January ’22: squishyFuture
Note: this is the first of a monthly series (which is also a newsletter, if you’d prefer that). The monthly issues will be a review of a topic/trend/series of weird things I noticed throughout the month. There is also a semi-daily one where I basically vomit links and quips and notes and non-sequitur and is barely readable. And it costs money. So…you know…don’t sign up unless you’re sure.
A squishyFuture is a future where genetically engineered processes replace mechanical ones. Where we grow, rather than build, new machines. It will be a time when computer virii are not as important as actual virii. It‘s the natural progression of biomimicry-as-technology, from using seashells as models for more resilient ceramics to learning new ways to use bacteria. And we will find that stochastic processes result in more resilient structures than structured ones.
That said, we’ve got some time before squishyFuture is widespread. Primarily because of a global pandemic (perhaps you’ve noticed it?) making people squeamish about biology. I mean, I like this idea but suspect a large portion of society would go, “But isn’t plastic more hygienic?” and “Wait, do I still wash my groceries before I bring them in?”
But a squishyFuture is inevitable as long as human beings are shambling stacks of bacteria and viral remnants. There is a possibility that we might read accounts of ‘having a cold and staying home from school’ and go, “why does a decrease in temperature result in not attending mandated education?” Not because we have evolved past sickness, but because we have bootstrapped ourselves into perfect health. Not by fighting bacteria and virii but by controlling them and turning them to our own purposes.
In a squishyFuture, a vat of green goo on your windowsill generates all the electricity you need. As long as you remember to feed it and keep it healthy. And your new phone? Doesn’t need to be charged, just fed. The new construction down the street? It burps. Your multivitamin? Not a pill, but the scum on a pond
Just this month, we saw glowing squishies, self healing robots, booster shots for buildings, cracking the purity issue with algal biogenerators, gooey supersuits, domesticated enzymes, milk minus the moo, and an actual good use for kombucha.
Will any of these solve today’s problems? Maybe. Will we have new problems? Definitely. But will it be amazing to see what happens? Absolutely and without question.
So, let your imagination go wild, keep your eyes open, and look for bits of a future bleeding into the present.