Introducing The Futures Issue

Grow is a magazine that tells the unfolding story of synthetic biology, published by Ginkgo Bioworks and edited by Massive Science. Today we’re proud to announce our fourth print edition: The Futures Issue. Order it now for $15.

At Ginkgo, we’re building our platform to enable you to access the power of synthetic biology. We are entering the DNA Age, and many of you reading this will help invent the future from this technology.

What will that future look like? Who decides what the future holds? How do we work together to shape a collective vision of a better future?

When we started brainstorming this issue back in January, we weren’t sure whether it was going to be The Future or The Futures Issue. That may sound like a fine distinction, but, in this case, one letter can make a whole world of difference.

The Future implies a singular, inevitable possibility,  a mythical place of speculation, prediction, and cliche. Exploring Futures instead conveys that nothing is decided yet. That there are as many different future visions as there are people in the world. That, if we have the agency, we can change how things turn out.

Instead of forecasting what technologies will shape our existence several decades from now, this issue considers how we shape these futures and whether and how those transformations are used for the benefit of the few or the good of the many. Instead of predicting future disasters, we dig deep into new ways we can organize to prevent those outcomes.

Above all else, this issue allowed us to break with the cliches of Futurism: utopia and dystopia, the crossroads and the moonshot, the visionary and the tech revolution and instead ask how futures are constructed, offering alternatives to nostalgia and all-consuming pessimism.

Our writers and artists share different approaches and visions for these futures:

  • Danya Glabau considers the implications of external wombs, a speculative technology with such utopian and dystopian implications that it disrupts the false binary entirely.
  • In an epic food review, Nadia Berenstein captures the struggles of lab-grown seafood-makers to get their simulacrum to taste like the real thing.
  • Michelle Lhooq investigates the strange new world of GMO marijuana and ponders what could be gained and lost from making the world’s favorite drug “pharmaceutically predictable.”
  • Brad Bolman grounds our aspirations for chimeric humans in the reality of scientific limitations.
  • Claire L. Evans talks to James Bridle about how artificial intelligence could transform our understanding of sentience.
  • Max G. Levy delves deep into waste water analysis and considers how we will have to rethink our approach to public health if we have any hope of staving off the next pandemic.
  • Keolu Fox and Cliff Kapono imagine a waste-free Hawai’i, built on Indigenous futurism, industrial symbiosis, and a synbio-based circular economy.
  • Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu transports us to a world of immortal celebrities enabled by anti-aging technology.
  • Davian Ho surveys the overlapping interests between synthetic biology and the solarpunk movement, and breaks down how they could combine to actually help us reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Zooming out, Alexa Garcia presents a collated vision of the future of synthetic biology, co-created by students, artists, and industry veterans.

We hope this edition of Grow inspires you to share your own Futures with us. In the meantime, as always, thanks for reading.

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