From the 18th to the 20th of April 2012, designers from the Royal College of Art and Scientists from Trinity College got together at the Science Gallery in Dublin. The aim was to explore future scenarios around Synthetic Biology through a series of playful exercises designed as starting points for discussion.
The workshop was focused around Synthetic Biology and its impact on wider social and/or economic systems . The initial brief described our intentions as follows:
Commercial products are currently the optimised and standardised outputs of global systems. The wider the market for a single, cheaply replicable item, the bigger the profits. As Synthetic Biology gets closer to delivering on its promises and infiltrates every day life, the characteristics of living organisms could dictate a radical shift in this thinking. What happens when products get ill, ripen, adapt to their environment or to the way they are handled? When specific replaces standardised, can global strategies still be applied? How does intellectual property, or liability play out when products with a “life of their own” evolve over time and generations? What does the business plan look like?
Synbio Economy Mapping
Our goal was to propose playful exercises which triggered the imagination of scientists and provided a common ground for discussion. Coming from the point of view of design, the “bio-revolution” promises to enable the creation of whole new life-forms from scratch. However, living organisms are very different from the materials and processes we are used to dealing with. Mutation, synbiosis and randomness are seemingly incompatible with the engineering logic driving Synthetic Biology today. Design in this context may be more about trial and error and contingencies than reliable and standard biological parts. When you zoom out to bigger systems such as a society or global economics, how could these things play out? The Mutant Products workshop was the first step in probing this area, towards the first round of specualtive projects by the team of designers from the Royal College of Art.
Synbio Tarrot Reading