September 26, 2012
Tinker Tophat Soldier Spyware
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 eleventh installment. We hope you enjoy the products of our audience’s collective imagination as much as we did.
We asked our storytellers to picture the following scenario:
It is 2020. As rising temperatures and the retreating sea ice open up the Arctic for exploitation, the world’s superpowers are competing for the region’s minerals, rare metals, oil and fisheries. Alarmed by reports of an illegal Norwegian drilling operation in northern Greenland, the British government decide to send a spy to investigate. Those pesky Norwegians!
As head of human enhancement at MI6, what three modifications would you give to your spy to equip them to operate in this challenging environment?
Our storytellers decided to make a team of spies, rather than one single spy, and to grant them the following enhancements: the power of telepathy, for seamless (and quiet) communication; tiny, nano-sized stature, to avoid detection; the ability to infect human hosts, like microbes; and a very large hat. [Ed's note: The large hat was firmly requested by one very enthusiastic and persistent audience member who just wouldn't take no for an answer.]
The Plot: After effecting ingress into the spy base, the Norwegians are drawn to the giant hat, which unbeknownst to them is carrying the tiny spies, like a Trojan horse. The spies use their powers of telepathy, and convince the Norwegian to call M16 and spill national Norwegian government secrets. Meanwhile the tiny spies begin to change: due to their small size and short lifespan, they live, reproduce and die quickly, running through many generations in a very short space of time, like microbes. With the rapid-fire turnover in spies, they undergo rapid evolution, and become even more infectious and telepathic. They spread to infect the entire globe. All of humanity becomes unable to keep anything secret, and our entire species winds up spending all their time on the phone and computer, spilling personal secrets without cessation.
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)