Synbio Tarot Reading
by Superflux
Printable Synbio Tarot card deck


The Synbio tarot card reading is a workshop tool designed to help designers and scientists explore the social, economic and political implications of synthetic biology.
Developed as part of the Mutant Products workshop, the card deck is a starting point for conversations about the implications of science within a broader social, political and economic context. Taking into account a wide range of factors such as government policy, personal gain and geopolitical tensions, the game steers the players imaginination away from clichés and towards complex scenarios in a playful way.


The tarot deck comprises six categories of card: Protagonist, Location, Synbio Condition, Year, Operating Environment, and Player mission. Each category had six cards. One side of the card named a specific item, character or point, accompanied by a visual cue. The reverse side listed a couple of questions specific to the card, intended to guide thought and discussion.

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Example Scenario
2038 / protagonist: entrepreneur / La Paz, Bolivia / end to the war on drugs / rise of anti-synbio activism / mission: get rich

In the early 2030s, an international agreement was brokered to combat the appeal of illegal recreational drugs, putting an end to the costly and wasteful international ‘war on drugs’. By 2038, advances in neuroscience allow the creation and synthesis of drugs that target certain sites in the brain, granting users the capacity for 24-hour orgasms, improved memory, and cognitive enhancement. ‘Math drugs’ and nootropics, though designed and marketed as a short-term boost, are found have a residual (positive) impact on the abilities of their users. Keen to find a way to increase the profit margins on his products, Carlo Sanchez, a young entrepreneur and synbio-focused pharmacologist based in La Paz, devises two strategies: 1) Product licensing (by 2038, everyone has the ability to synthesize and print their own drugs at home, using a consumer-level DNA printer) 2) Influencing law and culture to restore some of the taboos around drugs (specifically, his drugs), to restore some of the edgy, aspirational culture of drug use, and help boost flagging demand In service of these ends, young Carlo secretly finances ‘fake’ anti- synbio activism, denigrating his product and holding up ‘old drugs’ like heroin and cocaine as natural highs. The campaign proves effective, with a wave of aging hippies and countercultural tourists bussed into La Paz (a former cocaine hub), only to tell their friends, colleagues and children about how the best drugs are ‘natural’ drugs and how damaging ‘this synbio stuff’ is.

More example outcomes in the Mutant Products workshop booklet