Modifying Nature (Humans Included) To Save It

Image from Arne Hendriks’ fictional proposal to shrink humans for the good of the planet.

Image from Arne Hendriks’ fictional proposal to shrink humans for the good of the planet.

How extreme should our solutions to save the planet be? Tate Williams reports on some ideas from the fringe including shrinking humans to the size of chickens and giving us cat eyes so we can see at night without electric lights, at Medium:

Imaginative minds are exploring some strange and audacious solutions to our worst environmental problems. They are not, however, for the faint of heart, particularly if you have a strong attachment to the human body as it currently exists.

Biologists have already been toying with the idea of engineering endangered species to make them more resilient, or even resurrecting certain extinct species. But there’s a set of artists and scholars taking the concept of green bioengineering much further, imagining new species of synthetic, beneficial creatures and even biologically modified humans that leave a lighter footprint on the planet.

This idea of manipulating biology to tackle environmental problems can trigger an odd combination of exhilaration and horror. But it also forces us to face just how difficult these problems are. And while they are hypothetical and some admittedly preposterous, the ideas are rooted in real science, and get us thinking about the level to which we’re willing to tinker with nature, and ourselves, for the health of the planet.

For artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, design can play an important role in this discussion, as it helps us grapple with what the future of biotechnology might look and feel like beyond the scale of a petri dish, and therefore explore what we want or don’t want it to become.

Her latest project is curating the art exhibit Grow Your Own…Life After Nature, now showing at Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, which asked artists, designers and scientists to provoke discussion around the future of synthetic biology. One of her own installations, Designing for the Sixth Extinction, imagines a fictional fleet of manufactured organisms we might set loose on nature to assist in restoring biodiversity…

[continues at Medium]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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12 Comments on "Modifying Nature (Humans Included) To Save It"

  1. Johnny Unite-Us | Dec 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm |

    If I was 50 cm tall, my poppy plants would get me sooooo high.

  2. jasonpaulhayes | Dec 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm |

    Thats Eugenics… something we know a thing or two about here in California.

    Reminds me of reading “The Catalogue of Correctable Omnipresent Human Flaws”

  3. misinformation | Dec 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm |

    “How extreme should our solutions to save the planet be?”

    Save the planet, that’s a good one. Human’s are funny, just the size they are.

  4. Simon Valentine | Dec 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm |

    synthetic beneficial creatures. now there’s some slightly different words for stuff i have written down somewhere for a novel … i swear by the time i’d ever have time for all the writing it’ll all be real anyway. oddly enough that was part of the novel too…

  5. We don’t need to save the planet, we need to stop killing it.

  6. Jason Lewis | Dec 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm |

    Sheeezus….I have no doubt this kind of nonsense and worse is already happening in secure underground labs somewhere. Funny how there’s never any public debate over the morality or ethics of meddling with science like this. Would be good to keep in mind that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

  7. Maybe the system we have in place already will work just fine. Keep breeding rich psychopaths with each other and they’ll kill everybody. Problem solved.

  8. gustave courbet | Dec 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm |

    This basically amounts to an obese person getting their stomach stapled instead of doing the difficult work of changing their lifestyle, or a coke-head engineering a better nasal cavity instead of curtailing their usage.

  9. I could write novels (and perhaps some day I will) about all the things I thought I was rescuing or repairing, but really I was only dooming.

    • Calypso_1 | Dec 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm |

      Did you achieve a sense of personal redemption from the fragments of your broken endeavors? ; )

  10. Have faith, the planet will soon correct itself. The next great mass extinction is coming.

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