Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr at the Tissue Culture & Art Project are attempting to grow a semi-living jacket in an effort to create "victimless leather." Hoping to highlight the possibility of wearing leather without killing an animal, the duo is presently focused on growing living tissue into a leather-like material and having it mature in the form of a miniature, stitchless, coat-like shape.
Welcome to the 21st Century. This Wired article is about a couple of guys who are on the weirdo bleeding edge. They're growing a jacket out of living cells. If you think this is weird, you might as well go live on an island in the south pacific because this is only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of people have heard about the potential of growing new organs using stem cells or something else and that will definitely happen (of course if we don't get someone with a brain into the White House it'll be a ways off) but this weird stuff is where the real ground-level societal changes will be made.
People in the US made fun of the Japanese putting screen savers on their cell phones. That's missing the point, I've always thought. The point isn't that their cell phones needed screen savers (your computer doesn't even need a screen saver any more), the point is that their technology is advanced enough that you can start thinking about ways to waste it. Once something is powerful enough to support frivolousness, it's ready to change the world. A phone that can have a pointless screen saver on it can do new and semi-important things like play games, send email, take pictures, etc. Getting to the point where we can grow designer clothing, as pointless an activity as I can think of, means more than saving the lives of cows. Once the technology of cell growth supports the pointless, we'll have a whole new way of looking at the world. What will vegetarians do when our meat is grown in a vat? Will people with missing or malformed limbs rush to replace them or will they go the route of some deaf people and declare that their disability is really a life choice? Will Olympic athletes replace their heart with a Lance Armstrong model? *Now One-Third Larger!* Will people want tails? Anyone who has ever seen the proto-body modification people with their split tongues, piercings and other essential useless racing stripes will know that as soon as we have pointless cell growth technology you'll see wings, tails, horns and more that I can't even think of.
Now this living jacket might not go anywhere, the science is pretty young. But the point remains. Pay attention to the people using something new to do the frivolous. It may not be as important or worthwhile as the people saving lives but in the end, the people whose lives are saved will be using the frivolous to change the world.