"There is no nature anymore" – Liam Young
of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

| 1 comment

Seed-dispersing robots and file-sharing drones are among proposals to fuse technology and the natural world by Liam Young of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, presented at our Designed in Hackney Day last summer (+ movie).

Unknown Fields

Above: Young's Unknown Fields project with Kate Davies

In the movie, Liam Young looks back at his work with Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, the studio he runs with Darryl Chen, and Unknown Fields, an experimental project with designer and writer Kate Davies. Young explains his work is influenced by the history of futurology and how the "diverse visions of yesterday's tomorrows" can explore the consequences of emerging technologies.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: deforestation reveals an ancient town in the rainforest

For one Unknown Fields project, Young travelled to the Amazon rainforest and discovered that an area we think of as an untouched wilderness was once a cultivated landscape.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: "CO2 scrubbers" for the Amazon

"Instead of a jungle, what we actually find is a large garden," he says, explaining how deforestation has revealed ditches in the rainforest floor left behind by an ancient village whose residents cultivated the local flora.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: "migrating forests" for the Amazon

The studio then invented fantastical creatures that might find a home in the deforested areas of the Amazon, such as "CO2 scrubbers" that convert carbon dioxide to oxygen more efficiently than the trees that once stood there and "migrating forests" that can travel as the climate changes.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: rat poison spread across the Galapagos Islands

He also visited the Galapagos Islands where he encountered "an absurd fight for an idealised nature", with rat poison dumped from helicopters and an "eco sniper" killing goats that destroy the habitats of endangered turtles.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: seed dispersal robot

Exploring this use of technology to maintain a "natural" environment, Young came up with a seed dispersal robot that floats like a plant spore in the wind, dropping native Galapagos seeds on the ground.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: poison cloud robot

He also designed a machine that sprays poisonous clouds to kill invasive rodent populations, guided by a "Judas rodent" that herds the rats into packs before the poison is released.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: "Judas rodent" to guide the poison cloud robot

In Australia, Young visited an enormous gold mine where he discovered that it takes 200 trucks of excavated rock to produce just one gold bar.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Western Australia

A 3D computer image of the mine is connected to real-time information about the price of gold, dictating how much is excavated each day.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: computer image of Kalgoorlie Super Pit

He finishes with Electronic Countermeasures, a Tomorrow's Thoughts Today project that saw a flock of flying robots create temporary file-sharing networks above the city.

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: a gold bar being weighed

"It’s kind of like an aerial Napster, he says. "They perform this balletic aerial choreography, drifting through the sky, part nomadic infrastructure and part nomadic swarm."

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: Electronic Countermeasures

"What we’ve realised is that there’s no nature anymore – at least not in the sense that we culturally define it," he concludes. "What there is, is technology. Engineered networks, augmented environments, invisible fields – infrastructure has exploded into bits, to roam the earth in an architecture of everywhere."

Unknown Fields and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

Above: Electronic Countermeasures

Dezeen's Designed in Hackney initiative was launched to highlight the best architecture and design made in the borough, which was one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices.

Watch more movies from our Designed in Hackney Day or see more stories about design and architecture from Hackney.

  • Rodent Education

    Why is the weasel being called a Judas rodent? Weasels aren’t rodents, they are mustelids and hunt rodents.