OTHERWISE known as forced-evolution, this section separates itself from breeding programs and genetic manipulation mostly in the motivations for what was created. Genetic experimentation was aimed at perfecting what already existed, while breeding was intended to fast-track directions in development. The various exhibits represented the intentional redesigning of humanity into new forms, to in fact step beyond the bounds of ‘human.’ Of course, the questions of ‘what is human?’ and ‘what is not human?’ again reared their dull visages for the millionth time in history. I have always found such questions miserable, linked to arbitrary categorizations such as DNA proﬁ les or behavior – not to mention tedious theological poppycock.
What do we expect by asking such questions? Since everyone has different answers, we get arguments, dichotomies, and hierarchy. Are some people really asking, ‘Who is better than whom?’ I think so. Perhaps if we started with what helpful effect we wanted the answer to ignite, we could just work backwards from there.
WITH more frequent excursions into space, the limitations of the human body were quickly encountered. Evolution creates tight bonds between an animal and its habitat, and it seemed easier to change the human creature than to recreate the necessary environment in space.
The term ‘adapted species’ intruded on our vernacular: humanity, re-sequenced, bred and hormonally enhanced. Those damn Prometheists* like to use the terms rudis (raw), correctus (corrected) and altus (improved). Hardly anyone outside of the movement uses the terms, unless to distinguish between the Promethean ranks. There are some who take a wider view of evolution than just the changes of the physical body. Few modern humans would consider themselves in regard to their bipedal posture, recessed canines and enormous brains (respective to body mass). So perhaps it is integral when considering evolution to think of the knowledge, skills and social structures – perhaps anything ‘of humanity’ that has ever changed or developed in any way.
Here we begin to place symbiotic technological relationships into the evolutionary sphere. There are already such products that grow up alongside human children, and even inside them if we start talking nano-tech.
As with any development which shufﬂes human equality, the ability to alter and improve on your au naturale human has created a separation: the useful and the non-useful. The non-useful, such as myself, lead our humble lives idling away at whatever distractions are available to us. The useful are more often than not specialized creatures, so tied to their function that they hardly socialize or breed. The non-useful remain as a safety-net in case all the biological meddling leads to a dead end; also as a pool to draw from to create more usefuls if needs be. I still don’t know who decides what needs be, what needs need be, or what needs be needs, but maybe it is obvious to the higher-ups.
The ﬁrst miniature humans, or homunculi – their bones too weak to support them – were nonetheless a vital step in solving the problems of over-population then suffered on Earth. On average, humans are now one third the size they were at the beginning of the 21st century.
Delusions of grandeur frequently affected the big-brained little people, though often with more than a hint of self-mockery. ‘Behold, I am the greatest among you,’ one peculiar chap would introduce himself to any group, gloriously pulling open his blanket (Plate 15). This one lived most of his life in quite a small asylum.
The combination of smaller bodies, advanced intelligence and ﬂight was thought to be the next step in controlled evolution. The result, though, was a rather anti-social sub-species with little interest in contributing to human affairs. Some suggest they feel ashamed to have been created by humans. So the question for homunculi must be: what is it to not be human? And yet not alien or robot? To be of human, though far superior in all ways…?
We’ll never really know since they quickly created a new, presumably improved, language – unintelligible to us, for their new, improved thoughts. Assuming of course that ‘thinking’ has not been superseded by whatever it is that they do with themselves.
The few homunculi that gathered together in the museum stayed merely for protection from their creators. I once asked them what they had to fear from their creators and one deigned to respond in my own language, ‘Our creators were dedicated scientists; it is those that seek to use or harm us we stay away from.’ A ﬁnely made distinction.
TO AVOID ending this section on a dour note, there were, at least in my opinion, some successes from the experiments in controlled evolution. It was ironic, or perhaps I mean poetic, that it was a mistake that created them, thus uncontrolled evolution. The mangutan, or humangutan to reduce gender-bias, is thought by some to be a throwback to pre-homo sapien status although it is quite distinctly on a separate genetic path to modern humans. It was via experimentation into human origins, and investigation of our ancestral forms that the mixed-up breed of the humangutan originated*.
Retreating to a standpoint of cultural-evolution through spiritual and personal improvements, they have shown themselves to be the most lovely of creatures and perhaps set a new example for humankind.
They are an almost languageless creature, at least so it seems. Scans show enormous amounts of brain activity but they restrict themselves to well-toned and impeccably timed grunts. They could speak words easily enough, though seem annoyed by the need to do so – more a failing of us than them. I suspect they rely more on body language and empathy, if not to communicate, to predict the meanings of other mangutans if they were to speak out loud. Perhaps it is best to consider it a shorthand speech.
I have since travelled to the mangutan forest, where they drifted together. During my time there, I could swear I heard the sound of homunculi wings and the tender scent of screaming head orchids. I wonder how many of my old friends escaped from the ﬁre and now hide where they can.
* Using remnants of Australopithecus and Neanderthal, with sequence gaps ﬁlled with modern human cells.
Some ask if all these technologies and changes are endangering the human species. It seems to me that only the word ‘human’ is in any danger. Within a few generations it may only denote a historical form or ‘birth form.’
The only people who would be offended by such a loss would be long dead, their opinions only for scholars, much like medieval belief systems are to us now.
On the other hand, people who worry things will change in a day, or a lifetime, haven’t looked over history to see how slowly things change. I don’t think human ideals and concepts will be thrown aside so easily.