The 3DPrintMe project proposes this radical – if not obvious – future biomedical concept so that society can reflect on the issues it presents. Delivered as a sophisticated animation and accompanied by a generative website and mobile phone application www.3DPrintMe.com (under construction), the artist seeks to determine the medical and technological feasibility of this work, demonstrate the potentials for scalability, market test the user-interface and market reaction, and encourage far-reaching debate and open conversation about the political, social, societal, cultural and ethical implications of a future manifestation.
Slipstreaming between the monstrous and genius, 3DPrintMe would make this future human dream a reality, providing surgeons with tissue on demand and helping solve the global shortage of human organs in the short term, whilst also opening the flood-gates for complete personal biological ‘overhaul’ for citizen Doe. While the science and engineering is incredibly complex, the intuitive user interface makes operating the procedure extremely simple: the visitor literally draws the organ to be built on the computer screen; this is sent to a wireless device and then the body. This instructs the cells to begin 3D bioprinting the organ inside the body. After the required incubation, the living organ is removed and transplanted.
Examining the state of the art, it is clear that advances in biotechnology, bioinformatics, computation, biometric imaging, and computer aided design and ubiquitous connectivity will profoundly affect humanity and our ability to solve the grand challenges associated with the basic quality of our biological life. I imagine humanity and technology leaping beyond simple two-dimensional cell cultures to creating three-dimensional organs – not with enormous machines and exuberant budgets as shown by Invetech and Organovo demonstrators of the world’s first commercial 3D bioprinter in 2010 – but quickly, cheaply and efficiently anywhere right inside our very own portable bioreactors through advanced bioinformatics, ‘probiotics’ and cellular programming!
Whilst slightly sci-fi and potentially controversial, many currently converging and rapidly accelerating technologies fuel a transhumanism movement that is capable of such a future and it will have tremendous utility and scope, therefore it is critical and timely that it is exhibited and examined. Arguably 3DPrintMe is appropriate for research and early stage debate in the context of a sci-fi exhibition; it is highly experimental and interactive; it introduces several significant commercialisation –not to mention ethical challenges and opportunities related to the future human and its upkeep. Issues such as the extent of identity, the right to personalized enhancement, equitable access, choice, and equally the inherent opportunity for mass mutation, disfigurement and state-scaled eugenics. 3DPrintMe is designed to ask “What does your heart desire?” to flesh out if there is a conflict of interest attached to the radical and rapidly accelerating technologies leading to this one potential future reality for humanity. Portable mobile devises and access to personalized medical options place a great deal of the responsibility back into our hands. We are the consumers driving this market. How prepared are we to buy into this? A mother may be only too pleased to offer her own body to 3D bioprint a compatible living heart that could be transplanted to save the life of her small child. The body of a human soldier could be maintained in the field if replacement tissue for an injured organ could be instructed and bio-printed whilst in situ. Miners could be given replacement lungs every few years increasing their productivity in the workforce. Similarly, athletes, artists, models and those who wished they could be, would use 3DPrinMe to increase or ensure new levels of performance, attractiveness and ability – beyond wellness. Gender adaptation and new cultural body modification practices would become normalised. Eventually even the largest organ, the skin, will be completely programmable. Designing your outfit or tailoring your look to meet the height of fashion and desirability will take on a whole new meaning. Similarly, we may need to reflect on the concept of ‘hive logic’ beyond the data sphere and question the bio-status of the individual and their role in relation to the global nest: Soldier, worker…queen breeder. Another good question would be “What would happen if we accidently terraform our species?”