Frequent readers are aware that one of mariner’s favorite subjects is “reality.” Reality, seemingly simple on the surface is a collection of facts representing a moment in time yet simultaneously a complex amalgam with nuances from the sciences to the arts to the senses of each individual. Reality is a conundrum to say the least.
Let us travel out into space, perhaps halfway to the moon and look back at Planet Earth. We see weather patterns floating about over land and water. We see Earth turning in its rotation every 23 hours and 56 minutes. It appears to be a blissful scene. It could last forever.
But it won’t. Did you know that 250 million years ago it took only 22.8 hours for Earth to complete one rotation? Each century, the rotation slows by 1.7 milliseconds. Avoiding a scientific treatise on the subject, the important element is that Planet Earth will not last forever. Further, a few million years down the road, the Sun will have an increasing role in the weather, radioactivity and axial tilt of the Earth. As spoken wisely by every generation, things never stay the same.
The numbers cited above are meaningless given the relatively short time it took for the first vertebrates to evolve into Homo sapiens. Still, it is obvious that nothing organic or living is forever and, in fact, is a bit unstable. To narrow the scope, consider the existence of vertebrates. Homo sapiens is wiping out dozens of species every day. This does not include disappearing insects and creatures that have no spine, for example, coral, bivalves and plant life.
Seven billion people cover Earth like a giant scrubbing pad, scraping the surface as if it were a dirty dish. The “soap” is carbon-based abuses of every kind mixed with chemical and radioactive byproducts of Homo sapiens, and the excessive space and food required to sustain each human. Note that every nonhuman vertebrate lives a balanced natural footprint, taking and returning to nature in a way that does not significantly disturb the status quo.
Why are humans selected to be a rapid reagent to life on Earth? Is this a good thing? Can human intelligence that will force change be attributed to evolution and processes of natural selection? Are humans the latest example in a series of evolutionary shifts? Must the world go through drastic transitions every million years or so? Is this a way of recycling Earth’s resources?
The questions beg a larger understanding of why we are a naturally occurring reagent that will change life on Earth.
Individuals often conjure a logical relationship between dinosaurs and people – both dominant in their time. The dinosaurs lost out to a meteorite that ended normal weather for a long time. Therefore, humans will be stopped only by extraterrestrial events. Nothing on Earth has enough effect to end the species. However, some claim radioactive poisoning from Sunbursts, excessive volcano and earthquake activity or a modern, unstoppable plague.
It is popular to say we are our own worst enemy and at some point Planet Earth will rebel and significantly reduce our number. Nevertheless, across Planet Earth’s lifespan, is destruction by humans a natural cycle? Is Homo sapiens the next “meteorite?” If Planet Earth were aware of human behavior, that behavior may be considered insignificant; we quite often assign ourselves too much importance with regard to geophysical reality.
Reality may be that Homo sapiens is indeed the peak of a long run of vertebrate existence. Scientists project that our population will top out at 12 billion – almost half again more than exist today. Numbers this large definitely will change the global ecosystem, including weather, species and topography.
Reality is that we are evolving faster and faster toward automatonic behavior. Key parts of our normal bodies will be electronic. Our manner of communication will be through electronic networks much more easily than if we had to speak or write. A tiny forerunner of this future world is the grocery card one uses at the grocery store. The store knows what you buy so it will be available to you; the store knows when you shop and how much you pay; the store knows you changed brand due to pricing changes; the store knows you have a new baby or a teenager. The store pharmacy has your health profile. With this information, the store sends you personal coupons, suggests magazine subscriptions, advises available neighborhood clinics and doctors, and may even make it not necessary to come to the store at all – your food is delivered to your door if not to your pantry and freezer. Neither you nor a grocery employee ever said a word to make all this happen.
Reality is that we are master of our own genome. We can alter Homo sapiens dramatically in one generation. It will be possible to change every feature of a fetus to have the perfect child. Medicine will modify genes to prevent genetic diseases and mental disorders. Homo sapiens will be freed from the slow, evolutionary process of achieving character traits through accidental changes generation to generation. Examples of all these evolutionary powers already exist. Only the process of making the changes available to the public need be added.
Reality is that the definition of “nation” will become less of an independent state and more like a consortium of producers. Nations will retain traditional cultural values but will no longer require a complete Gross Domestic Product. The GDP will be comprised of economic output shared with other countries in an international marketplace (corporatism).
Given that Homo sapiens will not perish on a planet that is changing, our reality will never stand still and will be indefinable as we move into a new evolutionary phase – automatons. Our differences in appearance, freedom, and choice will be virtually controlled by electronic collaboration of banks, government, retail and presumed class. The mariner learned long ago that the opossum had a very stable genome because it was an ancient species that long ago stabilized any irregularities or inefficiencies. But, the mariner asks, “Can you tell one opossum from another?” As we evolve, we will be more like the opossum.