What if your pet never had to die?

by Kitty Drake in October 2020
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Current affairs Technology

A magazine published by the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies, Scenario is devoted to big ideas about what the next 20, 100, or even 1000 years might look like. The magazine prides itself on its independence: the Copenhagen Institute “belongs to no-one, and yet to everyone”, as Morten Grønberg puts it in his editor’s letter, and it has “no other interests besides serving the public by developing and sharing knowledge about the future”. The theories in here are sometimes shocking: like a plan devised in the 70s by the futurist Herman Kahn (who is this issue’s cover star) to avoid radiation poisoning of the young in the event of a nuclear disaster by feeding contaminated food only to the elderly. The idea was that the elderly would die of old age long before they developed cancer from radiation poisoning — but still. Thankfully Kahn’s plan was never carried out.

What makes this magazine so captivating is its faith in human ingenuity as a solution to all possible calamities. The central feature is an interview with Nobel Prize winner Professor Robert J. Shiller, about how economics are based on the notion that people are essentially rational, but that by paying attention to the less rational aspects of human behaviour, we might be able to accurately predict financial crises and other major economic events.

For those readers, like myself, not enthralled by economic theory, there are more immediately relatable revelations. Like scenarios to halt climate change. Or a possible future in which your pet never has to die. The actress Barbra Streisand recently revealed that two of her dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, are clones of the dearly departed Samantha. And Mi Jidong, chief executive of a Beijing-based pet cloning company, is considering the possibility of using artificial intelligence to transplant the memories of original pets into cloned ones, creating pets with the same memories and personalities as their predecessors.

The only photography feature in the magazine, entitled ‘Unintended Beauty’, looks at the accidental aesthetics of the science industry. We see the control room of a nuclear power plant, the Steinway and Sons piano factory, and the inside of a sausage factory — and the images are entirely functional, but at the same time, gorgeous. It is a perfect feature for Scenario, which celebrates how dazzling, and occasionally frightening, intelligence can be.


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