Toward the Frontiers of Knowledge
We can see the enormous potential nature offers us to assure a better future for our planet. This is the path toward the frontiers of knowledge. After all these years of work, a big difference remains between what we can imagine and what we can achieve because everything depends on getting money for research.
For example, we have already opened three ways of bioluminescence to drastically reduce energy consumption for night lighting and the pollution it produces. We are now' at the threshold of a fourth possibility, which can be much more effective using bioluminescent fungi (we are preparing the identification of the responsible genes for bioluminescence of Mycena, Gerronema, and Armillaria). A fifth possibility is researching bioluminescent yeast, which is more experimental and perhaps more spectacular.
This is, thereby, the beginning of a revolutionary change in the cultural understanding of light, city, and architecture. This is also applicable to heat and habitat. What is at the end of the road? The satisfaction of meeting three of the most basic humans needs solved in the most natural and sustainable way: natural light, heat, and habitat and living without consuming energy and producing pollution, fueled by the ancestral pow'er offered by nature. Trees and plants can offer biolight and bioheat through the most natural way for streets and homes; there are even vegetable genes responsible for providing w'armth. Imagine living biohouses like trees or mushrooms with inhabitable conditions that can be purchased in malls; seeds that can be planted in the ground and grow' alone; this all opens up an infinite unexplored horizon.
FIGURE 10.7 Author’s images of biolamps and bioceilings based on research with scanning electron microscope (SEM).
How can we visualize future cities and future houses? As “soft and furry (hairy)” architecture, living cities and houses (Figure 10.7). As has been said before, the city of the future will be 50% biological technology and 50% digital technology (100% biodigital). Living houses that grow alone, trees that give light at night, and plants that provide warmth in the winter: a city that is more like a forest than a landscape shipping containers on the port. After all, where do we prefer to live, in boxes or in trees? Our cities are destroying nature wherever they grow. We need to assure that every human footprint becomes a creator of life. We need to change our reality w'ith life!
In our triplet of research-teaching-profession we work from (gen)ethics, yes, from responsibility, too, without forgetting that “humanity has the responsibility to have a future” (It’s not enough! Manifesto, New York, Autumn 2010), for which we must already urge a nonconservationist vision of nature: the human beings, in the first instance, need to overcome such vision to survive. It is plasticity that the most characteristic feature of nature. To the point that it would be against nature to want to “freeze” life in each of its always changing appearances already know'n. Nature is not an exotic collection of diverse species. It is more the fluidity with which it always presents itself under diverse infinite facets. And the human being is its most powerful vector. “Make it flow!” (Bioplasticity Manifesto, Barcelona, Spring 2010).
Genetic research for architecture also requires precautions—by avoiding accidents and contamination—like in conventional medical research or in simple heart surgery. Science requires responsibility, and we are establishing strict procedures for testing in hermetic environments, breeding plants without pollen, or by acting in chloroplast to avoid pollination problems. Our team includes philosophers dealing with bioethical matters, like Dr. Josep Corco and Dr. Xavier Escribano. We hyphenate the word “gen-ethics” meaning “ethics” in our research when the need for planetary sustainability justifies our work.
Nonetheless, from an objective point of view, there is no ethical difference between acting on “the surface of things” and acting at the intramolecular level. Once we accept the organic and fluid configuration of nature, there is, ethically speaking, not much difference between the production of a Japanese bonsai and a fluorescent rabbit. Bonsais are socially accepted even though they are the result of “tormented” living matter, and a fluorescent rabbit is not less happy than a black or white one.
What is more, the most extreme action would be eating a living being because we simply do not kill it but instead we make it disappear into our own cells. However, nobody is put in jail for eating a chicken sandwich. Because this applies to even the most extreme action—eating—it automatically follow's that any other less drastic action is permissible, excluding ill treatment.
But of course, if we work with genetic material we must accept our responsibility as illustrated by the “domino effect” that takes place in time and space and that has been explained using the example of a butterfly. In spatial terms, there is the “butterfly effect,” w'here the beating of a butterfly’s wings in China is said to be able to trigger a storm in United States. In terms of time, we can refer the dramatic book A Sound of Thunder (Bradbury, 1953) in which a prehistoric butterfly is accidentally killed by a traveler from the future, thereby changing life millions of years later.
It is not only our actions on genetic material but, all of our actions, that have a corresponding domino effect millions of years later. At least everything is part of nature, but with genetics “a new and vast territory is removed from the realm of randomness and enters into the realm of morality. We are captives of our own competence, of our own capabilities, by which we recreate what we only wanted to represent, or we transgress the natural order that we only pretended to repair” (Rubert De Vent os, 2015).
Furthermore, the way Eduardo Kac explains his w'ork should be approached in terms of ethics. He defined transgenic art as “a new art form based on the use of genetic engineering techniques to transfer synthetic genes to an organism or to transfer natural genetic material from one species into another, to create unique living beings” (Kac, 1998). The only wrong and confusing aspect of this definition is the word unique, like when he claims to be some kind of God-Creator and oversteps the definitions that humans have agreed on. This transgression does not do science any favors. The account that he likes to offer in public (like the following excerpt from an interview) does more harm than good:
- it took—seven years!—of work on the Edunia petunia before I managed to introduce my own DNA into it... . I put my DNA into its ‘veins’, and now it is producing my human proteins. The green phosphorescent rabbit and the ‘plantimal’ aren’t nature... .
I created them! ... With Alba (2000) and the plantimal Edunia (2003), I also relieve God of his status as a creator-myth and turn him into a lab worker, a technician working in a transgenic workshop.
- - You don’t seem very humble.
- -1 don’t copy reality: I create it (Amiguet and Kac, 2012).
It has a negative effect that somebody with a strong presence in the media speaks without any scientific accuracy, demonstrating terminological and ideological confusion. In addition, the necessary clarifications and criticism are not arguments taken from the author’s subjective point of view because they have a background that is substantiated by the previously mentioned scientists, geneticists, and philosophers in our research group:
It is not true that he spent 7 years on this project; it simply took 7 years to happen.
It is not true that he inserted his DNA into the plant; it was more like having a “microbrick” inserted into an enormous set of many thousands of microbricks. In any case, this microbrick is identical to the ones that we all have, and it is not in any sense specifically or uniquely “his.”
It is not true that the resulting plant produces “his” human proteins. Rather, it produces human proteins that are chemically identical to those of any human.
It is not true that by inserting a gene taken from an animal into a plant, it becomes a “plantimal.” Just like a virus can mutate our cell’s DNA and cause a tumor, this does not make us a “humanirus.”
It is not true that the rabbit and the plant in question “are not nature.”
It is not true that he created this rabbit and this plant.
It is not true that he relieves God of his status as a creator-myth and turns him into a lab worker, a technician in a transgenic workshop because the common definition of “God”—as human agreement—includes he who “creates from nothingness.” Genetic manipulation simply involves repositioning existing microbricks.
It is not true that he “creates reality” because the gene that he integrates into an enormous preexisting genetic structure already existed before. Therefore, he does not create a single gene; he simply changes its position.
Basically, by inserting a gene from another being into the rabbit and the plant, they did not cease to be “natural”; they did not cease to be nature. This gene “repositioning” has been carried out anonymously by the pharmaceutical and agricultural food industries long before Kac’s projects, with more complexity and implications and on a large scale.