By Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
"Synthetic biology has the potential to transform the manufacturing sector, but it requires a new way of thinking about the relationship between design and science, between nature and industry, and even between creator and product
Design is the transmission of ideas through things. But how do we judge whether new ideas are good things if the designs become invisible? Since the industrial revolution, design has been integral to the process of making things. It translates technology into the mass of useful stuff that marks progress in our everyday lives: the internal combustion engine into the car; the spring into the adjustable lamp; the transistor into the personal computer. Design separates what we make from what already exists: the natural, living stuff we want to control. But design is a plastic term with plastic morals. While we enjoy the conviction that 'to design is to be human', design today is mostly concerned with making products for us to consume, shy of responsibility for the functions to which it gives form and those forms' existence before and beyond their functional lives.
But now the mosquito is becoming a design object. Oxitec's RIDL male mosquitoes progeny die by genetic design. Grown in a factory, sorted by sex and released by the million, they mate with wild female mosquitoes to produce faulty offspring that will never hatch. It is a polite, British design solution to the tricky business of eradicating pathogens, on a geo-engineering scale. Swiss-designed bull sperm are also being trialled, encapsulated in cellulose before being inserted into a cow's uterus, unpackaged at ovulation as her hormones trigger precision-timed conception. Fewer deaths from dengue fever and cheaper dairy products may be the consumer's only experience of these designs. This is death and life as the stuff of design. .."