5-7 minute read,
or the time it takes
to walk around the block.
What traces of humanity would remain in the last object on earth, and whose experiences would it reflect? Design team Parsons & Charlesworth envision how a single object, the Extremophile Biocomputer, might come to outlast all others, and detail the timeline leading to its creation. The result is both humorous and inscrutable, holding as many contradictions as the beings that created it. This object, in its finality, is a humbling reminder that the future is far from certain.
BY PARSONS & CHARLESWORTH
2128: The Extremophile Biocomputer Project is launched with the aim of storing all human knowledge in a self-sustaining organism.
The Extremophile  Biocomputer  is a biological supercomputer that is a self-sustaining, self-replicating organism, capable of surviving extreme conditions and holding all human knowledge.
As well as containing the entire contents of that most double-edged of twentieth century inventions “the World Wide Web,” and copies of all written texts, art and music, it also contains the uploaded consciousnesses of the last remaining human beings as they retreated from reality.
Notably, it contains the records of the decline of human civilization, as resources were used up, fought over or destroyed, and the ecosystem collapsed.
Sadly, the Extremophile Biocomputer isn’t much to look at, resembling the primordial soup  from which all life on earth evolved.
 Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in conditions which would be considered extreme for most carbon-based life forms. (Wikipedia-Extremophile)
 Biological computers can perform computational tasks using biologically derived molecules. (Wikipedia-Biological Computing)
 Primordial soup refers to the mixture of organic molecules in evolutionary theory from which life on earth originated. (Miriam-Webster)
Google’s AI DeepMind predicts how a protein folds into a unique three-dimensional shape, demonstrating the potential for AI to propel advances in nanobiotechnology. [Nanobiotechnology is a term describing the merger of biological research with various fields of nanotechnology (the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. (Wikipedia-nanobiotechnology)]
For the first time, scientists successfully program a computer using a brain-computer interface. [Brain-Computer Interfaces translate brain signals into commands that can be used to control devices external to the body. (NCBI)]
Marine ice sheet instability leads to dramatic sea level rise.
Advances in nanobiotechnology lead to the first living biocomputer, designed with cells as its basic components.
Changing weather patterns due to anthropogenic global warming cause widespread crop failures, forest fires, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other deadly consequences. [Anthropogenic global warming is climate change that is directly linked to the amount of fossil fuels burned, aerosol releases and land alteration from agriculture and deforestation by humans. (EnergyEducation)]
Ocean and rain-forest biomes collapse leading to chain reaction of extinctions. [A biome is a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or tundra. (Oxford Dictionary)]
Resource wars rage globally over water rights and access to viable crop growing, and animal grazing areas.
Human level Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) achieved. [Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the hypothetical intelligence of a machine that has the capacity to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can. (Wikipedia-AGI)]
Self-replicating biocomputer cells produced from cultures.
AI becomes capable of recursive self-improvement (Artificial Super-intelligence – ASI). [Artificial Super-intelligence (ASI) is AI technology that is capable of surpassing the abilities of the human mind. (Wikipedia-ASI)]
First human consciousness encoded into a non-human system.
Biocomputers created using cells from tardigrades result in virtually indestructible computational organisms.
[Tardigrades are micro animals capable of surviving extreme conditions including outer space. (Wikipedia-Tardigrades)]
War and starvation have caused massive global population reduction.
The Extremophile Biocomputer Project is launched with the aim of storing all human knowledge in a self-sustaining organism.
[ID: A line drawing diagram of an asymmetrical, multifaceted, bulbous object composed of various organic textures, some of which resemble stone or quartz, others internal organs or sea creatures, mitochondria, and cell-like structures. Several spots are overlaid with colorful collaged photographs of organic matter. From these colorful spots are lines that identify which bits of data are embedded in these components of the biocomputer, from algorithms to episodes of popular TV shows.]
Partial List of Contents for the Extremophile Biocomputer
The wealthy elite of remaining humans create a “virtualization suicide pact,” transplanting their consciousnesses to the Extremophile Biocomputer.
Death of the last remaining Homo Sapiens.
[ID: Jessica, a white person with short auburn hair, smiles at the camera. To her left is Tim, a white person with short brown hair and glasses, smiling at the camera.]
Parsons & Charlesworth
They // Them // Theirs
Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth are co-founders of Parsons & Charlesworth, a Chicago-based design studio founded in 2014. Together they create glimpses into alternate realities, telling stories with objects, and inviting thoughtful questioning of contemporary life. Employing a diversity of media including designed objects, sculpture, narrative writing, and photography, the studio creates work that addresses key social, ecological, and technological challenges of our time, including climate change, the ethics of technology, and the future of work.
Their recent works have been shown in the Designs for Different Futures exhibition at the Walker Art Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Parsons & Charlesworth will be presenting new work at the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale in May 2021.