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Growing Objects – Programming Biological Systems [Theory]


Whilst we are pretty much all aware of the implications of 3-D printing as a process of making any arbitrary object at the push of a button, it is exactly what living organisms have been up to since the invention of multicellular life.

Designers at IDEO have teamed up with scientists at the Lim Lab at the University of California, San Francisco to envision a “provocation” (that’s designer-ese for thought experiment) in which they explore the possibilities of exploiting known properties of microorganisms to literally “grow” the products we use every day.

What is particularly interesting about these future scenarios is where we once thought about computer systems that evolve through immense network of both physical and conceptual parameters, where one influence the other as in the case of Nervous System’s process of “growing objects”, the process of printing may eventually evolve into processes of actual physical growing. These two systems, of digital creation and of the biological one may eventually merge, creating an ecology of both digital and physical networks that communicate and feed of one another.

“One day if we understand how to program [living organisms,] we can encode things beyond software–we could encode materiality” says Carey. “That’s already happening in nature, but we have no idea how to do that ourselves.”

Time to move away from mimicry?

Read more on Fast Company >Training Bacteria To Grow Consumer Goods

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  • I hope to one day play with the same types of emergent phenomena I play with through code via physical biological systems.