Alongside the Anthropocene, humans have also introduced the technosphere to the planet. The Earth now sustains the technosphere alongside the cryosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere. The amount of technology combined with artificial intelligence allows the technosphere to become an entity of its own. In the future, the technosphere will intertwine and merge with our biosphere. The integration of these two spheres could be catastrophic for humans. However, the fusion of biology and technology can also create opportunities to benefit humanity, all other species and the planet as a whole. Artificial intelligence is already one of the favourite technologies used in wildlife conservation.
Technology is a tool and will not revitalise our world on its own. In the book Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, Paul Hawken makes a case for humans. He writes, "The most complex, radical climate technologies on Earth are the human heart, head, and mind, not a solar panel" (04). On the other hand, Dutch artist and philosopher Koert van Mensvoort urges progress towards the next nature (05) to achieve regenerative goals. Van Mensvoort believes that the blending of the technosphere and biosphere will allow ecology to evolve in unexpected ways. He is not alone in his belief; MIT professor and designer Neri Oxman also imagines an era where the distinction between natural and artificial will fade away. She thinks; "In the future, we will adjudicate designers based on whether they are nature 'users' or 'abusers'. (06)
All living organisms influence and alter their environment in one way or another. Three billion years ago, cyanobacteria produced oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. The microbes changed the biosphere on Earth to eventually sustain the human species. Today, genetic engineering tools like CRISPR could design the next nature. For example, engineered microbes could potentially eat the ocean's plastic waste, changing the marine environment for the better.
The evolution of the technosphere raises fundamental questions about what kind of ecosystem we create for ourselves and all other living organisms. Design cannot save the planet alone. However, designers can help imagine what a healthier world might look like by asking fundamental questions. For example, Tommy Campbell, design lead at Space10, suggests the following question; "your design may be good - but does it do good?" (07) These kinds of questions about consequences are crucial for regenerative thinking. These questions can open dialogues. They turn a self-centric approach into a holistic system.
How can lighting design engage with regenerative thinking? More importantly, how can lighting designers create for the coexistence of living organisms? We ought to start by asking inspiring questions to start the dialogue.