Glow-in-the-dark trees? Science fiction becomes fact at ‘Israel’s ComicCon’

Among the comic, anime, and fantasy events at Icon TLV will be a discussion of far-out possibilities in technology

A battle reenactment at a recent Icon festival (Photo credit: Courtesy)
A battle reenactment at a recent Icon festival (Photo credit: Courtesy)

What if it were possible to meld the DNA of a tree with that of a firefly, creating a tree with glow-in-the-dark leaves that would replace electric streetlamps?

Yesterday’s science fiction is often today’s science fact, and the gene manipulation imagined by Israeli-American start-up GenomeCompiler could make trees like that a reality in the future. That’s the kind of science that will be on display this week in at the annual Icon TLV festival, which runs until October 8 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Loosely based on the US ComicCon convention, Icon TLV features reenactments of scenes from comic books and fantasy games, a science fiction film festival, discussions on animation and anime, a superhero costume contest, and, of course, the usual comic book and T-shirt vendors hawking their wares. The convention is now in its 14th year.

This year’s festival will also feature a special workshop on “Scientific Singularities,” where innovators will discuss emerging science — like GenomeCompiler’s phosphorescent tree — that could change life for the better, said Uri Aviv, director of Icon TLV.

“Israel is at the crossroads of technology and science in the world, leading in academic research, engineering innovations, and technological advancement. So it makes sense to hold relevant and intense discussions on how technology affects society and culture,” Aviv said. Among those participating in the program will be tech icon Yossi Vardi and Yanki Margalit, head of Space IL, which aims to send an Israeli spacecraft to the moon.

One of the focuses of the workshop will be how the erosion of borders between people and computers will affect the future of human society. Among the topics to be discussed will be the future of death — or perhaps the end of death, as life is extended by artificial means — the synthesis of biology and robotics, the uses of 3D printing, the impact of e-books on learning, and the intelligence capacity of computers.

“Science fiction is a workshop for ideas, a fruitful basis for philosophical discussion, and a tool for social change,” Aviv said.

“The festival encourages creativity in science fiction and a deeper understanding of science, technology, society, and philosophy,” he said. “We want to encourage a deeper look at what the future may look like, and encourage creative thinking in Israeli society.”


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