It’s a difficult thing to learn and have to admit.
I consider myself an intelligent man, living in an exciting and enlightened age.
Here I am. 47 years old.
I’m able to count how old I am, and not everyone can even do that.
In fact, I’m able to count so well, I know I’ve lived 2491 weeks.
Because of science I know that in 7 years and 1 month I will have travelled one trillion miles together with our sun and entire milky way galaxy as we make our way 750 times faster than a bullet fired from an AK47 assault rifle, on our way through an expanding universe, with 1,000,000,000,000 voyager miles being a privilege reserved only for those who live to age 55 and beyond.
And here I am plucking nose hair. And ear hair.
And other errant hairs growing above my eye, together with the bridge filaments of a monobrow.
Between their appearance and colouration I deduce that my DNA is mutating, which is the natural process of the evolution of all living biological species, as far as we know the pattern works on planet earth.
Now, on the one hand this is existentially shit
Although the mutations can be beneficial, they can be annoying like greying, thickening nose hair, but they can also be deadly, like cancer.
Furthermore I recently learned that like a computer, the DNA information in the cells in my body is becoming increasingly fragmented and so to protect itself from opposite-to-benjamin-button accelerated decay, there are genes in my body that switch off the replication of DNA after a limited number of times of allowing it to happen inside of me, and that’s when we get old and eventually die.
Like many singularists I’ve been watching CRISPr and more recent DNA editing developments very closely. I very nearly ordered a kit from the crazy ex-NASA dude till I learned that editing reliability (at around 10%) is still far from being trustable. As much as it would be humorous to gene-splice myself to glow in the dark, I wouldn’t want to accidentally blind myself or grow a third elbow…
But I digress.
So, on the one hand, evolution is shit.
The process that sculpted us to be able to go from scratching in the earth between other primates, for tubers and roots, to discovering fire and tools and domesticating animals, to inventing steam power and then finding the power of molecules in oil, and on, with the use of electrons to observe the mysterious workings of our mechanical selves very deep within, only to discover the breathtakingly complex scaffolding that is the chemically constructed human body, operated all the way down to the level of the spooky world of quantum mechanics for sodium pumping through cell walls – THAT process, is the process that shuts me down, prohibiting me from injecting faulty, fragmented code into the genetic narrative of human life, and makes room for others to improve on me and to follow.
For the individual – for me – that is bad news.
In this game called life, I only get one and it WILL end.
But for the collective whole, that is great news.
Our species will continue to mutate and to develop resistance to environmental pressures and to enhance and improve on abilities which become hard-coded the more we work on and practice them.
The DNA of Musicians, for example, will cause them to literally mutate into the music they love so much, and their offspring will have a chance of inheriting musical genes that will make them naturally more musically skilled and “gifted” than their peers. Same is true for players of sports and doers of great physical feats. Their children are likely to be genetically “gifted” in the same fields as their parents, by virtue of the information strings they are born into and from.
And so, on the other hand Evolution is very definitely not shit.
I find myself reconciling myself with the temporal nature of my life, with the “do-overs” I get every morning of every new day.
I’ve had 17381 so far.
Evolution means I can be alive and conscious now in a time where I don’t have to be fooled by charismatic leaders with nationalistic promises, or by bogus healers who claim avocado pears will heal the world, or by other peddlers of snake oil anymore.
Evolution means there exists a well understood and well documented process called science which allows us to collectively and democratically advance our knowledge and learning. This same process of testing ideas and sharing within the public domain for replication and verification is proving robust and scalable and will outlive us in the machine beings which are to follow.
That’s exciting, and I get to be a part of it at an enlightened time when my thoughts and words and actions can easily penetrate and have reach, even to the entire population of our species.
Evolution also means, I don’t have to be the aware being that I find myself being, trapped in a quasi-monkey suit on an exposed hilltop surrounded by leopards, wondering what the purpose of life is and why today the yellow sky god is hiding itself from me when it must surely know I am in mortal danger…
To have this awareness I experience within me and to imagine living it in a brutal environment where any time to ponder such deep things is consumed by a continual, arduous struggle for survival, seems intellectually crushing. (On the other hand I consider people who live a life completely different to me, an unmeasured and unconsidered life, and yet within them I observe a great and profound happiness I don’t know. My psychologist says “smart people problems” To which I reply by switching on the kettle and sitting down to write only to realise after some minutes that I forgot to plug it in…)
And ironically, tomorrow the world economy could collapse and I would adapt and be ok. In fact, I’d probably be better.
Nostril hairs and greying eyebrows on the outside of the skin of a quasi-monkey man, tell me I am an “I am” – but the greying makes it clear, I AM, but with a time limit. The hairs make it plain that I am inhabiting a transitory bio-mechanical earth-suit on a path of life and learning with a definite start and end.
This could crush me existentially, but rather I find there is within me a happy acceptance in the deep “KNOWING” that this is so, rather than having to wonder about how and why, and therefore simply to accept that it is so, because someone else said so.
The “KNOWING” makes me both willing and proud to be able to contribute whatever I can for others who will follow, even if only for one person reading this to cheer up and enjoy the simple, mere fact of existence, and then go dive deep into learning how to share whatever wonder you yourself may have for it.
At an ironic time when I find my eye sight worsening, I’m learning how to 3D model and animate so I can explore this microscopic and galactic world for myself and then learn how it works there where I can “touch it” in a 3D viewport, and from there on to create teaching aids to help stimulate and excite other minds. Advancement and progress and democratisation means that I find myself alive and able to share with people all over the world and even with an under-privileged world that I could never previously reach, right outside my doorstep.
Maybe that’s a calling you can also get into? If Elon Musk can have the vision of circling the globe with satellites offering free broadband connectivity for everyone, perhaps you can get involved in making it locally so?
To face a fact, I am going to die.
The hairs in my tweezers tell me we’re all going to die.
But their unspoken question to me is, will their sacrifice, and my existence and my evolution matter? Will this moment in time, matter?
Or will it be wasted?