Thursday, March 06, 2003

The thing about this guy I know from college, Jason Sheets: he has this really unsavory alter-ego, "Bizarro Jason" (or "BJ"). Now BJ's got his own blog... Yes, there was a Bizarro Mac once, but he faded into obscurity. He even had a brief web page extolling things I can't stand (i.e., religion, professional sports, etc.)

So, will the human race survive the next 1,000 years? Stephen Hawking, for one, doesn't think we will unless we expand into space. It's sad commentary on our predicament when a week's worth of precision bombing in Iraq could have financed a manned Mars exploration program. Will humans make the evolutionary cut? Almost certainly not. But that doesn't exclude our descendants, who may or may not be human-like in any recognizable sense.

I sense that we are treading a vast and portentous ontological gulf; it's crunch time. The next few hundred years will be absolutely decisive. Either the Earth becomes a planetary mass grave or it becomes a fondly remembered home...or an abstract notion. Posthumanity will take on a variety of forms; almost by definition, it will be multiplex, vastly intelligent, and as tenacious as any virus or prion.

A thousand years, in geological time, is less than an eyeblink. A mere century can be viewed as a single defining event. If so, it's not unreasonable to expect that our flailing attempts at ascension, burdened as they are with superstition and bureaucracy, are being watched by others in the space-time neighborhood. We might be quite amusing to them. Or quite sickening.

People invariably ask me about my "beliefs" in aliens. The point I try to make is this: If extraterrestrials exist -- which they probably do -- then it doesn't logically follow that they're here (although they very well might be). Secondly, aliens are not likely to think in terms of 1950s sci-fi films. I doubt there are too many cosmic altruists out there, like the blatantly messiahnic "Mr. Carpenter" from "The Day the Earth Stood Still." On the up-side, I don't think malevolently xenophobic civilizations are too common, either. Why destroy or enslave another civilization when posthuman reasoning suggests that advanced ET intelligences will be able to provide for themselves without assistance?

I really don't want to be an alarmist, but time is running out. Our weather patterns are showing ominous new trends; global warming continues; deforestation -- and its brutal cousin, desertification -- are hacking away at our biosphere's roots with the unheeding avarice of out-of-control clockwork. An ecological 9-11 might get our attention, but it also might consume too much of it: while we feebly try to restore order, an uncatalogued asteroid might be racing silently our way. Or the rain forests will unleash an airborne Ebola in an attempt to maintain some semblance of homeostasis.

Earth is dying under what William S. Burroughs aptly referred to as a mudslide of "devalued human stock." Don't think it won't fight back, even if its weapons seem initially superficial or quaint compared to humankind's iconic nuclear stockpiles.

I watch our planet steered by soulless multinational corporations and bigoted governments whose "future" is as reassuringly near as next month's NASDAQ or voter opinion polls. Is this how it ends, snuffed out into petrochemical oblivion before we make the critical move off-planet? Our space shuttles crash because they're obsolete, fragile museum pieces. But our smart-bombs are cutting edge: gleaming chrome and laser-light, avatars of technological cunning.

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