Category: Essays

Wild Systems

The Biosphere Code Manifesto

As a result of a discussions that took place during the event The Biosphere Code in Stockholm on 4th October 2015, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment.

The precepts for an in-progress Biosphere Code Manifesto are a recommendation for using algorithms borne out of growing awareness that they so deeply permeate our technology “they consistently and subtly shape human behavior and our influence on the world’s landscapes, oceans, air, and ecosystems” as The Guardian wrote in an extensive article.

We are just starting to understand the effects that algorithms have on our lives. But their environmental impact may be even greater, demanding public scrutiny. Here the Biosphere Code Manifesto v1.0, with its seven principles.

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intimate Essay
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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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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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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mark post
Meat the Future

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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Love Your Monsters

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


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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Wild Systems

Pyramid of Technology

How Technology Becomes Nature in Seven Steps.

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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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.

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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