CSB — Looking Outwards 3 — Generativity

Looking Outwards — Generative Software, BioPoetics, Materials



Each time SCIgen runs, it generates fake natural language in the form of a new computer science research papers. It has both utilitarian and critical uses, in that it can be used specifically to test the submission standards of journals and its existence as an open tool represents a broader critique of  It was developed in 2005 as a source of “amusement” by a group of graduate students in the PDOS (Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems) group in MIT’s computer science department. Generate your own paper here! You can customize the authors’ names as well.


The Xenotext


Poet & bioartist Christian Bök’s Xenotext is the first example of a poem and system for generating poetics being implanted in a non-human biological substrate. It’s worth quoting his own explanation in full, as it explains the process more succinctly than I could:

“When translated into a gene and then integrated into the cell, my poem [in the form of a sequence of engineered DNA]  is going to constitute a set of instructions, all of which cause [sic] [an extremophile bacterium] to manufacture a viable, benign protein in response—a protein that, according to my original, chemical alphabet, is itself yet another text. I am, in effect, engineering a life-form so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem, but also an operant machine for writing a poem” – Christian Bök

XP13-3 (xenotext protein)


4D Printing

A collaboration between MIT (Skylar Tibbits of MIT’s SJET lab gave the TED talk), Autodesk, and Stratsys , 4D Printing is a project in which 3D printed structures are designed to autonomously change their conformations in specific ways over time. Though rudimentary at this point in time, the biomimetic possibilities of 4D printing are fascinating. Below is a video that demonstrates one such structure, which self-folds much like proteins do. The morphogenetic process that gives rise to the tertiary structure of proteins is both complex and crucial to the proper functioning of proteins, the structures they make up, and the organism at large. For instance, the conversion of healthy proteins into prions or mis-folded proteins, is thought to cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies including “Mad Cow Disease.”

4D Printing: Self-Folding Protein from Skylar Tibbits on Vimeo.

Comments are closed.