My, but it’s been an interesting year for the future of lifestyle biotechnology!
In early 2012, I launched a synbio startup with four friends from high school through an incubator we’re calling The Mission Business. Over the course of the year, that startup (called ByoLogyc) went on to release five blockbuster products combining the genetic material of synthetic and natural organisms into highly lucrative lifestyle enhancement solutions.
One of them, ByoRenew, was so successful that it even went… viral! While we did have to shut down ByoLogyc’s celebrations at the Toronto Fringe Festival by subjecting all of their guests to an invasive medical procedure, and we were pushed into running a free immunization clinic for the deadly BRX Virus (the world’s FIRST synthetic pandemic!), and we had no choice but to evacuate hundreds of Toronto’s citizens to ByoLogyc’s private… er…. sterilization facility, it was a GREAT year to live in the future!
And now, I have a question for you, prospective ByoLogyc customer…
At what point in the story did I grab the attention of your inner design futurist?
ByoLogyc was an extremely innovative company… but a fictional one. Creating the company was an exercise in worldbuilding - the creation of a universe in which stories about the future can play out, rather than a whitepaper or an essay. The world of ByoLogyc came to life for a project about the reckless pursuit of a commercial biotechnological future for a project called ZED.TO. Thousands of people who engaged the company at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the World Future Society conference, Autodesk University, and even TED in Long Beach early this year!
By immersing people in visceral, narrative, and multiplatform experiences that simulate various possible futures, we can make some interesting inquiries into the way we think about those futures. How often do we think about them emotionally? How often do we think about the implications for our day-to-day lives? How often do we consider the future as a place where we ALL live, rather than just a few technophile individuals?
This is a conversation that needs to happen - and it needs to happen across all of the hills and valleys of the media ecology in which we live. It needs to happen on websites, through social media, at live-action immersive and social events, via web videos, and even through interactions with physical replicas of products from the future.
This weekend I’ll be attending the 5D Institute at USC’s SCIENCE OF FICTION workshop - an exercise (or perhaps an adventure) that will see 60-odd genius designers, storytellers, futurists, and other researchers come together to collaboratively design a future scenario together!
This kind of collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to futures is familiar to me from my graduate research at OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab, but it’s an amazing opportunity to try the approach on for size with a network of strangers (for now) and a different context - LA trumps Toronto pretty squarely this rainy time of the year!
I’m looking forward to sharing stories about the transmedia design (and violent downfall) of my future dystopia, as part of the ZED.TO project I created with my design firm The Mission Business, and also co-creating a future we can all live in… one that’s hopefully a little less fascistic than ByoLogyc’s.