San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Onwards and upwards

Our journey from bacterium to human has been a long one: more than two billion years, with many casualties along the way. But who or what is the ‘our’ I so boldly speak for? Certainly it cannot be my own species, because it has traveled only a negligible fraction of the way. No, the ‘our’ I refer to is actually an ‘it,’ an idea: the concept of dominance over the environment.

Jack O’Brien

Jack O’Brien

We, the species homo sapiens, like to think of ourselves as the dominant species on Earth, but that boast wears a bit thin in the Gobi Desert, where the common house fly, by sheer weight of numbers, can well claim dominance, or Northern Canada in summertime, when the giant mosquito is king. And in the aspect of selfless cooperation between individuals, the ant wins hands down. But in terms of physical achievement, which is what counts in environmental competition, we keep the crown. And in mental development, too, we are second to none.

We can confidently describe the first microseconds in the formation of the Cosmos itself, we understand and can duplicate the specific steps in self-replication, and we are on the verge of conquering disease.

Fine, but like every individual who ever existed, our life span is intolerably brief, and our species itself a mere flash in the pan on the road to cosmic domination. True, there walk among us at this moment the next generation, developing specific plans for exploiting our solar system and clearing up unanswered questions about the Cosmos: reconciliation of Quantum Theory with gravity, elucidation of dark matter, dark energy and co-existence of parallel universes.

Even so, there is a limit to progress along the present lines. Neanderthals actually had larger brains than ours, but Neanderthal women failed to develop a pelvic girdle wide enough to deliver the oversize cranium, condemning that species to early extinction in the usual way. We ourselves sidestepped the problem by intensive miniaturization of the neural network and development of the Caesarian section as a stopgap, but Band-Eid solutions are not the way evolution makes a leap.

A tour through our hospitals or our response to any threat to Medicare will convince you that we are approaching an end to purely organic development.

Fortunately, an inorganic solution is already within our grasp. Development of the MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, has reached the point where every part of the body can be faithfully recorded on tape

or disc, and can be reproduced in full-color 3-D. We still lack a machine to infuse the construct with life, but one more decade of research should suffice.

Then we can launch Electromagnetic Man into the Universe, traveling at the speed of light accompanied by electronic instructions for reincorporation using inexpensive, locally-available materials. And thus neatly avoiding the horrific delays associated with rocket travel.

But looking still further into the future, we can forget reincorporation techniques and become truly bodiless entities, radiating forever into the outer darkness searching for new environments to dominate, What a pity you won’t be there!

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