PART I – A New Definition of Technology
Now that humans can engineer life, the old definition of technology is obsolete. A new paradigm is needed to explain our purpose in the world and the nature of what humans create. The only difference between a computer and DNA is individual chemistry. Our technology is merely an echo of god. We mirror the inherent life-potential of the cosmos that created us.
Now at peak of scientific knowledge, we are but mere teenagers playing at maturity and abusing our new found agency. Like most teenagers, we think we know it all. We act out while inflicting massive damage. Our work is amateurish compared to Nature’s engineering. Evolution has created astounding technologies that operate on the smallest scale and use a tiny, non-toxic subset of the periodic table. Quantum mechanics have given old stand-byes of the technophobic aesthetic a new twist: birds navigate the earth by magnetic fields using quantum entanglement in their beaks. Plants convert sunlight to chemical energy more efficiently by using coherence. The latest tools of the tech world were mastered by nature millions of years ago.
Natural technology evolves randomly from chaos and the playing out of physical forces. Because its existence is rooted in the creation of the universe itself, it develops from the bottom up. Its story begins with energy and ends with matter. After the Big Bang, energy condensed to form matter. Stars and other celestial objects formed, crushing atoms into new forms and heavier densities. Galaxies developed, giving way to life-bearing planets. Atoms combined to form organic molecules. Those molecules interacted until they could perform the basic functions of life—reproduction, passing on of information, metabolism. Those elements evolved to produce fully living cells, those cells developed into multi-cellular organisms, and so on.
Arguably, the peak of this evolutionary process lead to humans. Our technology’s story begins with matter and ends with energy. It has evolved through careful observation and deliberate action, from the top down. It began with the creation of primitive stone tools. As hunter-gatherers we dominated other animals. Agriculture allowed us to domesticate animals, manipulate plants and reshape the soil. Science and industry allowed us to manipulate the environment further, first on the chemical level, and now on the atomic and even subatomic level.
We are not speaking of nature and technology, natural and artificial, original and imitative. We are speaking of unobserved technology and observed technology. Their respective trajectories are unobserved evolution and observed evolution. With the dawn of synthetic life, the process has come full circle.
This is not about the feedback loop between human development and human technology. It is about the loop be- tween two greater processes beyond the world of what we currently know and understand. Both are completely opposite strategies that complement each other to create a new whole. They are a new ancient duality, the yin and yang of the scientific that has reached out to grasp the spiritual. They are greater than the sum of their parts. The observer changes what is observed, and lack of observation breeds potentiality. The conscious analyzes and codifies, the subconscious connects and creates. These are not just metaphors but literal, inherent qualities of reality.
Each step of unobserved evolution has lent a higher degree of cooperation and interdependence. Each part of an unobserved system supports another part. Each step for observed technology, on the other hand, has destroyed previously-existing ecological cooperation and interdependence, permanently changing the greater system’s function. This damage is not due to the nature of observed technology, but due to our current method of implementation.
We currently occupy an ecological niche. We do not photosynthesize, we do not pollinate, we do not decay waste matter. But we do observe the system, we change the system, we attempt to direct the system. We do not sustain the system, we do not create the system, we merely evolve it. The process of unobserved evolution is not life itself, it only creates life. Our role is not to embody the planet, but to help stabilize and empower it. We have become agents of observed evolution. We modify bodies to act on their own to sustain. If we overproduce, we flood the cell and exhaust its resources. We are not immune to the laws of the closed system, as much as we enjoy pretending we are.
We currently do not allow anything to act on its own. We are trapped in the grip of oppressive domination. We are logical and controlling to a fault. Our fruits will fail until we learn when to let go of the reins and let unobserved evolution play its part. We will not realize this until the third evolution, when synthetic life has evolved beyond what we designed it to do. When synthetic life has turned on its master, only then will we fully realize there is a flip side to the coin of technology. Techno-addiction is no better than technophobia. Unobserved evolution cannot be rendered obsolete any more than gravity. Observed evolution can’t be eradicated any more than combustion. They are the two halves of the face of god.
Before multi-cellular organisms could develop, a stable model of the cell had to evolve. To solve the ecological crisis, the planet must become as stable as the cell. Until that happens, we will never reach out to the stars beyond. In order to bring about stability, we must recognize what role we play, and what roles other forms of life/ technology play. We are the mind of the planet and have become disconnected from the body. We are an addict ignoring the signals her body is sending: dry skin from dehydration, weakness from malnutrition, sore muscles from unaddressed anxiety. The planet knows what it needs to become its healthiest, but we have forgotten how to listen. Now is the time to stop, slow down, and listen.
PART II – Dissociation and Integration
An abuse survivor with dissociative identity disorder (nee multiple personality disorder) must create distance to find empowerment. The multiple cannot address her own learned helplessness until separated from the root. She knows she is caught in a system that renders her powerless, but she does not understand the system. So she separates from her family of origin to clearly see its disorder. She separates from society to examine its implication in the abuse. She separates from her own body to avoid destructive impulses she does not understand. She lives completely in her head as a safety valve to keep out an overwhelming glut of painful memory and belief.
Amidst the chaos within the multiple’s mind, a dominant alter comes to the fore to take charge. Its method of survival is to repress all physical experience, to disconnect from the body. It violently erases all traces of multiplicity, pretending to be a single solitary entity by shutting away the other parts. It develops its mind as much as possible. It force-identifies as masculine, to a rigid extreme, as further protection. But the masculinized self learns about empowering ideas: feminism, race relations, sex- positivity, science, the nature of power dynamics. Only after he learns enough to feel adequately safe and empowered does the system reintroduce the other personalities.
It is a shock at first. What was once the only reality to him is now only a small piece of the pie. There are other stories, other views, other feelings and beliefs that contradict his own. The feminine returns, and he feels endangered. Yet the dominant alter slowly descends, reluctantly at first, back into the body, back into the damaged heart. He stops, slows down, and listens. He becomes an It and then She again, and she feels just as vulnerable as when she was that abused child. Now that his dominance is fading, a communication network spreads between alters as they learn to reclaim control of the body. There is no going back to repression, even if they wanted to.
Thankfully, they all now have the tools to dismantle and re- construct their world. They learn strength from vulnerability. They have the knowledge to fight back when others try to oppress them. They learn to love the other parts of self that once felt like enemies. They come to terms with their differences, they communicate and cooperate. They become a new family, a loving family, a healed family. They learn to live in the world instead of in their head. The alters begin to shift and bend, meld and combine, until there are no longer any clear, hard boundaries. The goal is not integration. The goal is understanding, openness, respecting of boundaries and differences, cooperation, validation, belief. Integration is just the end result.
This is a personal story, and it is also the story of humanity. The abusive family of death, disease, and religion. The dominant alter of white patriarchy that breeds its own downfall. The beginnings of racial integration, leading to other social movements of integration across sex, gender, orientation, ability. The internet creating a network of communication between the repressed alters of erased minorities, now allowing them to come to the fore as well.
We have yet to become a loving family, but we are closer than ever before. We have yet to live in the world, as in the Earth that created us, but we now desire to. We still live solely in the human-created world, which is no different than living in the mind. But the Earth beckons, it cries for companionship. And so do we.
PART III – Distributed Empathy
The internet has been a major tool for the integration of humanity. It is the one thing that makes repression impossible. Corporate, political, and religious secrets are exposed, hypocrisy is revealed through permanent record, scattered minority populations band together to form identities with power. It is the place where humanity’s alters collide. But the internet is only the first step. It is only a messenger. For serious integration, the next step is the voluntary interweaving of minds. Computers can be controlled by brainwaves. It is only a matter of time until computers transmit actual thoughts. But that too is only an early step. I’m more interested in in when we can transmit emotions and beliefs.
The multiple already knows what it’s like to peer into another mind. The adult alter peers into the mind of the child. While she exists in the child’s mind she experiences and understands the child’s frame of reference. When she leaves, the emotional impact of the experience is gone. Nothing remains but her thoughts about what happened, and a faded image of the memory like an old scrapbook. But that is enough to change her world. She has literally walked in someone else’s shoes. The child’s world is so different from hers she can barely even translate the experience, but she is forever changed.
The ability to visit someone else’s mind is what enables the alters to learn to trust each other. It is hard to lie when you can literally feel where someone else is coming from. This creates a new vulnerability, and it also opens new doors. The rigid masculine alter feels the feminine, he no longer questions it because he has experienced its reality. He has felt its full force, and afterward he cannot dismiss it like he once did. The adult doesn’t just think her child alter is acting out because of a real emotional need, but she knows it deeper than any other adult could know.
The networked subconscious will become a new instinct, the “6th sense” made into tangible reality. A voluntary instinct that can be joined and left a the press of a button (or rather at the mere thought). People who ride public transit will subscribe to the bus system’s train of thought. The bus stop will become decentralized and removed from the typical passive anxious spectatorship, as people will be free to do as they please knowing a little voice in the back of their head will reliably poke at them when the bus is nearby. Large organizations will spontaneously act in cooperation.
How will decisions clearly label themselves as originating from the self? Will unlisting a networked consciousness play the same role as an abuse victim who “chooses” to stay with his abuser? Will entire nations automatically rise to arms as international networks register fear and antagonism? Will every individual will become a volunteer soldier as the global village becomes a set of roving nation-tribes? Lost in this hive-mind paranoia is the possibility for communication and healing in a world of voluntary networked cognition. Imagine choosing to open up your mind to literally feel what someone else is feeling, at will. Rather than an engineered future devoid of sexual intimacy, there is instead a world of new intimacies between individuals previously only experienced by the multiple.
Trust is an essential part of any symbiotic system. These heightened levels of trust enabled through shared cognition will be essential to forming the Earth-Cell. Only through the direct sharing of feeling and intention can otherwise independent actors reciprocate so effortlessly and willingly. It is total cooperation minus any degree of submission, for when minds are voluntarily linked, lying is impossible and pointless. Without the meld as a voluntary choice, it becomes a violation of self. Just as with sex, consent is the magic ingredient.
How will cognition and awareness change when the emotional state of an entire group of people, the sum total of its status messages, can be transmitted as an internalized emotional gut feeling? How will that change labor strikes, conditions in prisons, even the prison-industrial complex itself? How will it change the nature of therapy and recovery? When one can aggregate more than telepathic thoughts, but also group-derived subconscious intuition, how integrated will society be then? What will happen when we can peer into the minds of other animals? Of monitored natural systems like weather? Not only will we reconnect to the Earth, it will become a part of our body.