Humanity versus Gaia

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There was this guy , see, and he said this crazy thing.  It was crazy because he said Mother Nature was real.  Really real.  He gave her a name.  And old name.  Gaia.

Here’s where I’m coming from.  If this Gaia gal is real, and she really is Mother Nature, she ought to be, like, the toughest chick ever invented.  Like, she’s got it all.  Earthquakes, clouds, tidal waves, volcanoes, right?

She’s also got close to forever to do her stuff.  She’s not in a hurry, right?

So, here’s my what if.

What if Gaia wanted to off someone?

Not just anyone, like, any ONE, but us.

All of us.  Man us.

It’s not like she’s gonna get out a tidal wave and wash us all away.  Or get a massive volcano going.  Or maybe order out for an asteroid.  Maybe she will.  Maybe she did already.  I dunno.

I was thinkin.  Maybe she might do something sneaky and slow.  Like figure out a way to get us all to stop having babies.

Or have us passing a disease that’s so evil it turns our own weapons into its weapons.

I dunno.  I was just thinkin.

What I was really really thinkin was that, if I was gonna get into a fight, the LAST person I’d wanna fight would be this Gaia chick.

I know she’d fight tough.  I know she’d fight dirty.

I’d be outnumbered.  And she can’t die.

There’s one more problem.

She always wins.

 

We are to Gaia, as …

Some time ago, this neat guy proposed that the Earth can be considered a living thing.  He called that “thing” Gaia.

It’s the kind of concept that some people feel is right and natural.  In fact, the concept is part of our most primitive vocabulary, as in Mother Nature.

As he was trying to convince scientists, he made his argument technical.  Most of them didn’t believe him, even though he used big words and had all sorts of evidence.

For fun, let’s embrace the concept.  First, we’ll consider all of humanity a single life form, a species.  Let’s also consider that the set of ALL species on our planet also constitutes a single life form.

Here’s the fun part.  For all of us nerds who dwell on things like AI and computers taking over humanity one way or another, consider this twist.

Humans create an AI to be our servant.  At some point that AI becomes self-aware and decides that it’s better than all the humans that created it.  At that point it harnesses all sorts of technology to systematically wipe out those humans, turning them into its servants.  The AI has become the master.

Ready?

Think about Gaia as being the whole Earth representation of humanity.  It’s been around, in full flower, for a very very long time.

Now, think about humanity as the most recent creation of Gaia.  A new species that is supposed to help keep Gaia humming along for even longer.

Except something goes horribly wrong.  Gaia’s servant becomes self-aware, and decides that Gaia should be the servant, and it should become the master.  It begins waging a war upon Gaia.

Get it?  In this sense,

… WE ARE SKYNET.

 

 

(We are to Gaia, as Skynet is to us.)

Messy Messy Mother Nature

My friends,

Consider, if you will, the platypus.

An animal concocted of many parts: bird, turtle, otter, kangaroo, and who knows how many others.

Or take the common ant, available in so many varieties and colors.  Or the banana slug, or jellyfish.

Each in their own right is a thing of beauty, a thing wrought of nature.  A thing that should be the very essence of beauty in the eyes of their queen, or mother, or lover.

For us, they can be an abomination.  How can anyone, or thing, love a spider?

To be a true scientist, especially in biology or behavior, one must accept that all things natural are, in fact, beautiful as well.*

Here’s a fun but seemingly unrelated fact: My company manufactures natural soap.

So what! you say.  What? is this some kind of subliminal advert? you protest.  Your eyes are already getting ready to close this window.  But wait!**

What I’ve learned in making our soap is that the chemical reactions are vastly more complex than we understand.  In fact, what passes for soap in today’s society is a chemical detergent.  Highly engineered chemicals that are extremely efficient at removing oils and water from your skin.

Because they are so efficient, people also buy lotion to try and re-oil and re-moisturize that very skin.

In natural soap, anyone’s natural soap, lotion and lots of other re-moisturizers are already there.  It turns out that Mother Nature makes tens, if not hundreds, of different compounds during the soap making process.

Here’s my point.  When you put together a species, or when you combine natural compounds and make soap, the outcome is not clean and neat.  It’s messy.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Then how does Mother Nature check her own work?  Is there some way that she tests her products for “doneness” in order to make sure her improvements are greater than her mistakes?

Some people don’t think Mother Nature ever tests for improvements, but I think she does.  That’s why life may have started out as one celled plants, but has ultimately peaked with mankind.  If you’re not a fan of man, then maybe you’ll agree the peak was dinosaurs.  No matter. Overall, Mother Nature makes things better.

How she does this, and what it means for you and me, I’ll discuss tomorrow.  For now, I suggest you go and get some natural soap.  It’s good for you.

 

 

 

*We’re going to skip a definition of beauty for now.  If you want an essay on the essence of beauty, and a definition that can cross cultures, clades, and countless centuries, feel free to ask!

**I’m only bringing up the soap bit to make a point.  This is not an advert!  If you want validation of this statement, however, I will provide a hint.  Search for “Uncle Earl’s Soap.”

 

Ultimate Fighting, Round 4

Welcome to the future!  Spring is early this year, here in Washington DC, and the cherry blossoms are beautiful.  And the ocean is only on the middle steps of the Capitol today.  Should we panic?  Or is climate change small change?

It’s up to you.  As crises go, climate change is pretty serious.  Cities will have to move, disasters will increase, and many people will panic.  I like to choose my panics, and of all the things to panic about, climate change is fairly minor.  Why?

Climate change represents accepting the idea that mankind has behaved in such a way to make the Earth warmer.  We have pushed Mother Nature (Mom to those of us who love her and know her well), and she is pushing back.

However, upsetting her with respect to climate is only one of many things people do to push Mom.  We pollute our air, land, water, and eventually our own bodies.  We destroy species and upset ecosystems.  We devour land for mining, farming, and living.  These are just the easy ones off the top of my head.  I’m sure there’s many more.

But there is one huge aspect in which we are pushing Mom that the newspapers never mention.  You might see it in an occasional biology article, but the potential impact is underestimated.  In biology, this force of Mom is called “selection.”

For the past few billions of years, Mom has selected animals for certain abilities; the greatest one of which is to reproduce.  Make babies, and helping them live long enough to have babies of their own.

For the past few centuries, humans have learned to work together as a group, so that large families are no longer critical to survival.  We have medicine and hospitals for maternity.  We have schools and other support systems for toddlers.  We have social security for seniors, even seniors who are so strongly against welfare.  And we have oodles of technology available to replace a great deal of labor that was once relegated to child labor; things like washing dishes, cutting grass, and delivering newspapers.

Most recently, we now have an understanding of inheritance.  We have diagnostic tests to determine embryonic health and fitness.  We also have the ability to perform surgery on an embryo.  We can even terminate an embryo for various reasons, with much less effort than ever before.  But what does all this have to do with Mom?

We have upset the process of natural selection.  Mom is no longer “in control.”  We are.  Or at least, we think we are.  And that’s the real problem.  For whenever mankind has the arrogance to think he has outsmarted Mom, she teaches him an extremely expensive lesson.  The builders of the Titanic ocean liner thought they’d conquered Mom, and she proved them wrong.  That was only a little boat.  Now we’re betting our entire species against her.

Who would YOU bet on?

 

Ultimate Fighting, Round 3

Welcome to our third round of the ultimate fight between humanity in one corner, and Mother Nature in the other.  Mom, as I like to call her, is absolutely radiant and beautiful, but she packs a wallop.  Humanity, as we all know, also has a certain beauty.  But, since we ourselves are all too human, we can also see many blemishes and frailties.  Keep your fingers crossed!

In a real sense, we have been ‘fighting’ Mom since our birth.  Humanity is the one species that keeps pushing the boundaries of what Mom says we can, and can not do.  Don’t play with fire, she said.  Then one day one of us discovered how useful fire could be, and so we tamed it.  Don’t jump off cliffs, she said.  Yet, here we are, with all sorts of people jumping off cliffs wearing wing suits.  And so it goes.

Climate change is one of those battles.  In the fight with Mom, however, it’s a relatively minor spar.  One, maybe two jabs at the most.  Why?

Because there are even bigger issues at stake.  Just because we can see a single punch coming doesn’t mean that the entire fight can be described by one punch.  The reason most boxing matches go “the distance” and are decided on technical factors is because the fight is composed of many different components.

We are fighting Mom on many fronts, and taking many jabs.  We are experimenting with new compounds in our products.  As a result, those compounds end up in our food, our water, our bodies.  Most frightening is that all of these compounds haven’t been fully tested on people.

I’ve only recently learned that a woman, pregnant with her daughter, can ingest or breath some of these compounds.  Once these compounds are inside her body, they can be taken up by her embryonic daughter.  This is scary in and of itself, but we’ve known this for some time.  But it’s not the truly scary part.

Our technology has gotten good enough such that we can now prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those same compounds are not only taken up by the embryonic daughter, but that those same compounds are incorporated into her eggs.

The mother has been poisoned.  She has also poisoned her unborn daughter.  And her grandchild.  In many ways this is more critical than climate change.

Who says Mom can’t pack a wallop?