At 4913 Penn Ave in Pittsburgh has a special place. The center for the history of post-science, post-nature is a small Museum with an eclectic and quirky mix of samples: you will find a mouse embryo without ribs, sterile male worm, sample E. coli x1776 (harmless sample, unable to survive outside the laboratory) and the stuffed transgenic goat named Freckles (“Freckles”), genetically modified for the production of proteins spider silk in milk.
Mankind has profoundly changed the nature, but this may be only the beginning
The theme of the Museum — post-nature is the study of the origin, habitat and the evolution of organisms that have been intentionally and inheritance modified by using genetic engineering, and the impact of human culture and biotechnology at the evolution. The slogan of the Museum: “that was then. Now”. Each visitor demonstrates that in each species there is a natural, evolutionary history, and the post-natural and cultural.
Since man began his influence on the flora and fauna. So, if humanity is to prosper in the distant future, will change the nature? As these genetic manipulations would alter our own biology and evolutionary trajectory? Short answer: it will be strange, perhaps, beautiful and not like anything.
It’s funny that we continue to believe all that has not been selectively receive or intends genetically modified, natural and “primordial”. However, there is very little of nature, where no fingerprints of humanity. Since then, as our ancient ancestors came out of Africa 50-70 thousand years ago, destroying all the megafauna on the way and radically changing the landscape, our view transforms and changes nature.
About 10,000 years ago we began to selectively output the organisms that we thought most desirable, thereby changing the genetic makeup of the species. Technology has only accelerated this practice. Bull semen can be collected and inseminate thousands of cows from one male — in nature it is impossible for even the strongest Horny Casanova. We propagated the bulls and dogs, distributed those derived organisms worldwide, creating a huge biomass, which without us would not exist, and the elite species for physiological, aesthetic and agricultural benefits.
For millennia, our influence on many taxonomic groups was very deep. Our need for food means that 70% of all living birds, chicken and other poultry, and that’s enough to create your own geological formation. Meanwhile, according to Felisa’s paleobiology Smith of the University of new Mexico, hunting, competition and habitat destruction by the people destroyed so much of the fauna that the average size of mammals has decreased. Biodiversity and species have already suffered irreversible losses.
And yet, our impact on nature can be only the beginning. New genetic tools that promise to significantly change our ability to manipulate organisms. We move into the future, where the selection of positive traits of crops or animals from the natural population, rather laborious and time-consuming processes that are no longer needed. Having more accurate methods for genome editing, like CRISPR/Cas9, we can move genes between species, show certain genes deliberately in the process of natural growth and even to create completely artificial organisms. Bioengineering is a new form of transmission, of creation and inheritance of genetic information.
This modification of organisms also applies to the irreversible destruction of certain species. Although people for hundreds of years fought mosquitoes anophelese using chemical, mechanical and other ways, they remain one of the main natural enemies of mankind. Biotechnology has allowed us to create and produce clouds of sterile males that should reduce the number of mosquito population, breeding with females in the wild, and now developed and mosquitoes with “gene drives”, which accelerate the transmission of the sterility mutation to the next generation.
In the face of rapid climate change, scientists and politicians began to give priority “ecosystem services” that are necessary for humans, such as pollination and recruitment of the fish stocks, as well as thought about how bioengineered organisms or mechanical agents can be released into the wild.
For example, because corals on the Great barrier reef gradually die, studies the possibility of producing heat-resistant zooxanthellae, photosynthetic Simbiotel coral polyps in the ocean. Walmart patented mechanical drones pollinating, apparently hoping to use them in the future. Not long ago, DARPA gave grants for the development of genetically modified insects that carry viruses, for editing the genes of plants, ostensibly for change of crop in a field, but such techniques can be extended to whole ecosystems.
If we try to see the distant future as these technologies will change our relationship with the rest of life on Earth? Before us is a different trajectory from logical to really strange.
Nature and man: the distant future
To begin with, we may decide to reduce our manipulation of wildlife. In the end, there are very predictable fears about what can go wrong: for example, unplanned genetic damage, when the molecular “scissors” are designed for cut-and-paste pieces of DNA, creating unpredictable effects, or destabilisateur recipient and its ecosystem.
This potential trajectory of future people can collectively decide to restore wildlife and to create a space for the existence of all well-functioning superhuman on the planet. They understand that the biosphere (albeit much modified) is still a relatively proven in billions of years in the form of adaptive difficulty.
It will probably be the most effective way to protect ecosystems and to ensure human survival on planet Earth in the long run. We can restore the wild on a large area and concentrate the production of food in high-rise urban centres. Be respectful to all forms of life step life will certainly appreciate. Eventually everything will evolve and grow without significant outside influence.
However, there is no assurance that such a trajectory of future highly probable. Will probably be national and economic race to develop and deploy technologies that will continue to kill the nature, not only because of the growing needs in defense, but also because the power and curiosity of the human, particularly in manipulating the raw material of life, is constantly spreading and growing. Meanwhile, we are increasingly separated from other organisms and ecosystems. In this separated state, it is easier to imagine a radical change in the fabric of nature, which will fully support the interests of the people.
Artists wondered what it would be like. Vincent Fournier, for example, imagined a chimeric organisms, we could create: one will be to stimulate precipitation, and others — to fight pollution.
In the movie “blade Runner” writers have depicted a world with artificial humanoids and animals owned by the corporations that created them. This dystopian future may be partly true, considering that even in our days engineering the organisms — like the goats BioSteel, which we talked about in the beginning — someone owns the intellectual property rights. Perhaps the whole ecosystem of services — such as pollination — will be owned by individual corporations.
These bioengineered agents are likely to be more “fit” than their predecessors, and will be the competitors, because there will be intentionally designed either to meet human ambitions (and will be under our protection, in this case) or to survive in a changed world people. Thus, the modified organisms will probably either replace nature in its current form or Corporation would openly or covertly to completely eliminate relatively unreliable species and replace them with synthetic agents. This future is likely to be fragile and complicated, not to mention the fact that the nature of it doesn’t deserve such treatment.
If you look very far ahead, the biotechnology trajectory of nature can even change our view of what it means to be human.
Man and nature: convergence or divergence?
Over the past few decades, many were thinking about how we could merge with silicon technology. This technovelgy transhumanist view suggests that we may eventually be integrated with artificial intelligence to enhance sensory or intellectual abilities or upload themselves to the digital world after death, achieving a kind of immortality.
But what if instead our path is to merge with nature? Perhaps the real benefit of artificial intelligence is to reprogram genes and organisms in the “Sinaitic” — a mutually beneficial hybrid of man and nature.
Post-natural future can be not for everyone. In the story of Jeff vandermeer state of “Annihilation”, in which Netflix made a film with Natalie Portman starring (beautiful, by the way), over the rural area of the US there is a mysterious shimmering region, which amends and merges the DNA of organisms within its borders, including soldiers and scientists sent to study. Although elements of the film and the story is filled with concepts the adoption of this fundamental merge with other life forms, destruction and reproduction of genetic material is often presented as a horror, but the motivation of the volunteers that fall into this region, due to the desire for self-destruction. A radical change in the genome is due to the fact that disappears completely human integrity, to which we are not yet ready, even if the results of this merger will undoubtedly be beautiful.
In the distant future, those who will go to such a symbiosis could get useful additions like photosynthetic organisms, under our skin, which are placed there like a scab, instead of to transfer information about how it is done in its genome. Or we could include genetic information of species under threat of extinction in their ancestry in perpetuity, speaking, therefore, the protector and guardian of nature.
All of these potential genetic changes may seem awkward and strange in our days. Philosophers, however, have suggested two approaches to the transfer of information that will cover these future trajectory. They will become increasingly important in the post-natural age.
The philosopher Timothy Morton of rice University argues that we need to deal not only with beauty but also with the dark strangeness of nature — this approach he calls “dark ecology”. He was opposed to separate people from nature, glorifying its beauty and thus alienated from her. Because of this, the ecosystem is in the process of constant change, and climate change is considered something of a “global distortion” that destroys and mutates in nature. Dark ecology is a research approach and acceptance of the beauty and horror of human manipulation over the natural world, like what vandermeer state shown in “Annihilation”.
Likewise, “philosophy of process” believes that between humans and the environment has no real boundaries, notions of the individual do not exist, and all around, including gene flow in the future and their routes, is in a constant state of flow. For example, the cells of our own bodies are the result of a symbiosis of two separate microbial pedigrees in the deep past — an important evolutionary transition, open evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis. Moreover, our genome is littered with genetic and extracellular remnants of viruses and other parasites, and in the process of growing up we get a large number of cells in the body that belong to other (mainly bacterial) species than their own. The philosophy of process indicates that we are inevitably mixed with everything and are in the process of continuous exchange of material and information.
In the distant future, when biotechnology has matured, and restrictions on the transfer of genes will be removed, we will see a radical change in evolutionary processes from the point of view of the philosophy of process or dark environment. Will be a new form of transmission of genetic information, like a serious evolutionary transitions in the past.
The restoration of the wild, though it seems unlikely, it remains the safest and most righteous path of man in the future. But assuming that biotechnology will spread further, it is not clear how we will exist in the age of post nature. A lot will depend on how we will cope with climate change, but manipulation of man and nature is not going anywhere. The future will definitely be strange.
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