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Design Futures

Satya Naagesh

Satya is an interactions designer and futurist from Los Angeles, California.

She examines complex futures, emerging technologies and embodied experiences through immersive storytelling. Her creative practice emphasises research, material experimentation and seeks to stimulate discourse about the implications of speculative futures and alternate realities.

Previously, she graduated with a BA in economics from the University of California, San Diego and has worked in digital advertising and UX design in New York, Madrid and Los Angeles. 


‘Playin’ it by Ear'  London, 2019: Interactive prototype selected by BBC's UX Design Team for exhibition at BBC's London headquarters for research on emerging technologies. 

Exhibited at CAA Conference — Chicago, 2020

Design Research Fellowship — 2021: Cellular Agriculture Society

Degree Details

School of Design

Design Futures

In today's society, we are already living amidst many kinds of non-human entities as well as increasingly autonomous things and systems. Yet, within this technological utopia, it's becoming increasingly clear that the computers and smart machines we have created in order to master the world are in fact remastering us: our politics, the way we relate to each other and the natural environment around us.[1]

Unnatural Natural 

My final project explores the idea of the natural vs. the artificial. I've examined a thought provoking ‘more-than-human’ future while delving into concepts such as cellular agriculture, virtual reality and the blurry intersection of the natural world and technology. Developed in response to my personal experience of a small scale olive harvest in Tuscany in October 2020, I began to understand the historical, cultural and social importance of olive trees and olive oil to communities while learning more about the Xylella Fastidiosa plant bacterium, which has decimated millions of olive trees across southern Italy. There are also many other pressing issues surrounding the harvest including the labour intensive processes and the damaging environmental effects of oil mill production. With olive oil being worth over €2 billion to Italy's and the European Union's economy, what will olive harvest look like in the future?

Shifting Food Cultures of the Future

Cellular Agriculture is an emergent field that focuses on the production of animal-sourced foods from cell culture rather than directly from animals. In December 2020, Singapore granted the world's first regulatory approval to sell lab-grown chicken nuggets to customers. While the field today focuses only on animal products, I believe this technology will continue to permeate our society in the coming years and shift to other food products whose manufacturing processes also face challenges.Therefore, in 2050, could olive oil be cultivated in a lab?

Two key interviews frame the core validation for my speculative future scenario. First, I interviewed the research director of New Harvest, one of the world's largest cellular agriculture institutes, who mentioned that they work with companies who are beginning to cultivate palm oil compounds in a lab. Secondly, I spoke with a conservation scientist at Kew Gardens, who was exploring and contrasting tissue culture technology with more natural conservation methods in the context of extinction.

Ultimately, the key research questions that came out of this project which I hope will spark discourse include:

What is the scale of loss and gain when cellular agriculture, in 50 years time, moves to other food produce like olive oil?

As we look to a future of shifting food culture, what are the implications of technology that alters human and natures’ collaborative practices? 

What are the implications of giving a few, specific companies control over what we eat?

[1] Anab Jain, 'More-Than-Human-Centred Design'

Set in 2050 when olive oil is cultivated in a lab, humans experience the olive harvest of 2020 and previous years through virtual reality. My 360 VR experience alternates between a human and an olive's perspective, referencing the idea of interdependence between human and non-human entities, and also shifts between the 3D artificial environment and my personal footage taken in Tuscany. 

Through lab grown cultivation, we have used technology as a tool to increase efficiency, monetary value and meet our ever growing consumption needs. We have also reduced the labour intensive process of harvest but dissolved the role of farmers entirely. We have lost the unique tastes of olive oils from different regions in Italy and around the world as well as the symbolism of olive trees for communities.

Rather than allowing technology to remaster us in the future, could we instead use it as a tool of resurgence for the environment?

Research Publication

This publication dives deeper into and explores the 3 mains characters of this story — the farmer, the technologist and the olive itself. It begins by exploring the ancient origins and symbolism of the olive to the Mediterranean region, includes visual depictions of my field research in Tuscany, and further details of the interviews I conducted.

It approaches this issue through the perspective of the farmer and through the perspective of the technologist and why each would feel they way they do. It also explores what is happening in the field of cellular agriculture today. Ultimately, in its physical form, this book, in the future, will act as the connection between the farmer and the technologist which people for years on can read and use as a basis for connection. As we look to the future where rapid change is non-negotiable, books are perpetual. It can be read anywhere, be passed down and shared easily whether it is in rural townhalls, in university settings or in the science lab and that is why it's an important tool of design communication for this project.

A conceptual exploration of the project’s journey through the lens of the complexities of the present and the future.

The Olive Harvest
The Oil Mill

Tuscany, Italy; October 2020