*This project is at its research phase. Its research blog can be found here.

Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable

- Dr Schmuel Lissek, University of Minnesota

It is argued that imaging cataclysmic scenarios is an inherent human trait. Since the beginning of recorded history the human race has imagined the circumstances of its eventual demise. The architecture of these apocalyptic events has tended to reflect the contemporary cultural and scientific consciousness of its day. This meant that historically the apocalypse has been a religious, pseudo rational destiny for mankind.

Stories of a coming apocalypse fulfil an important psychological role – the anxiety in the uncertainty of our own demise can be rationalised, and managed by predictions of potential events.


Certainly since the manipulation of atomic power, science and technology have usurped religion as the modern agents of the apocalypse. Despite having been a reality for over seventy years public discourse concerning atomic energy is still a striking demonstration of the ability of scientific progress to polarise opinion – between optimism and cataclysm.

The present cataclysmic landscape is more numerous and varied than ever before. This century began with the Y2K bug, and as yet we have also survived the Mayan prophecy, the mini black holes of the LHC, and the effects of manmade climate change which are still in their infancy. Now more than ever the current vanguard of science and technology acts as a stimulus for a continuously increasing inventory of apocalyptic prophecies. With vast amount of technological revolutions on the horizon such as synthetic biology, nano-tech, DIY technology, and robotics deployed by Google, we might very well be living in the century of the man made apocalypse, perhaps even the DIY apocalypse.


In the twentieth century the imagination of a generation was captivated by the limitless technological potential displayed in the great world fairs of the era. Today, along with our dreams for technology, our tech nightmares offer a similarly important, but more critical space, in which the public can imagine the potential of emerging technologies.

Design plays a critical role in this process; it can incubate, or alleviate these fears. It makes our relationship with threats tangible, bringing it into our homes as protective architecture, products and services. We want to explore this intersection between design, the imagination, and the apocalypse, see it as a rich space to connect the public with the far reaches of science and technology.

- Collaborator : Yosuke Ushigome

- Illustration : Shiori Clark