This is an opinion article based on one of my personal projects: Afterlife. A fictional brand that promises to get you a back up of almost every organ you need, thanks to bio-printing bleeding edge technologies. But what does this kind of technologies, in the hands of a bunch of companies, entail for poor and marginalised groups?
Technology is developing at the speed of light, and the latest innovations have managed to even print cellular constructs to create artificial human livers, hearts or kidneys. In few years, this technology could be improved and available for everyone -or at least everyone who can afford it. That is the main goal of this project: not only to speculate about how the visual identity of the brands of tomorrow could be but also to raise awareness about the dangers that this kind of technologies may have regarding topics as important as inequality, healthcare or human organs commerce.
When it comes to organ bio-printing, one of the main problems was the complexity of human vascular networks, which are the passageways that our body uses to transport blood, air or lymph. These elements are vital not only for our lives as humans but they are also important for our singular cells. The intricacy of our vascular networks serves a clear purpose: nurturing every single cell in our bodies. Without air, blood or lymph, our cells simply die.
However, less than a year ago, a project lead by bioengineers Jordan Miller of Rice University and Kelly Stevens of the University of Washington (UW) managed to create exquisitely entangled vascular tissue that could someday help in the 3D printing of human replacement organs.
“We envision bioprinting becoming a major component of medicine within the next two decades,” Miller said.
This sentence got me thinking about this near future goal of 3D printing human livers, kidneys or even hearts and how this technology would change and shape our society. As we know, the future doesn’t exist and there’s only possibilities -scenarios- that we can envision.
For this matter at hand, these scenarios vary from the purest of the utopias where humans never die and their bodies are always in perfect shape with brand new organs replacing the old ones every now and then, to a sour dystopia where this technology is used to generate inequality and create a strong division between those who can afford to live more and healthier and those who can’t.
In a business-as-usual scenario -this is, a scenario where things are naturally developing as we know them nowadays- this technology would create a society which is a mix between the utopia and the dystopia. Probably, at the beginning the technology would be so expensive that only some people could afford to buy a liver or a new set of lungs, to later become progressively more affordable.
A NEW NORMAL
However, future scenarios can’t be never taken as isolated parts of a possible reality. They always coexist with many other different scenarios. For example, if we mix the bio-printing human organs business-as-usual scenario with the business-as-usual scenario for climate emergency and population growth we may end up with a global scenario where the powerful live forever while the poorest are left behind as mere replaceable workforce.
The very accumulation of business-as-usual scenarios that we all see as “the normal” could end up with a dystopian society with extreme inequality. A scenario that nobody predicted, that maybe even nobody actively wanted, but somehow becomes the “new normal”. This naivety is precisely the approach of Afterlife, where I tried to portray a dystopian world where everything seems normal and people lives in a future bubble -much like we do right now in the present-day reality, by the way.
“The liver’s complexity means there is currently no machine or therapy that can replace all its functions when it fails. Bioprinted human organs might someday supply that therapy.”
AFTERLIFE, NOT A SINGLE WORRY
Afterlife sells custom 3D-printed human organs, and in order to do that, clients may buy one or several of the company services. However, consumers are also free to visit the closest pharmacy and buy one of the single use gift-cards, which will give them the chance to get a copy of the organ they choose, either for themselves or as a gift for someone else. Lung cancer is so old-fashioned!
The brand promotes the desire to live the life to its fullest: having a set of back-up organs could almost make you immortal. Therefore, the curvy and calligraphic logo portrays the naive and childish spirit of the company, while the color palette chosen evoke the colors of the —non-racialized— human body. As the slogan claims, do whatever you want in life because Afterlife has your back.
The spirit of the company required the use of a clean and minimal but fancy style. The 3D illustrations of still life organs have been designed in order to look realistic and elegant while at the same time avoiding the feeling of repugnance that one could feel looking at a real human liver or lung. A fresh look for a fresh organ!
The world is becoming healthier everyday because we need to take care of our body. This leads to tasteless diets, smoking bans and forced teetotallers. Afterlife wants to encourage people to have fun, act reckless and enjoy the moment, and therefore the launching advertising campaign of the brand will consist on animated banners with the claim “don’t worry, keep drinking / smoking / eating”.
Premium clients will receive a golden VIB card which will allow them to get a free copy of the organ they choose with just a really simple subscription system. This subscription also gives them a wide range of privileges such as printing the new organ in any city in which the brand is present, organs storage up to 5 units and so much more. You are a Very Important Body! Become VIB, sweetie!
JADE BOYD – May 2, 2019