Devolution

"And he said, naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." - Job 1:21 & 22

It was quite possibly nature's cruellest trick. Some called it de-evolution, others referred to it as natural selection, while yet more saw it as the inevitable balancing of nature's see-saw. Whatever the label, it was clear that the last surviving hominids were killing themselves. But not figuratively so, no. Not killing each other or simply causing the destruction of the homo sapiens as a species, they had been doing that quite adeptly for centuries. Now they were actually killing themselves, committing slow but certain suicide on a grand scale, such that the term self-genocide did not even begin to describe the situation. That which nature had created, evolution had condemned.

The problem had been evident for some time, but it really started during the last few years of the 20th century. It was then that man's dream of everlasting youth was finally matched by his physical ability to realise such dreams. Science had progressed to the point that cloning was old news and replacement body parts could be grown in, what was effectively, a large petri dish. The practice of cosmetic surgery was more than commonplace and this, hand in hand with organ transplants, steroids, dietary supplements and all manner of other synthetic treatments, had brought the human animal to the point of being able to determine many things about its own physical existence. All except one, death was still the end and it was still a certainty.

Society too had its role to play, after all, evolution comprises a great many aspects. The advancement of what is considered to be acceptable behaviour is an important part of the growth of a species. Sure, there would always be radicals, those that disagreed with what everyone was doing, but as usual, they were in the extreme minority and treated like criminals for speaking out publicly. There were also those that opted out and said do what you like, just leave me out of it, turning a blind eye and giving themselves an alibi for judgement day. Others verbally objected but defined in their own minds the level they considered to be actively taking part and so in all actuality they were hypocrites. This group were, in practice, no better than those who lined up at the clinics to get the newest nose shape that was all the rage.

Technology did what it does best, it progressed at an ever increasing rate. It was only another 20 years and people no longer required liposuction or had to go and work out at the gym. Nanotechnology brought with it the ability to change your own biology at a molecular level. Vitamin pills no longer contained simple minerals and plant extracts, now they were a vehicle that passed microscopic machines into your bloodstream, machines that would hunt down and remove excess fat cells, machines that would stimulate the growth of muscle tissue, machines that could even repair damaged and aging cells. These micro biotic robots could be used to cure most known diseases and even alter the state of unborn babies, ensuring they arrived perfectly healthy into the world. It was after they were born that the cosmetic surgeons got a hold of them. It was one thing to be healthy, quite another to be attractive. But there still remained the single, most difficult problem of all, age itself. Our DNA still clung onto a good many secrets, the most important of which was the code that instructed the cells of all living creatures to reproduce a certain number of times, and then stop. This single barrier to everlasting life continued to frustrate medical science, and the consumer public, for another few decades to come.

In the meantime there was a growing movement in the religious sector, the Creationists. These were the same stock that argued with Darwin about his evolution theories, the very same kinds of people that acknowledged changes in the animal kingdom but refused to accept the commonality between other mammals and ourselves. Granted, the distance between us and our closest rivals was vast and growing every day, but just because we have opposable thumbs, the ability for complex communication and can walk upright does not change the fact that we are only two strands of DNA away from being chimpanzees or pigs. Creationists, and a good many other people of religious ideals, were amongst those that shunned all contact with the new technologies and the benefits it brought. Maybe they knew something that the rest of society didn't.

Advances in other areas accelerated the ever closing gap between organic tissue and silicon or crystal based components. By all accounts the first commercially available memory chip for humans came on the market in 2037. It wasn't long before the grafting of computer technology into human beings was the norm and almost everyone, save Creationists, had enhanced memory, vision, hearing and the ability to interface directly with the supercomputers of the day. There were some problems with the early interfaces and a number of people lost their grasp on this world ending up in a catatonic state finally resulting in a comatose condition and eventually death. It seems that despite all the advances in technology and science no one had yet considered the problem of forcing such radical change upon the delicate asset that is the human psyche. Mentally and psychologically we could not advance and evolve as fast as the things that we were creating. The situation was somewhat different from the invention of fire, the advent of the electric light bulb or the introduction of parabolic space flight as a means for global passenger travel. This time, the realised dream of man was far ahead of itself in comparison to the ability to safely introduce it into mainstream society. But as necessity is the Mother of invention, so too, tragic death would seem to be the cost of progress. After all, you can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs. As always, the younger generation more easily assimilated the new devices into their lives, being born into the technology of the era is vastly different from having to adapt to it.

Money still played a large part in the structure of society back then and while it was true that this new wave of products and body altering operations were certainly affordable to the masses, there were always those that could not afford it. Certain nations, referred to as Third World in the 20th century and later known as the Tame States, could never afford these new toys. Life for them continued in the same parochial, bucolic fashion that it had for many centuries, maybe even millennia. This gap divided society too and this fresh form of prejudiced division was possibly clearer than it had been at any time throughout history. Essentially a class division determined by wealth, the parties of each group were easy enough to identify. For everyone in the world had been carrying identity chips, inserted in their neck at birth, for long enough that no one questioned them now. Even the fanatics had them, as without them they became a nobody, a blank being, unrecognised by the systems and services that existed in a world increasingly run by automated technology. One thing is for sure, you can't argue with a automated electronic system that will not supply you with food because it can not identify the credit account to charge for it.

It was April 17th, 2054 when a group of research doctors, relative newcomers to the field, cracked wide open the treasure chest that is our DNA. Like the person who wanders up to a jigsaw you have been struggling with for hours and puts several pieces immediately in their correct positions and then walks off. This group took a fresh approach and it paid off, but very soon the original team was corrupted by the many global corporations desperate for technical knowledge of this breakthrough. Some members disappeared, never to be heard of again, whilst others went off to work for various corporations, all making their new masters exceedingly happy and very wealthy over the next few years. Suddenly the nanotechnology of the last three decades took a sudden turn and instead of machines working with the symptom, they went straight for the root of the matter. These machines that swam in blood stopped ripping out fat and growing new muscle tissue, now they became somewhat symbiotic with our building blocks, with the very plans that determined how we were going to be inside and what we were going to look like on the outside. This new method of altering our biological state was more accurate than any previous attempts, the results were better and longer lasting. But perhaps the most important difference was that such changes made to one person, were passed down to their progeny in their DNA coding. This radical change in the world had at once beneficial and catastrophic effects upon the population of the world. Now we truly had become our own Gods, but balance being what it is, we became our own Devils at the same time.

The Creationist movement changed overnight, many of its members actively seeking a way to segregate society, separating those that chose what came to be known as Narcissism, from those that lived their life as it was given to them, as nature intended. The Narcs retorted that the Creates were hypocrites as they continued to use modern medical facilities when they were sick and they still made use of technologies that prolonged life by eradicating disease in the world. The religious sect's answer brought up the age old debate of what defined self preservation as opposed to meddling with the fundamentals of life. It was said then that the single purpose of life was procreation, live to create life. There was never a satisfactory answer or agreement then, there isn't now, it has always been for the individual to decide.

With almost every threat to humanity eradicated there seemed to be a golden age of life on Earth. People did not need to work, they never got sick and they could now live, theoretically, forever. There were few wars as the world had settled into a strict code of live and let live long ago. These people, effectively our ancestors, had all re-created themselves as bionic super-beings. Well, that is not entirely true, it is fair to say that many of the Creates, having failed to partition society, naturally sought new homes in the Tame States where Narcs were in the minority and life was closer to that of yesteryear. Granted it was a tough existence, far from the labour saving devices of the citiplexes that now sprawled across the continents of the globe, but their rigid devotion to their principles had to be admired.

The next hundred years or so, oddly enough, saw little change in technology. It was as if the ship of progress had no longer had a Captain and the crew simply repeated the tasks from the day before. In essence this was pretty much how it was, with the two groups of humans either too lazy to pursue advancement or simply not requiring it. Soon enough it became clear that there was a serious problem that no one had thought to plan ahead for, population growth. It was all very well that people had been limited, by law, to a single child in the middle of the 21st century, this law being enforced by a simple operation on both parents after the birth of their first child. But when you now consider that the parents were simply not dying you can see the seriousness of this issue. It was not unknown to have families of up to six or seven generations all living at the same time. Of course the structure of social interaction also changed because of this, habits and customs as old as hominid life itself slowly ebbed and were cast aside. The family unit, that had been decaying since the mid 19th century now became little more than an exercise in establishing your ancestry. But even this was redundant when you saw your great-great-great-great grandparents at least once a year.

Nature still had a few cards to play, not yet having surrendered the entire deck into human control. Some time earlier in history, there began a slow, unconscious drift toward not having children. The law had little to do with it, it was a group consciousness type of decision. Now, however, this lack of desire became much more widespread and accepted. There seemed no point in the traditional feelings of needing someone to pass it all on to when you were gone, when you were the one to decide how long you were going to live for. For many it was a conscious choice, be it for selfish or moralistic reasons, there was a rapid decline in new births starting around the early part of the 24th century. In fact the single most noteworthy advance of the time, and the most important turning point in history, was when the Narcs started modifying their DNA so that they could not reproduce. In reality it was still possible to clone, but there had always been, and still were, very strict laws protecting the cloning of human beings. Animals were different, they were not protected in many ways that they should have been and subsequently a lot of research was still carried out on these helpless creatures. Although scientists were always very careful to totally destroy any experiments that resulted in the advancement of intellect or ability in other mammals, the dread of competition for the meagre resources that the Earth still retained was too awful to consider. Man must always reign supreme. Suffice it to say that, apart from the Creationists and the natives of the Tame States, there were no more babies being born. Even then, this accounted for only twenty percent of the population of the planet, at most. For the very first time, the birth rate for the species known as humans was now in steady, if not rapid, decline.

For all the versatility and longevity of the species and the miracles of blending computer hardware with ourselves there was one vital thing missing, enlightenment. It was as if the development and continuing progression of greater understanding or mass consciousness ceased around the same time that people realised that they need not die. Quite contradictory to all the theories that indicated people would continually grow and learn if they could live indefinitely. The reality was that most of the population of the planet had the mentality of a 40 year old, this became the apparent limit of relative wisdom and moral development. Imagine an entire population of people dedicated to the pursuit of recreation, but at the same time perpetually trapped with a sense of their own mortality which was diametrically opposed to the truth regarding their longevity. Some things were too deeply embedded into the dark recesses of the human psyche to shake loose so easily. So a constant 'mid-life crisis' seemed to rule the majority of the population and psychologists were some of the few remaining professionals always in high demand.

It wasn't until 2385 that the first citiplex had been established on Mars. But this was not an overnight affair, the terra-forming of the planet had begun more than a hundred years prior. However, the strangest thing about it all was the driving force behind the project, the Creates. They colonised the red planet as early as 2263, living in airtight habitation units, usually under the surface to avoid the horrific storms that intermittently ravaged the planet's surface. More than a century later they now had their very own citiplex and the atmosphere on Mars had been stabilised to the extent that the storms were nowhere near as violent or as regular as they had been in the past. The composition of the soil was rich and with the introduction of a rain cycle (that was initially artificial but eventually developed into a natural cycle) plants took a firm hold on the planet and it slowly changed from red to the more familiar green-blue of Earth. I suppose it was ironic really that the Creationists, still a very strong movement more than 370 years after its founding, were the ones to leave Earth and establish a new Eden on Mars thereby initiating a new era of evolution for the homo sapiens. After all, the gravity of this much larger planet required them to do so. Unconsciously and unnoticeably their bodies adapted. So too the air forced change due to its substantially higher nitrogen content than Earth. People quietly ignored the slow changes, like the gradual increase in the size of their lungs and the reversal of a trend taken for granted, the loss of the little toe. The increased gravity was inflicting itself on these space farmers as their bodies sought to balance the change in atmospheric pressure.

It has long been said, mainly by those that subscribe to Chaos theory, that nature will overcome. We were fools to ourselves to think that we could master nature, alter evolution and hold tight the reigns of change.



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