Feb 14, 2017 | By Tess

Imagine a future where 3D bioprinters are readily accessible and can print full human clones, memories and all. If the concept sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, well, that’s because it is. Filmmakers Amanda Mesaikos and Susanne Aichele have written and directed a short film called Caleb, about a nine-year-old boy who 3D prints a clone of himself to have a friend.

Feeling a bit like a lighthearted episode of Black Mirror, the 15 minute sci-fi short tells the story of Caleb, a young boy who, bothered by his parents’ busyness and his problems with bullying at school, uses the household 3D bioprinter to create a duplicate of himself. The two boys, alike in every way (as I mentioned, the fictional technology is even capable of “printing” memories), are perfect companions.

As one can imagine, seeing a second child in their home is quite shocking to Caleb’s parents, who struggle to figure out what to do about the situation. The mother’s reaction, which is noticeably more disturbed than the father’s, suggests that her son has broken a law about bioprinting clones, indicating a world in which technology is very advanced but strictly regulated. (I can’t help but think of Blade Runner’s replicants here.)

In the end, the family must decide what to do about their new 3D printed son. Do they keep him? Do they send him away? If you’re intrigued by the premise of Caleb, you can easily watch the 15-minute short film here to see how the story unfolds.

It is not entirely surprising that 3D printing and bioprinting are entering, more and more, into science fiction narratives. HBO’s Westworld, for instance, while not explicitly using 3D printing technology, features extremely lifelike avatars that are built layer by layer. Now, in Caleb, the technology is integrated in everyday people’s lives, and we are given a glimpse into one idea of our future.

Mesaikos and Aichele, founders of Randomcat Pictures, were inspired to base their narrative around the possible future of 3D printing after hearing about the technology on an increasingly regular basis. As Mesaikos told Women Love Tech, “Talk of 3D printing was everywhere but we couldn’t really wrap our heads around why it was such a big deal.”

“After researching the impact it could have, not just on manufacturing material goods, but also in bioengineering, we began to wonder what people would be able to print next. We then starting thinking about the implications of being able to print an entire human. Not only printing their organs and physical body but copying their memories and experiences,” she added.

The film, without detailing or even showing the 3D bioprinting technology used, transports us to a world that is not wholly unlike our own, only technology is more advanced. And, as technology in our everyday lives is advancing at astonishing rates, the filmmakers’ reflection on how the not-so-distant future might play out is thought provoking. As it emphasizes through the familiar home setting, sci-fi isn’t necessarily a matter of space ships and aliens anymore, but can play out in our own milieus.

“We grew up with sci-fi being a rather remote exploration of people’s behaviour, rather like technological fairy tales,” explains Mesaikos. “But since the question has moved from ‘what if’ to ‘what when,’ it has shifted to a much more relatable storytelling form. A lot of technology that would have blown our minds 20 years ago now sits in the palm of our hand. Can we step back and observe our own reaction to it, our behaviour. And what if it throws up fundamentally human and moral questions?”

The short film has already been recognized by a number of institutions, as it took home the award for Best Original Screenplay at the Boston Sci Fi Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Festival Alto Vincentino. It has also been screened at the London Short Film Festival, the London Independent Film Festival, and SCI FI London. If you have 15 extra minutes today, we highly suggest checking out Caleb.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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