John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Could future generations live on a diet of exoskeleton inside this self-sustaining cricket hive?
Let's all take a moment to pray it doesn't come to this.
What you see above is a dystopian or delicious vision (depending on how much you like to eat bugs) of a skyscraper infested with crickets, given creepy life by Royal College of Art student Christopher Green. With food sources possibly stretching thin on an overpopulated planet, futurists are looking with hunger upon insects, which can be eaten whole in some cases or ground up into delightful-sounding "insect flour" to use for baking cakes that nobody wants. It may sound gross, but anything is better than starving to death, and the protein load would make a fitness buff totally ripped.
Green's idea is to turn buildings into buzzing and self-sustaining hives of edible insects. The honeycomb-like growth on the upper floors is composed of individual "cells" with crickets breeding in the walls. When they get fat and juicy enough, the residents gather them to take to the core of the building where they're processed in grinders and stashed away in food silos. Once the cricket colonies hit their peak population, Green imagines that everyone living in such a building could feast indefinitely on the spiny bounty infesting its guts.
And then, somehow, it gets weirder.
Green envisions each cricket having a little digital tag fixed to its back. Taken together, a cell full of tagged crickets would function as a data-storage unit – he thinks about 5 gigabytes per cell sounds right – and the tower itself becomes a "living hard drive." In Green's words:
Agriculture, once the forefront of human technology, is now required to provide for the city’s two key nutrients: food and digital data.
The insect becomes the building block, serving as food source, agricultural tool and hybridised digital sensor. These swarms of living particles, digitally activated by memory tags and sensors, inform an architecture and infrastructure of the new human workplace, generating both physical and digital ecologies of food and data production.
Just how would this not result in diners constantly picking bits of crunched-up microchips from their teeth? I'm not sure about that, but perhaps it has something to do with a new line of electronics that's built from organic material like DNA and bacteria. Such "digestible data" is a distinct possibility on the strange horizons of computing.
Dezeen recently posted an interview with the unique mind behind this tower of bugs. Here it is: