Designer Agi Haines not only uses biotech, she uses it on the human body. “I think we’re really malleable.” Her work touches upon the tension that splits the debate on human enhancement: should we try to improve our own biology? From a previous post you may remember Agi’s self-defibrillating heart, which shows how bioprinting may one day merge an eel’s electric organ with a human heart. As a speculative biodesigner, Agi confronts people with their unknown inside. But the world of science is not always open to that.
Design is the focus of my thread in the Biopolitics project. You might wonder what design has to do with technologies that may still take years to develop. Biotechnology is not something you would easily encounter in stores. What is there to design? Normally design comes after technological development. Only when the touchscreen was ready, the iPhone was designed. Only when LED lighting was ready, the portable flashlight was created. Right?
Things turn out to be more complicated. Consider the envisioned tablet from 2001: A Space Odyssey, or autonomous concept cars of today. When technology is not yet market-ready, design can guide the direction of development. With visions materialized in futuristic products, technicians are inspired and consumers are prepared.
This is happening with biotechnology as well. Designers are exploring the possibilities of designing life. Some speculative designers aim to ponder about the future through fictional products. Why? With the noble goal to make technology more democratic.