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dreaming of an alternative genetic future

GIFTED DREAMS 2009 / Research at RCA Design Interactions

Gifted Dreams presents illustrations that explore how the dreams and fantasies of children might change as a result of new genetic technologies. This work is part of a series of design explorations that address the social, ethical and personal implications of genetic technology. The book presents an imaginative world that explores the fantasies and dreams of children who have explored what it might be like to live with the abilities afforded by such intervention. Being able to dream and tell stories enables us to extend our understanding of people and society, providing insight into the more complex, colourful and contradictory dimensions of experience beyond the worlds of science and rational choice.

The book is an experimental study produced in collaboration with illustrator
Alice Hoult and writer Tim Johnson. They have worked alongside me to translate some of the research findings and children's fantasies into an alternative world that helps us how thoughts and fantasies might change if this technology were to exist in the future.



I don't need as much air as other people to survive, and if I keep practising, one day I'll hardly need to breathe at all. Mostly I could save my breath for Leisure Activities like huffing, puffing and blowing down houses. I'd dive deeper than anyone else without carrying any air with me, and discover types of fish nobody else has ever seen before. I expect the fish would be wary at first but then they would be overcome by curiosity and once I told them my stories of life on dry land, they would make me their leader. They would long to come to the surface with me and see what it was like but I'd tell them they couldn't because they would die. This would help me to maintain the Air of Mystery that all good leaders need.



Last night I was walking through the branches of an old tree, polishing the golden apples, when along came a frigatebird. "Don't mind me," said the frigatebird. "I'm just here for the apples." "Don't be silly," I replied. "Birds can't speak! I think it'd be best if you leave!" "I don't know what you mean," exclaimed the frigatebird, folding and unfolding his wings. "I think you'll find it's little girls who can't speak!" I opened my mouth to disagree in the Strongest Possible Terms, but all that came out was a loud squawk! The frigatebird was smirking all over his beak and he puffed out his big red throat, but he should have known better than to mess with me. I puffed up my throat pouches even bigger than his and he looked Shocked and Amazed. "Oh, sorry," he said. "I think I've got the wrong tree."



When normal people climb up mountains they find it harder to breathe because the air is thinner. But people who were born in the mountains like Sherpa Tensing or Haile Gebrselassie feel fine when they're up a mountain, and when they come down lower they're Extra Specially Good at things like running and climbing and shouting. I don't come from the mountains, but my blood can absorb more oxygen than other people's. People like me are naturally better than nearly everyone at all kinds of sports so I suppose to be fair we should have special events for people with special abilities, like uphill skiing or underwater tennis. My dad says life is only exciting when we challenge ourselves and sometimes I think when you have No Natural Predators life isn't quite challenging enough.



Tanya Wilkins reckons she once blew a bubble as big as a basketball, but nobody else saw it and she didn't take any photos, so I told her I'd only believe it if she had Independent Verification. I said I'm sure I could blow a bigger one anyway if I wanted to, and I wondered how big a bubble would have to be before it had its own gravitational field, like a planet. You'd have to make sure you tied the furniture down and didn't get too close to it because otherwise you'd be sucked in and get stuck. You could try it at school and the teachers wouldn't be able to tell you off because you could say you were doing an Important Scientific Experiment. I'd try it myself but I don't like bubblegum.



I have a big thick coat that used to belong to my mum when she was younger, but not as young as I am now. She must have been much smaller than me because it fits me fine. It's silly but sometimes when I'm wearing it I like to imagine I'm a wolverine, hunting on my own in the Arctic. I think wolverines might be my favourite animal because most people don't know about them and because they have No Natural Predators. The Innu people who live in Canada say the wolverine invented rocks and built the world. He was friends with the Thunderstorm and the Man in the Moon and had all sorts of adventures before people even existed. In this country we think foxes are the most cunning animals but that's just because we don't have any wolverines here.