Synthetic biology_3

For the third class we did a quick mind mapping exercise to come up with directions for the final project.


I’m happy with some of the directions that I got. The top four –

1. BioChips
As a speculative design exploration, I’m trying to ask if we can engineer integrated bacterial circuits. What if a piece of DNA was exposed to conditions that will make it randomly mutate every time it tries to repair itself? Could such a setup be used to make a true random number generator? can we design a transistor with engineered bacteria which responds differently to voltage? What would biological versions of common electronic/electrical components look like?

2. Designer baby vs prolonged death
Genetically enhanced humans is a topic that often comes up when discussing bio technology. I can’t decide which is more grave, designer babies or its evil twin, prolonged death. I am more terrified of the latter. Through this speculative exercise I wanna try and answer questions like what is the optimum age to die? And in that case, what is the most pleasant way to die if death is far removed from natural biological processes? What kind of products and services will evolve around it? how will it change our mourning rituals?

3. Scavenger DNA
Can we engineer our DNA or gut bacteria to help us digest plastic?

4. Embodied brand experience
Smell is often regarded as a powerful branding tool. It creates a more enriched and memorable experience which helps in brand recall. But what if the future of branding lies in engineered bacteria? The gut-brain-axis is a well researched and proven subject concerning a link between gut microbiota and the brain/mood. Could environmental microbiome be engineered to deliver a specific brand experience? Do businesses have the right to invade our body and mind to get us hooked? Where do we draw the line?

BioDesign worksop

Chris Woebken held a Bio-Design workshop in class. It was a speculative design exercise aiming to visualize bio futures through tangible media. The idea was to gather simple products or materials from a dollar shop and re-purpose them to create and communicate new meaning and ideas. Everyone brought in at least 10 items each.


Full spread of random dollar store items brought in by the classmates. Chris brought along some vacuum formed package shells and different stickers. There were also some random magazine cut outs of a range of news articles.





We were to imagine a hypothetical topic related to our research paper. My selected topic is Gut-microbiome and its effect on the brain. 

So I imagined a future scenario where our world is getting increasingly sterile. We live in air quality controlled clean rooms. So are our offices and cars and movie theaters, everything is perfectly clean. Fruits and vegetables do not grow in soil anymore. Most of our food is grown in labs from cell cultures. There is very little of real, organic matter around. And the lack of helpful bacteria has drained our vitality and spirit.
We survive on constant entertainment and media consumption rather than engaging with the real world and seeking pleasure and fulfillment. Celebrity worship is rampant in a society like this which feeds on entertainment media.


In order to prolong their celebrity stature and physical and mental vitality, only celebrities have access to bio-engineered, probiotics and healthy bacteria. this has given rise to microbial piracy! Microbiome pirates are paparazzi of the future world, who are not only on the lookout for candid  photographs of famous celebrities but also their gut bacteria! This celebrity gut bacteria is sold on the underground market like drugs.


This is quick prototype to sketch out this future scenario by imagining a product, in this case, Jenn Aniston’s gut bacteria sold in form of balls and labeled as artisanal mood enhancer! $66


This is the device used to extract the microbiome!