‘Big data’ provides us with an opportunity to meaningfully model environmental data – to understand where crisis points lie, to predict when we will reach them, and to propose viable interventions for averting or mediating threats to humanity. In the absence of a single political force to monitor and control global challenges such as population growth, temperature levels, carbon emissions and freshwater availability, there existed an opportunity for a powerful consortium to assume this role.
In the year 2100, a secret society called ‘The Engineers’ (comprising both scientists and philosophers) formed to confront this global and political inertia. By capitalising on advances in epigenomics, they began releasing engineered viruses into the water supply, designed to modify the human genome. Each virus was programmed and colour-coded according to a specific environmental issue.
Once per year, the Engineers consulted their oracle – an algorithm driven light source – to identify which intervention would be of greatest benefit.
Babies born in the years of yellow could metabolise saltwater, arguably the most positive epigenomic modification, responding to a lack of fresh water.
Babies from the years of green were allergic to meat proteins, addressing the environmental issue of deforestation for food.
Babies in the years of blue were born with sensitive inner ear pressure, encouraging them to remain close to their home altitude, and lessening their desire to travel.
And, as overpopulation of the planet reached crisis point, all babies born in the years of red were born without reproductive organs.
In collaboration with: Roisin Johns, Zuzana Lalikova, Sunny Han, Ipek Kuran
This speculative design scenario was developed during a live science and design project run in the Lethaby Gallery of Central Saint Martins in January – February 2014.