| MASTER 2018

Contemporary western societies are facing an ambivalent trend of psychological optimization through neuroenhancers and mood elevating drugs. Through the scientific quest to understand the human psyche and character, which has increasingly become a matter of molecular biology, scientists claim to have found that specific genes fundamentally determinate behavior. Explicit features of character and psychological qualities, such as empathy and creativity, are traced even to a single allele of a gene.

These claims open up the question of whether the “optimization” of the human psyche would become an issue of gene engineering and biotechnology. “We used to think that our fate was in the stars. Now we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes.” (James Watson) In this realm, CRISPR-cas9 is a novel gene editing technology allowing fast and precise applications to cut, edit and repair genes of all living entities including humans, at minimal cost.

 The aim of the project is to problematize the wish of psychological enhancement towards happiness and so-called better life in the era of accelerated biotechnology and genome engineering. In order to approach this problem, the work sets its focus on the ancient Greek theory of Eudaimonia, as one of the most fundamental philosophical concepts of “good life” as self-development technique.

The work raises questions about possible impacts of the CRISPR-cas9 technology by linking it to the promise of eudaimonic life in contemporary culture. “Happiness then, is found to be something perfect and self sufficient, being the end to which our actions are directed.” (Aristotle) The speculative design project is realized as a fictional gene editing product and as a short film. This near future scenario thematizes the phantasmatic drive towards happiness as the ultimate goal of human existence.


tikkastudio [a]

Image credits:
Zuzanna Kałużna

Project advisors:
Axel Kufus, Patricia Ribault and Johanna Schmeer