The Design Interactions Department at the RCA have been collaborating with scientists funded by the EPSRC (Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council) to create an exhibition which takes progressive scientific theories and translates them into thought provoking ideas for the future. The scientists worked closely with the designers on areas of research including health, security and renewable energy, as well as synthetic biology and the more theoretical quantum mechanics.
‘There are no solutions here, or even answers; just questions, ideas and possibilities. They probe our beliefs and values; they challenge our assumptions; and they help us to see that the way things are now is just one possibility, and not necessarily the best one.’ Professor Anthony Dunne, Head of Design Interactions, RCA
Security is increasingly concerning people in their day-to-day lives and we are looking to technology to try and protect us. What if a machine could read people’s emotions more effectively than people could? James Auger has tried to gain an understanding of how living with this kind of technology would affect our relationships with one another. ‘What would it mean to introduce such technology into the family home: when an electronic device can know more about your partner’s state than you do? Or can predict an oncoming bout of misery through statistical analysis of accumulated data.’
Michael Burton has investigated the theory that life on our planet only came about because a meteor containing the right material (a type of phosphorus now present in our urine) hit the Earth. ‘If we think of ourselves as astro-biological products of galactic composition, should we continue to colonise space with life? What if we collect phosphate from our urine and kidney stones, and create meteorites? These could be sent into space to seed life on other habitable planets, initiating a process of self-assembly and evolution.’
Scientists are currently experimenting with making nanoscale tubes out of a material called tungsten disulphide, which is five times stronger than steel and has amazing shock absorption properties. Combined into ceramics it could provide us with the next generation of bulletproof vests. Andrew Friend and Sitraka Rakotoniaina have questioned the use of such a wonder-material for recreational thrill-seeking purposes. ‘Where do the boundaries between thrill, fear and science lie? Our device offers individuals the chance to test these limits for themselves.’
‘Synthetic Biology’s potential to make healthcare more personal and participatory could allow us to become our own doctors and pharmacists; constantly monitoring and tweaking our body. It might even allow us to externalise our immune system by outsourcing metabolic processes to external micro-organisms.’
‘Quantum mechanics is an extraordinary branch of science. It’s a field where the boundary between fantasy and reality can start to blur… The Fifth Dimensional camera is a fictional device that captures glimpses of parallel universes suggested by quantum physics. How might we seek to interact with these other worlds? Would we become jealous of our parallel selves?’