and gains for citizens, of living in a truly biosynthetic city. 

This essay originally appeared in Volume magazine #35. Get your copy here

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Anthropocene

A Stroll Through the Bubbles of Chemicals and Men

In flipping through the future shock images of biosynthetic speculation, it’s easy to miss the historical trajectory to which biosynthetic practices belong. Etienne Turpin takes a look at the long twentieth century of ‘bubble-expanding’ invention and the underlying drive to maintain our sphere of seven billion people, in order to understand this trajectory. He regards proto-biosynthetic techniques like the Haber-Bosch process, which caused an agrarian revolution by synthetically introducing ammonia-produced fertilizer to farm fields, as a key to understanding the dynamics of living in this brave new biosynthetic world. 

This essay was originally published in Volume magazine issue #35. Get your copy here.

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Anthropocene

From Eco-Apartheid to Earth Democracy

The following essay is from Yes Naturally: How Art Saves the World, available in the Next Nature store. You can visit the Yes Naturally exhibit in the The Hague until August 18. 

“I could understand how great the concrete truth was in any plane of life, the truth that in separation is bondage, in union is liberation. Poverty lay in separation and wealth in union.”1 – Rabindranath Tagore

Separatism is at the root of disharmony with nature and violence against nature and people. Today, we need to overcome an eco-apartheid based on the illusion of separateness – the separation of humans from nature in our minds and lives. This eco-apartheid is an illusion because we are part of nature and Earth, not apart from it.

Eco-apartheid refers to the ecological separation of humans from nature in the mechanical, reductionist worldview, which is resulting in the multiplicity of the eco-crisis that is threatening human survival – climate catastrophe, species extinction, water depletion and pollution, desertification of our soils, and acidification and pollution of our oceans. It also refers to the apartheid created between corporations and citizens, between rich and poor on the basis of the appropriation of the Earth’s resources by a few and denial to the rest of their rights to access the Earth’s gifts for sustenance of all life, including human life.

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yes of course
Anthropocene

Yes, Naturally

The following essay is from Yes Naturally: How Art Saves the World available in the Next Nature store. You can visit the Yes Naturally exhibit in the The Hague until August 18. 

What is nature? And who or what has a say in this? Are human beings the only ones who decide, or do plants, animals, bacteria, atmospheres, things and computers play a role as well? Yes Naturally puts anthropocentrism – centralizing the human position above all or interpreting reality exclusively in terms of human standards – in perspective. Is our arrogant placing of ourselves above all other agents in the world really justified? Is the DNA of a multicellular organism such as ourselves really so different from that of a virus? Our digestive tract looks remarkably like that of a sea squirt, which belongs to the most primitive of tunicates that have been around for more than 500 million years. And we have more in common with plants than we may on the surface suspect. Mitochondria are the energy producers of plants and animals: they are offspring of bacteria that lived in intracellular symbiosis with their hosts in an early evolutionary stage. Interconnectedness and interdependence are in fact the measure of all things.

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