Attack of the Bonsai Babies
September 23, 2012 by Zoe
We’ve been running a series of events at the Wellcome Collection’s fantastic Superhuman exhibition this month. With the help of a scientist and an illustrator, we asked our audience to design their own superhuman in response to a futuristic scenario.
So far we’ve produced eight fantastical, bizarre and in some cases hilarious stories that we’ll be posting over the next week. Here’s the second installment. We hope you enjoy the products of our audience’s collective imagination and can join us for the last event in the series on 26 September from 2-5pm.
Our storytellers were asked to imagine the following:
In 2033, faced with dwindling energy and food supplies, the United Nations agree to implement a global one child policy in a last ditch effort to bring human population growth under control. In many countries, so-called ‘designer babies’ become commonplace, with parents using genetic technology to create offspring that can fulfill all their hopes and dreams. Governments also begin to offer financial incentives for creating children that have a low environmental impact – so-called ‘eco babies’.
You are a prospective parent visiting a reproductive clinic. Choose three genetic enhancements that will make your child as little of a burden on the environment as possible.
Our storytellers decided that the perfect eco-baby would be photosynthetic, like a plant, so it could produce its own energy (with the added bonus of absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere!); be very small, so it would require fewer resources and take up less space on our crowded planet; and have the capacity to reproduce clonally, so it would be able to replicate its own characteristics perfectly in any offspring it might have.
The Plot: Compact, chlorophyll-containing and cuddly, little Ivy is the perfect eco-baby. But due to her tiny stature, she is bullied at school by the normal-sized children. Like a vine, she extrudes tendrils to protect herself and fight off the nasty normal children. She then produces clonal cuttings of herself to create an army of bonsai babies which can team up against the bullies. But then when these eco-babies begin to flower, all the schoolground bullies decide they love the adorable photosynthetic children instead. The end.
Storytellers: Micol Molinari, Jane Dowden & Jenny Jaffe
Scientist: Eugene Schuster, MRC Career Development Fellow at UCL in the Institute of Healthy Ageing
Illustrator: Sam Steer (www.samsteer.co.uk)