Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Message is the Medical Medium

Was reading an interesting article about exocommunications. Started a train of thought - we assume that aliens will want to communicate using some kind of a language. Speech, sound, symbolism. Pictures. Mathematics. 
And they will come in person, holding their placards and speaking through mikes, or telepathically, or via stylistic dance and sign language, or broadcasting from a transmitter in orbit or somewhere in the system via radio / laser pulse. 

How ethnocentric is that?

The're alien. We can't speak to dolphins and dogs. We can barely communicate with chimps. 
We know nothing about them, what they breathe, how many legs they have, are they carbon-based, silicon-based, liquid metal, supercooled helium.

Here's what I think. They're already trying to talk to us. We just don't see it as communications at all. 

Here's the alien civilization, studying us from far, far away.  
They see this planet. 
There's... something on it, something that replicates and evolves, adapts to environment, interacts with others. This something has developed a language, a means of communication. It has a memory and a population spread in billions across the globe, just beginning to venture into space. 

So they send a message, in a form and format suited to this life-form. Maybe they send several variations, for the several variations of the life-form, if they have difficulty in telling which is the dominant one. 
The message's content may not be immediately understandable, but it sees that the life-forms are interacting with it, responding to it. 

The dominant life-form, as defined by an ability to learn from experience, adapt to environment, interact and grow and evolve, and develop a sophisticated support system to sustain itself - this defines DNA, doesn't it? 
Our bodies are just the vehicles that allow it to propagate. 
So here comes the message, in the form of protein chains, a 4-character code from space that interacts with the double helix of code in protein molecules that dominates the planet. 
It enters the support system - our bodies - and interfaces with the DNA. Sometimes it just appends; sometimes it edits, changes. The DNA responds. Sometimes directly, sometimes via manipulation of its support systems, sometimes from outside the support system altogether. 
We call the message viruses, and we call the interaction disease. 
Every time we create an antiviral, we're sending a message. Every time a disease evolves, it's responding. 
A conversation has been underway for thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million years. 

We're just making the simple ethnocentric mistake of assuming that when we think about 'us', its the flesh and blood body carrying a brain that defines our identity. We're just a walking lump of code inside an organic machine, and it's our code that's been doing the talking.

We might already be a part of a galactic civilization, and we'll never know. 

Parenting terrifying. Fucking piss-yourself, go-into-shock terrifying. 

It's more frightening than anything you've ever done, ever read / seen / heard about, ever had any nightmares about or imagined. 
Everything you are.
Everything you own.
Everything you know.
Everything you've achieved. 
Everyone you love. 
Is all irrelevant now. It's second place to this new life you've made. All this is second place to, and made irrelevant by, this creature in your arms. 
This tiny, fragile, vulnerable little life. 

She's going to be that way for the next two decades, and even after that, you still can't relax. Anything can go wrong. Anything can happen. 
It's like you've liquidated everything in your life in preparation for some great journey, like an escape from a war-torn country. You've put it all into, say, a single diamond that you've swallowed before you ran, and you now keep secret to prevent being gutted for. 
That's nothing compared to this. 

And in the deep night in your head when you can't sleep, in the screaming headlines of the morning paper, the brief hysterical chatter of the nation as you surf channels, the conversations at the bus stop, in your RSS and your social networks, lies the stuff of nightmares, a blank-faced Elder God that mindlessly picks up and devours the everything in your life, casual, unthinking. You can only watch helplessly as any one of a thousand fates hangs over her head. 
Everything is in one place, and it is so.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Not If. When.

I read The Lord Of The Flies on a long-distance bus more than a decade ago. I finished it in a few hours, and spent the rest (mostly) staring out of the window, looking at the dusty roads, the trucks, villages where shiny new DTH dishes and motorcycles coexisted with sagging power lines and open, stinking gutters. Even then, I had that sense - that something was going wrong, somewhere. 
I can't watch the news anymore. I can't watch even a few seconds of soaps while flipping channels. The newspaper comes and goes. 
Because whenever I see any of these, I remember those villages, those small towns. I remember the snarl of a million wires stealing power from poles, flies buzzing, snarled traffic on broken roads while people sat around and watched bright, colorful fantasies on screens, shopped for their knockoffs and preened. 

It's all coming down. 

It was a microcosm then, and it's everywhere now. 
I look away because I know I can't handle the rage, the dark redness that comes up again and again, more and more frequently these days. One day I'll look too long, and something will break, and then it'll be all over. For me, for them, for you. 

Cows and dogs and pigs and rats. Pigeons and crows. The squirrels and sparrows are all dead now, choked in the poison air and the tainted water. 

We stumble around in the little worlds we build around us, made of screens and paper and gossip and aspirations. The water is rising, and it stinks, but we mustn't look down, oh no. We have our phones and TVs and movies and soaps, we have our outrage and air-conditioning and our 'spirit' and cricket, and the gods we make, and the lies we eat. And that's the way it's going to be, while the water rises over our legs, our bodies, our mouths, and then we'll hold our breath, because though we can;t eat the lies anymore we can't breathe either, and then we'll die, and sink down into the muck, quiet at last. Maybe the water will dry up later, and something will grow. Or maybe it'll just fill with the blind white toothed worms and maggots, our legacy. 
It doesn't matter. 

You always think it won't happen to you, that you're not like that, not like them, no, you're smarter, you take care of yourself and yours, and what you see today if you look too long is the result of a dozen channels starving for content and replaying ad nauseum, a hundred newspapers and magazines and movies and morchas finding a popular subject and milking it till it's dead, that this is just a biased sample and not actually all true. Even as the similarities grow, you keep finding the differences, the tinier and tinier pointers that say this isn't you, you're not like that. 
Then... it does happen, and then it's too late. 

And look around. It's a matter of time. 
It's not if it happens. 
It's when.