“Fish­es live in the sea, as men do a‑land; the great ones eat up the lit­tle ones.” — William Shakespeare 

pregnant-worldOh boy, are we in for it. We’re in trou­ble now! We’ve opened up the black box of incep­tion and now we can’t put the genie back. Now we can freeze embryos and implant them and grow babies like plants. Women can store their embryos and have a reserve of chil­dren that are as yet unborn. It’s not unlike a file back­up sys­tem. If one of your chil­dren for one rea­son or anoth­er doesn’t ful­fill some fam­i­ly myth, and there are plen­ty of fam­i­ly myths to be ful­filled, (just think about your own upbring­ing and the myths fos­tered upon your life,) you can down­load anoth­er con­tender to the throne.

I can see the sce­nario now, lit­tle Bil­ly is play­ing in the sand box out back when his moth­er brings him a soft drink and tells him that he ‘s about to have a lit­tle broth­er. Bil­ly gags on the soft drink and exclaims, “Why? Haven’t I been hold­ing up my end of the deal around here? I bust my ass get­ting good grades, doing my home­work and clean­ing up my room. I even eat your hor­ren­dous cook­ing, and those veg­eta­bles! Aren’t you pleased with my work?” “Bil­ly,” Mom con­soles, “it’s not that you aren’t hold­ing up your end of the deal, it’s just that I have some needs that you can’t meet. So, I’ve decid­ed to thaw out your lit­tle broth­er and bring him to term. You’ll be replaced in the fam­i­ly peck­ing order and relieved of any expec­ta­tions of great­ness. But the good thing is, you get to be the big broth­er with all the priv­i­leges that such sta­tus brings!” “Great!” Bil­ly expels sar­cas­ti­cal­ly, “Do we know who the father is of this one or should I pack a suit­case for the Mau­ry Show?”

This is only the begin­ning of the night­mare of sci­ence and biol­o­gy min­gling to form the mod­ern Franken­stein soci­ety. We are head­ed for a caste sys­tem that will make the one por­trayed in the sci­ence fic­tion dra­ma Gat­ta­ca seem like a mild indict­ment. The impli­ca­tions of mod­ern sci­ence and the dan­gers of wield­ing such a sharp instru­ment as IVF (in vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion) as casu­al­ly as a butch­er knife fore­tell of grave days to come. It is like run­ning across a frozen lake, imbed­ded with land mines, hold­ing said butch­er knife while wear­ing clown shoes. This is cer­tain­ly a recipe for dis­as­ter, just add a delud­ed fool and stand back.

I don’t mean to come off like a Lud­dite. I use and appre­ci­ate tech­nol­o­gy and its advances as much if not more than any­body. I hap­pen to real­ize that any suf­fi­cient­ly devel­oped tech­nol­o­gy is almost indis­tin­guish­able from mag­ic. Who doesn’t like a lit­tle mag­ic? That’s what makes tech­nol­o­gy so cool.

A polar oppo­site to reli­gion, sci­ence is always chang­ing its shape and ques­tion­ing itself and rely­ing on proven truths culled from the sci­en­tif­ic method. We have come to believe in sci­ence and sci­en­tists in today’s sec­u­lar soci­ety as the keep­ers of the truth. There are plen­ty of flaws in the phi­los­o­phy of sci­ence that are late­ly com­ing to light with the dis­cov­er­ies of quan­tum physics and oth­er puz­zling phe­nom­e­na. But we believe that tech­nol­o­gy is the way we humans can live hap­pi­er lives. Tech­nol­o­gy gives us mod­ern drugs, and devices and all man­ner of com­forts. So far it doesn’t do much for our spir­i­tu­al health or our men­tal health. So when these two unad­dressed prob­lems of the human exis­tence cause trou­ble for us, we divert our­selves with tech­nol­o­gy. There’s noth­ing like a Playsta­tion or an Xbox to take the edge off the day.

If we are sup­posed to be the supe­ri­or beings of earth, why do we need tech­nol­o­gy to sur­vive here? Tech­nol­o­gy is our guar­an­tee. We’ll per­ish with­out it; the ani­mals and the ele­ments would wipe our supe­ri­or butts out. So if it is true that tech­nol­o­gy is nec­es­sary for sur­vival or insur­ance against the harsh cru­el, indif­fer­ence of nature, then how did the low­ly cock­roach come through the cat­a­clysm that claimed the dinosaurs with­out a scratch? Did the cock­roach have tech­nol­o­gy? Maybe they had lit­tle tiny inter­stel­lar roach coach­es that they all piled into to escape the earth’s impend­ing doom, return­ing when the coast was clear. Nah.

This is not Gregor Samsa in spite of what you've heard.

This is not Gre­gor Sam­sa in spite of what you’ve heard.

Roach­es don’t have tech­nol­o­gy. I’ve seen them crawl out of a lot of it though. I’ve seen a huge cock­roach strolling into a fine Ital­ian restau­rant in down­town San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia. I watched two healthy sized roach­es nav­i­gate the busy side­walk dur­ing lunch hour in Pitts­burgh. I thought they were doomed to the ran­dom foot­falls of the pedes­tri­an traf­fic, but every­one stepped around them. They got respect. This was a tes­ta­ment to their sur­vival skills.

Roach­es cer­tain­ly don’t mind tech­nol­o­gy, as any New York City apart­ment dweller can attest. The cock­roach ain’t got no shame. He’ll crawl through your sal­ad at the trendi­est restau­rant. He’ll ride home with you on pub­lic trans­porta­tion and stroll across your liv­ing room floor to see what’s on tele­vi­sion. They take cab rides; go shop­ping at gro­cery stores. Every­where you go they can fol­low. I’ve heard that they can with­stand a turn in a microwave and come out refreshed. I guess it’s like a roach sauna to them. Radi­a­tion doesn’t both­er them so when the fire next time comes, as we immo­late our­selves with the tech­nol­o­gy of nuclear weapons, the cock­roach will sur­vey the earth’s stage and yell, “Next?”
And Moth­er Nature will com­ply. The next “supe­ri­or” species will dis­cov­er our fol­ly in the ruble we leave behind. They will put our ancient relics in their muse­ums and their cit­i­zens will study our ipods, and widescreen tele­vi­sions and DVD’s and cell phones and auto­mo­biles etc. All the garbage we col­lect­ed from the big box stores lying on a radioac­tive heap in mute tes­ti­mo­ny of a lost civilization.

Our egos are so huge that we believe our act is here for an extend­ed run. We believe in our tech­nol­o­gy and our mas­tery of all we sur­vey. We have the oppos­able thumb, tools, and the big brain. With the stuff we use, how can we lose?

As a species we are in direct com­pe­ti­tion with insects for the resources of the plan­et. Unlike the insects who seem to belong here, we seem more like a for­eign invad­er. Insects only look the part.

One of the first things you learn in a col­lege botany course is that no organ­ism can sur­vive in its own waste. This is why bac­te­r­i­al infec­tions die out. So many bac­te­ria have mul­ti­plied that there is nowhere for the waste to go and they choke them­selves to death in their own filth. They may have long since killed their host, but the par­ty ends when the resources run out.

The low­er ani­mals don’t pro­duce any­thing at odds with the ecol­o­gy of moth­er earth. Bees pro­duce hon­ey but they’ve nev­er pro­duced a plas­tic bag or any­thing that might choke a fish. Ants move tons of earth but they don’t need heavy equip­ment to do it and they don’t pol­lute the atmos­phere with diesel fumes.

We pol­lute our air, cre­ate tox­ic land­fills and pol­lute oceans with, life-threat­en­ing ooze. We poi­son the place we live as a side effect of our tech­nol­o­gy. We make stuff. The pol­lu­tion from man­u­fac­tur­ing one video cas­sette is enor­mous! Our com­put­er and bat­tery waste is chok­ing us to death. For­get glob­al warm­ing, we’ve got big­ger trou­ble. We have the stuff we have, thanks to the stuff we use. It’s all good. Or like Martha Stew­art would say, tech­nol­o­gy is a “good thing”. This is what we believe but it has yet to be proven.

We’ve made our­selves com­fy in this cru­el and harsh envi­ron­ment. We’ve man­aged to thrive with­out the nat­ur­al defens­es afford­ed the oth­er species we share the plan­et with. We are our only preda­tor. Noth­ing can stop us from proliferating.

Every­one seems to want a child, a lit­tle bit of DNA to hang around after we’re gone. If we are to stay in com­pe­ti­tion with the low­er ani­mals then we must repro­duce to do so. If tech­nol­o­gy can help us out with that then more pow­er to the clinic!

Here’s the rub. The resources that we have are finite. There is only so much space, and resources to sus­tain life. Remem­ber the bac­te­ria par­ty I men­tioned above? And who are humans most like in the pan­theon of life on earth? I’m not going to say we’re a bunch of cooties but we have a thing or two in com­mon. Ram­pant pop­u­la­tion growth in a lim­it­ed space leads to entropy.

Let’s take a hard look at the min­i­mum sys­tem require­ments for human exis­tence. Let’s look at the hard­ware pro­file of earth. Hang on it’s going to get a lit­tle tech­ni­cal, after all we’re talk­ing about tech­nol­o­gy and some math is involved. Ready?

We know that the sur­face of a sphere is rep­re­sent­ed by the for­mu­la: 4•?•r2, which in plain Eng­lish is four times the num­ber “pie” times the radius squared. See that wasn’t so bad, you can bet that Mr. Cock­roach doesn’t know that. This for­mu­la is impor­tant to us humans because we live on a sphere or at least one quar­ter of it. The fish have the rest. Makes you start to won­der about who is smartest doesn’t it? Those slip­pery, scaly bas­tards took the most ter­ri­to­ry, and they don’t even have tech­nol­o­gy! It’s okay though; we’re poi­son­ing them with mer­cury and plas­tic debris. That’ll teach them!

How many peo­ple can the earth sup­port? Let’s see we’ve estab­lished that we live on a sphere and only a quar­ter of that is land. Now we have to fac­tor in the fer­tile land, because the bar­ren stuff isn’t of much use to us. We can con­clude that one plot of fer­tile land can sup­port one human. How big is that plot? We’re talk­ing 100 square feet. Every­thing that sus­tains the life of an indi­vid­ual no mat­ter whom he or she thinks they are, boils down to that 100 square feet. Hum­bling isn’t it?

I don’t care how many ipods, Playstaions, widescreen tele­vi­sions or spin­ning hub­caps you own, with­out those 100 square feet of fer­tile ter­ra fir­ma, you’re fucked. Game over dude!

But tech­nol­o­gy can save the day! It hasn’t giv­en us gills yet so that we can make war on the fish and raid their neigh­bor­hood and take all their shit and claim the ocean floor as ours. But it could come to that. We’re work­ing on it! We have tech­nol­o­gy! That gene splic­ing is get­ting pret­ty well advanced.

We are even now devel­op­ing float­ing domi­ciles that can extend our sur­face area to the watery domain. Until we work the bugs out of float­ing neigh­bor­hoods, like where to walk the dog or what type of plumb­ing is need­ed, we know that through tech­nol­o­gy 70% of land can become fertile.

After we nail the fer­tile earth prob­lem we have to con­sid­er the water prob­lem. Once you start to screw with the water you have to con­sid­er that only 1% of the stuff is drink­able, that fac­tors out to only 0.7425% of all the earth’s water. Those fish took every­thing. I say we skip the float­ing city and get some gills and go and get those bas­tards. We’ll have to take on the sin­is­ter shark squadrons and the jel­ly­fish jun­ta, but we will pre­vail. We have spear guns and they don’t.

This tiny 1% of water is all there is for all of human­i­ty. This is the same water we piss in, take a bath in, take a shit in, water the grass with, mix up Kool-Aid in make cof­fee and tea with. We puke in it, flush con­doms in it, fil­ter it and put it into fan­cy plas­tic bot­tles and sell it to morons who are will­ing to pay a cou­ple of bucks for it. Everyone’s heard the joke about how the brand of bot­tled water called Evian spells “Naïve”backwards. I guess some exer­cise; health buff was drink­ing a bot­tle while admir­ing their physique in a mir­ror at the gym and noticed the gaffe.

Our water must be recy­cled. Astro­nauts have to recy­cle their own urine to keep a water sup­ply. Well the earth is like our space ship and we have to recy­cle our water too. A guy I know relat­ed a sto­ry to me about the first week he worked at a water fil­tra­tion plant. He was peer­ing down into one of the huge vats that are used to strain all the crud we put into our 1% of water to make it drink­able again. The water has to pass through a chem­i­cal bath and a suc­ces­sion of small­er screens to get the crud out. At this ini­tial fil­ter­ing he noticed a mil­lion tiny rings left behind like spaghet­tios. Curi­ous, he asked the vet­er­an next to him what those rings had to do with the fil­tra­tion process, The vet­er­an replied “What, you don’t know what those are? They’re condoms!”

condom flushNow, the spaghet­tio-moun­tain is not entire­ly a bad thing, as the con­doms are birth con­trol and there­fore are help­ing to con­serve our lim­it­ed resources by cut­ting down on pop­u­la­tion growth. It’s just iron­ic that this mea­sure ends up as pol­lu­tion of the very resource that they help to conserve.

So let’s comb the sober­ing data to see what infor­ma­tion comes out that we can point at and make some sense of. The num­ber of peo­ple the earth can sup­port. Here comes some math again so hold on to those calculators.

The num­ber of peo­ple the earth can sup­port is N = (the sur­face of the earth in square miles) times the (num­ber of square feet in a square mile) times (1/4 which is land) times the (70% fer­tile land after tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs make it avail­able) divid­ed by (10,000 Square Feet per per­son) can be expressed as N = 9•1x10E10 = 90 bil­lion peo­ple in 5 cen­turies time. So in the year 2400 or 2500 A.D.…we’re fucked.

Long before we get there, we’ll have famine and war and pesti­lence. There’s only so much of the good life to go around. The cootie par­ty will draw to an ugly close, while the cock­roach sits by preen­ing his lit­tle anten­nae won­der­ing what the next act will be. Our com­pan­ion the cock­roach is earth’s wit­ness to the stage and Moth­er Nature is the playwright.

You remem­ber Macbeth’s famous solil­o­quy: “Life’s but a walk­ing shad­ow, a poor play­er, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” My Shake­speare is rusty so don’t wor­ry if I didn’t get that line just right. The point is; we are the strut­ting fools.

Ira Har­mon