A Sense of Infinite Possibility

Scatter, Adapt and RememberSome mornings I wake up stunned by what the human race is on the verge of understanding and doing. Those are the days when I really regret that I’m not immortal.

I’m not interested in the immortality of a Roger Zelazny character and my desire for it has nothing to do with power. It’s more akin to the desire to keep reading a book: I don’t want to die because I want to know what happens next.

And based on the things I stumble upon on a regular basis, the human race is on the cusp of some awesome and awful changes, many of which will probably come to fruition shortly after I shuffle off this mortal coil. Bah.

The article that started this particular round of rumination was one about the importance of microbes in soil. While it was an article worrying about the risks to microbial diversity in soil — yet another problem caused by big agriculture and climate change — my immediate reaction was to be thrilled. We are beginning to understand the importance of microbial life in the world around us as well as in our guts.

It won’t be long before we know much more about friendly as well as unfriendly bacteria, before we develop ways to encourage the former and discourage the latter. The intelligent microbes of Joan Slonczewski’s Brain Plague may not be such a wild leap. 

The human genome work is likely to give us targeted medical treatments that work with our particular bodies. Add in an understanding of each person’s microbial component and we may be able to tweak that even further.

I suspect we’ll reach that point before the century is out, maybe sooner. Even without the singularity, increased life span will be possible.

Of course, climate change is going to affect us in profound ways, some of them catastrophic and painful. But how amazing it is that we understand climate change. Civilizations have undergone climate change before — including changes they brought on themselves as well as ones caused by planetary shifts — but never before have they understood what was happening and had a chance to affect the outcome.

Living through turbulent times caused by climate disasters will be unpleasant, but still, how wonderful to live in a world where we can understand what’s going on. I’m currently reading Annalee Newitz‘s book Scatter, Adapt and Remember, which addresses mass extinctions and human adaptability. How humans will develop is a fascinating subject.

Then there’s the real possibility of living on other planets. The Mars One project is looking for applicants to colonize Mars in the next ten years. There are other private groups working on moon colonies, space elevators, and you name it. Oh, how I’d like to live on another planet, or at least visit one.

I, as I think I’ve mentioned on here before, am driven by a desire to know things and to see them. My recent ancestors were pioneers (and all that is both good and bad about those pioneers) and they left me with the urge to “boldly go where no one has been before.”

Damn it, I don’t want to die before I get a chance to live on another planet. Could we hurry up with that work on the genome and the microme?


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