The Neighborhood’s DNA

Allison Guy
February 23rd 2011

I've noticed DNA spray notices springing up around Amsterdam.  I assumed it was a fairly standard anti-theft device:  A crime is committed, a little nozzle is activated by the offended shop owner, and the criminal is coated in a long-lasting UV-dye.  So far, a more advanced update of the standard 'exploding ink in a wad of money' trick, but nothing unusual.   The DNA angle seemed like a marketing ploy to make a banal technology sound bio-futuristic.

It turns out that the dye actually does contain synthetic DNA unique to each location.  The company is a bit cagey is to the exact composition of their 'DNA solution,' assuring customers only that it contains all relevant information and is 100% non-toxic.  The genome may be synthetic, but if it is composed of a double-helix polymer made of nucleotides, then it is certainly not fake.

Here, the DNA does not code for a living organism.  It codes for an event (the crime), and it codes for a location.  We often talk of neighborhoods having a personality, or of cities having a character.  DNA spray pushes the urban environment one step towards actual personhood.  Particularly enterprising thieves will mix the genetic material, bumblebee-like, and encode for as-yet-built locations.  Future crime-prevention tech may create bespoke infections that produce flamboyant symptoms, or custom parasites that make crooks fond of truth-telling and police stations.

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Arnoud van den Heuvel
Posted 25/02/2011 – 04:53

Anti DNA-SPRAY device:
<img src="//97351-275801-1-raikfcquaxqncofqfm.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/dna_spray_umbrella.jpg" width="300" height="300"/>

Dorian Taylor
Posted 24/02/2011 – 22:06

I wonder how one would handle false positives from coming in contact with the spray. Wouldn't that on its own be reasonable doubt?

Should men be able to give birth to children?


Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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