September 27, 2012
Superhippies Go Large
We’ve been running a series of events at the fantastic Superhuman exhibition this month at the Wellcome Collection. With the help of a scientist and an illustrator, we have asked our audiences to design their own superhero with genetic and technological enhancements in response to a futuristic scenario.
In total we made thirteen fantastical, bizarre and in some cases hilarious stories – here’s the twelfth installment. We hope you enjoy the products of our audience’s collective imagination as much as we did.
We asked our guest storytellers to picture the following:
The year is 2050. Virgin Galactic are planning a manned mission to Gliese 581c, 192 trillion km or 23 light years away, the closest habitable planet to Earth in another solar system. With a nuclear-powered spacecraft the trip will take 50 years, and the astronauts will need to cope with an extended period of living in isolation and in zero gravity.
You are in charge of Virgin Galactic’s astronaut development lab, and have a range of genetic, neurological, and anatomical modifications at your disposal. Choose three enhancements that will make your astronaut a perfect fit for this challenging mission.
Our storytellers decided to make our astronauts telepathic, to give them seamless communication; elevated levels of oxytocin (also called the “cuddle chemical”), to help them avoid conflict on their long mission with little personal space; and the habit of hibernation, so they would spend much of their journey asleep, saving energy.
The Plot: Our astronauts hibernate together on their way to Gliese 581c. During their communal slumber, the cuddle chemical-infused astronauts collectively and telepathically dream of a utopian future on the new planet – one free from war and pain, governed only by love and sharing: a space commune! But all is not well in the waking world: the ship is about to careen right into a star! They are woken by the motherboard’s alert system, and by using their telepathic powers to form a hivemind, they steer it to safety. They arrive at their destination – and decide to make their dreams come true, with guitars, boxes of wine, and free love. But in reality, all is still not well – a trembling volcano on the horizon begins to wake from its own slumber…
Scientist: Matt Smart, a PhD student in Professor Pete Coffey’s lab at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
Illustrator: Sam Steer (www.samsteer.co.uk)