The Fiction of You. The Lie of Me.

Recently I was invited to write a brief paper on reimagining the world, on tossing out old paradigms and designing new ones. It occurred to me that something I had written in 1999 was as applicable now as it was then, so I have added a postscript to it. It reminds me of where we were, where we are, and where we hope to be. I call it "The Fiction of You. The Lie of Me." I hope you will think of these words when you look at the images that I create, images that attempt to foretell what we might be facing in the not too distant future.

We can't write the book of tomorrow, the diagram of new processes, the redesign of paradigms, because you and I might be works of fiction, genetic fiction. What if the author hits "undo"?

Just as there are extraordinary possibilities occurring as computers allow us to visualize the body human, there are upheavals happening in the field once known as Biology. Carbon-based humans are increasingly being seen as conveyors of self-destructive genetic information systems, based upon inefficient patterns of growth, maturation and decay. New life forms are close on our heels. The brains that enabled us to out-think faster, stronger animals are now designing our own successors as you and I disappear into the dustbin of history.

What will these new forms of life look like? Though their marrow may be replaced by nano particles of information, their parts easily substitutable and elective, how will they present themselves to the world?

Digital artists dare to consider what lives on the other side of infinity, to imagine creatures that don't mirror ourselves. We explore those places on the map of being that others fear to visit. We cross the borders of biological sanity, clutching our visitor's pass. We think of absurdities and othernesses, brown dwarfs and gluons, and six-flavored quarks. We imagine new beings that never sleep, don't wet their beds, don't throw up over Mars. These new entities may not recognize us, may be reluctant to acknowledge us as their progenitors, most certainly will not see humans as the lodestone of their existence.

Most of what you are experiencing is the offspring of a rich and fathomless marriage entered into between 0 and 1. Just imagine: the boundless expanse of the Internet occurring because Eve1 and Adam0 flirted, held hands, and said I do. But Zero and One are getting a divorce, and the results may be out of our control.

Breaking outmoded ways of thinking, and responding, takes courage, the kind that leaders and heroes embody. You can be a hero. You can be anything you want to, if you want to badly enough. Here's how the poet J.D.McClatchy phrases it:

"God spoke one and I heard two

That is, he heard himself as well.

Can what I say be also true?

Shaky grounds on which to dwell,

I'd say that angels still rebel

Against authority. And you?"

And we? Can we adapt, before other genetic fictions and lies overwrite our own? It will take a radical reorganization of our thinking. We are in the process of developing machines that are smarter than we are, without any controls over them; we are using the planet's resources at an alarming rate; if a NASA study done at the Goddard Space Center is correct, global industrial civilization could collapse in decades, due not only to squandering of resources but also to the increasingly wide disparity in incomes; the journal Science reports that we can add deforestation, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as fertilizers in the ocean.

If, as McClatchy says, we are going to rebel against authority, who among us will do it? Can we stop playing with our high tech toys long enough to get serious about the planet's problems, most of them caused by us? Can we find leaders that we can trust; public institutions that represent us, not entrenched interests; a global ethos that substitutes responsibility for greed?

If we are going to rewrite the fiction of humans being human, we had better start the narrative right now, while we can.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2015