There exist two paths humanity can now follow to avoid stagnation. One is to entrust ourselves into the care of the SIBs and their successors; or to improve upon ourselves, expanding our abilities and intelligence, perhaps to the extent of losing ourselves and our bodies. Are we nearly in that post-Darwinian phase? The quest of my generation seems to be to become unfazed by the forces of nature and time, now that physical changes can be dictated by whim rather than external inﬂ uences and random change.
Perhaps I am just too sentimental about my tired old body to fret that there will be no more ‘humans’ – no more like me – just protoplasms and energized-goo matrices. Of course it is likely that I simply fail to understand the nature of identity in these new forms. I am my mind and my body, but soon there will be no more like me. They will reside in protean forms, their minds able to intermingle and communicate in electricity and photons. It is, quite literally, beyond me.
SO AT the end of my tour I would invite all to contemplate what they had seen within, have a cup of tea and get to know some of our more sociable residents.
There were many curious curios in the garden: extinct species such as the dakosaurus on plate 43*, now restored to the world without a place to go; museum members and pieces of ambiguous classiﬁcation who permanently stationed themselves on the grass and benches to soak up the gentle sunlight.
* Incubation conditions and diet are merely speculatory, thus the malformation and not living as long as they might. This re-species is still in progress.
PLATE 44: Teleporter failure. The transmutation of matter to transmittable energy and its subsequent rematerialization led eventually to transportation and matter-resequencing, but this ‘carbon copying’ was not without its unfortunates.
It was a very rare subject that remained ‘living’ after displacement: more likely they became a gooey mix of what was, or a deformed cretin with one last breath on its lips. But ‘the puddle’, or Dahlia (born Delilah, but she never felt quite herself again after her make-over), lived quite a few years with us, pushed about on a dining cart for the visitors to see. As I recall, when lifting her for cleaning she felt more like a warm jellyﬁsh with the malleability of a well used towel.
THE cyborg, Edward Underman, was also evicted by the tragic inferno and now tours the known regions giving a talk entitled ‘Am I the ﬁrst Immortal?’ to which the answer, I suppose, is ‘only time will tell.’
Edward would refrain from referring to himself as a technological mishap (most people would), as he is much happier in his altered form. He was barely saved after a localized reactor breach (i.e. an explosion), and a body was built for him from what was close at hand, to be replaced by something more life-like at a later date. Only now Edward could perform ever more dangerous experiments with no risk to himself. The only original parts he still has are his brain and his scalp, which is without sensation. When not touring, he lives peacefully between the asteroids trying to ﬁnd new ways to blow things up.
Solar power plants, bio-regenerative support, security, insecurity and punishment
THE blending of ﬂora and electronics led to biotechnics, perhaps the greatest leap forward in development since the computer. Cities became green as the need for security and surveillance increased. Solar leaves enabled the powering of observation devices such as watchers and listeners, the predecessors of dragonﬂies and security-vines.
Our Watcher, plate 46, was over a hundred years old when the ﬁre must have overcome him, too stiff and rooted to escape anything but a glacier.
Plate 47 (detail): note the solar leaves. Before the fully solar-plants that power our houses, there were only solar leaves, designed for the hordes of ‘spy ﬂies’ which are now called ‘dragonﬂies’ in accordance with their appearance. These prototype spy ﬂies couldn’t roam beyond a 2m square without getting confused, so they would stay close to the corner near their re-charge plant.
THE increase in security was naturally followed by new ‘insecurity’ devices such as pocket ninjas (plate 48). Though the original intention was as a locust protection system for cereal crops, one could release a handful of pre-programmed pocket-ninjas that would inﬁltrate and disable security vines and other more insipid safety measures.
Set to default, they could be thrown in self-defence to attack anything with warm blood. We, of course, kept ours enclosed in a translucent box for safe viewing. Visitors would often be startled by the speed with which the pocket-ninjas threw themselves against the glass when their sensors felt them approach.
OH, AND of course, we kept one prisoner, as all citizens are obliged by law. Fitted with a nirvana-type modiﬁcation, those souls who, for whatever reasons, clashed with society’s doctrines of behavior, lived in blissful stupor, to be forever awed by butterﬂies and bright colors (plate 49). We knew not his name, nor his crime, but since he was hardly the man he was before it could not matter less.
Of course something must be done with those who insist on harming others, and mind-locking is a more economical and humane alternative to imprisonment. In my thinking, there is a contradiction in punishment between intent and effect. If we take crime to be a rational action, how can we punish somebody for doing something rational? Alternately, we could see committing a crime as irrational, in which case how can we punish an irrational creature, or a moment of irrationality? One could swap the word rational with logical or stupid but the internal contradiction should still show itself. At least we have returned the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to their natural habitat of myth and fairy tales.
One man’s abnormality is another’s pride. We can add ‘human nature’ to history’s heap of redundant concepts. Are cruelty and selﬁ shness ‘natural’ to humanity? It certainly seems so for the majority and yet they are anathemas to others.
It would clear things up to change the terminology. The words ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ are traditional and, I think, incorrect. Instead, call it ‘tendency’. Humanity is like water and follows the path of least resistance, or rather, there will always be a proportion of people who will do the easiest thing.
MAYBE we should scratch the word ‘human’ instead – what good has it done us so far? Such an artiﬁcial distinction distracts us from viewing all creation with equal respect and an equal right to exist. Then again, maybe changing the words only changes the sauce and not the sandwich.
These are old ideas, the only thing we can’t seem to change is human tendency, even if we cease to be human.
The Human Seed Project
THERE were many ambiguous elements to the Human Seed Project, more than merely the classiﬁ cation within this collection, but since some of the primary examples are vegetative, they had to be kept in the rooftop conservatory.
The motivation was either to create a sort of ark, or as a way to colonize space. The end result was a seed, about the size of an olive pip, that when ingested by, or embedded in, a carbon-based life-form, would, over the course of weeks, take over the host organism. Two or three generations later you should have yourself a pure human specimen* (plate 50 shows a ﬁrst generation sphynx**-to-human).
The proposal is to shoot millions of these seeds across space, targeting ‘hotspots’, hoping they’ll get lodged into something habitable. The theory goes that they should adopt local survival mechanisms from their host, increasing their chances of permanency. In this way, Earth could colonize extremely rapidly without much expenditure and with zero risk to human life.
My question is: since they take no history, culture or language with them, in what way are they human? Technically and biologically human of course, but what guarantee would there be of future communication between Earth and a colony? Perhaps we could send along explanatory pamphlets.
I wonder if – and here I’d be accused of being a mech-lover – sending some sort of robot that had stored within it our languages and records would actually be more productive. This begs the question: what reasons are there for colonizing? To feed a hungrier Earth? To improve on what came before? Just because we can?
Actually, those behind the Human Seed Project are well ahead of me. The seeds are to form a base population, large enough for long-term genetic diversity, to prepare breeding stock for the follow-up colonizers, selected from the billions on Earth. Indeed, those seen worthy will take to the skies, to be met by a harem of mating partners where they will rule, teach and guide a new civilization.
* homo sapiens rudus if clariﬁcation is needed. Rumor has it that the Prometheists are funding an altus project, but so what if they are?
** A breed of hairless cat.
A strange way to say goodbye
IT WAS in the garden that I found the solitude I needed to consider the world outside my walls, safe with the deformed progeny of development. If I sat for too long the fast growing creepers would tangle my legs and I would have to be cut loose by the staff. If I sat all day I could be entombed in greenery that tickled its way under my sleeves and over my face. In this way I imagined myself in death.
Looking out over the city now, all I see is movement, a complex uncoordinated dance. Civilization helps create the illusion that there is meaning to it all, even if one gets no closer to deﬁning it.
What is the point of all these deﬁnitions? So we can tidy up our dictionaries? So we can make easy decisions for all time and rely on pre-written descriptors for right and wrong, who is human or not human?
There is not just one ‘human animal’. Each is different in function, physicality and methodology. Civilization is a complex pile-up of niches and enterprises and perhaps with all the levels of changed humanity, technologically enhanced, nano-wired, synthetic replicas, Freaks, the useful and the useless; the larger it gets, the less united it becomes. Individuals align with those who interpret life the way they do, or who adapt to it the same way.
The mistake we often pursue is in personifying human civilization and imagining a singular conscious entity imbued with intention and identity, rather than the composite of billions who make decisions for themselves and associate only with those around them. In this way we share our nature with germ and viral cultures, our commonality and our individualism entwined in a ﬂux of development and indecision.
ENDINGS are as hard and as uncomfortable as beginnings but contain an illusion of governability. That proviso in place, I am resolved that the end of this little book will be as delicate as removing guests from one’s home after an evening of frivolity.
Perhaps just one last dissection: at its most basic, a thinking being can resolve that there is either meaning behind it all, or there isn’t – the answer for each of us can make a grand difference even if only to effect subsequent questioning. I ﬁnd it hard to take sides as it seems arbitrary to me whether there is a set meaning that is unknown, or if there is no meaning at all – either way we have to make it up ourselves. It is not necessarily that there is no truth, but when one does not know the truth all you have is perspective.
The answers seem almost as innocuous as the questions and luckily, I think, such answering hardly lasts a generation. That is not to say we should stop trying; what would be the fun in that? But it might help (or humble) some to accept that life will go on with or without the answers, and with or without us.