the future as a design brief

The scenarios depicted in the Semicopia exhibits are not forecasts for what may or may not happen to meat culturing technologies but examples from an infinite number of possible scenarios. This thought exercise could be repeated many more times and produce very different outcomes. They are however based on the same set of criteria and factors which function as a design brief to think about different versions of the future of food.

Scenario Criteria

The first set of criteria is inspired by Warren Belasco’s book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food and its classification of forecasts into three main categories:
- Malthusian (Thomas Robert Malthus): Population will grow faster than our ability to produce food, leading to famines and other dire consequences.
- Cornucopian (Marquis de Condorcet): We will develop scientific solutions to raise crop yields and produce more food faster than the population grows.
- Egalitarian (William Godwin): The key to feeding the world is not producing more food but a more equal distribution of what we already have.

> For more information please see Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft’s essay: Meat for Spaceship Earth?

The second set of criteria is about our relationship to food and animals. In their 2012 paper, Adrian Evans and Mara Miele contend that certain aspects of livestock production are “made to matter and not matter” through the materiality and rhetorical elements (i.e. text and visual information) of animal products. The process of turning a living body into food is a complex, messy and fundamentally brutal one. To disconnect eaters from this reality, Evans & Miele demonstrate how particular aspects of the animal are made present (e.g. references to happy animals and bucolic settings) and absent (e.g. recognisable body parts such as skin, bones etc. and references to slaughter) in the end product.

> For more information please see Alexandra Sexton’s essay: Cows, cells and the performance of making ‘meat’

Belasco, W.J., 2006. Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food, Univ of California Press.

Evans, A.B. & Miele, M., 2012. Between food and flesh: how animals are made to matter (and not matter) within food consumption practices. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(2), pp.298–314.