The Incredible Shrinking Man Project

By on January 8, 2014 // Science // 0 Comments

Image: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Image: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

So here’s a question: Would you agree to be shrunken down to the size of a doll if it meant preserving the environment?

That’s not quite what The Incredible Shrinking Man project has in mind, but it’s close. They believe one of the possible answers to reducing our ecological footprint is to, well, reduce ourselves. This would occur through the genetic engineering (or otherwise) of future human beings, making us smaller than we currently are.

“The Incredible Shrinking Man is a speculative design research about the consequences of downsizing the human species to 50 centimeters. It has been a long established trend for people to grow taller. As a direct result we need more energy, more food and more space. But what if we decided to turn this trend around? What if we use our knowledge to shrink mankind?”

It’s all theoretical, obviously, something to think about. The goal of the Incredible Shrinking Man project, named after the movie based on Richard Matheson’s 1956 novel The Shrinking Man, is to research “the implications of downsizing the human species to better fit the earth.” It’s an exploration of different matters of size: heightism, overpopulation, the psychology of how body affects identity, and what the world would be like for smaller humans.

Smaller people would eat less. They’d live in smaller houses, use smaller cars, wear smaller clothes. In short (ha?), they’d use fewer resources, and that’s the point this project is trying to make.

Of course, when I think of shrinking anything, my mind wanders to the aforementioned The Incredible Shrinking Man or Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Any number of generally terrifying movie scenarios, really. They’ve wondered about this, too. I mean, imagine living in a normal-sized world at only 50 cm (1.6 ft) tall.

shrinking-man

Image: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

Anyway, here’s one particular bit of research they’ve shared, which I found curious: a “Barbie illusion experiment” performed by neuroscientists at the Swedish Karolinska Institute.

The experiment uses a camera and a head-mounted-display to simulate what it would be like to have a body that is 30 cm, 80 cm, or 400 cm in size. They also use synchronized touches (say, poking your foot with a stick) to give the illusion that the doll’s body is your own. The entire purpose of the experiment is to show how “our own body serves as a fundamental reference in perceiving the world around us.”

I don’t know. I’m not personally in favor of altering the natural order of things, particularly in regards to genetic engineering (you know, the whole Green Goo thing).

There are other questions, too: How would it be done on a global scale, and would anyone be exempt? How would said future generations of humans feel about being reduced compared to their predecessors? What would be the far-reaching consequences of modifying humans in such a way?

Well, it’s an interesting idea. Really makes you wonder, what if?

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.
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