Sponsored Project

Horn Maker

Director(s):
Juliette D. Marquis
Producer(s):
Juliette D. Marquis, James Keach, Andrew Troy, Elisa Bonora

When Matthew Markus was 14 years old, he entered a group of virus writers spread across the world, writing code that penetrated government computers and corporate accounts. The industry of hacking was born in the late 80s with Matthew carving himself into the middle of it all. He had a special skillset, seeing the designs within our systems - the matrix pathways that connected our world with how we live. As he grew up, he continued on the path of computer science, building a framework for internet privacy back when no one cared about big data. Before our profiles were to be commodified. At 24, Matthew singlehandedly built Privacy Bank which tackled internet accountability and was quickly bought up by Silicon Valley to repurpose for its own development. It's safe to say, he was ahead of his time. The world moved on and so did technology. Today in 2020, biotech is the new computer science, using DNA as computer language of writing the code of life itself. We can tackle problems and ideas with an entirely new ability - Matthew, as before, sees an opportunity in solving a previously losing battle. Wildlife trafficking is the third largest illegal trade in the world. Animals are sold for their body parts for up to $60,000 per kilo. Species like elephant and rhino, killed for their tusks and horns, driven to extinction as prices soar because of increasing scarcity. International regulation agencies and wildlife protection services have been scrambling to stem the flow, with no long-term solution in sight as you can't simply police people to stop bad behavior. You need to provide another way. Taking animals out of the equation, using the latest tools in synthetic biology, Matthew sets out to engineer a system of 3D printing genetically identical clones of wildlife products, making them indistinguishable from the real thing. If scarcity equals value, then flooding the market reverses that equation. He begins with rhino horn, currently the most expensive exotic material on the planet, worth more than gold and cocaine combined. A crucial test case, because if successful elephant ivory, tiger claws, lion bones, and many other products could be next. Horn Maker follows this innovator as he travels across Africa, China and Vietnam, navigating through the complicated waters of international policy, diplomacy and criminal syndicate organizations. This is a story of fighting for nature from a lens never before captured, challenging deep-seeded traditions and the possibilities of what pioneering technology can do for our planet.

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