*Something I wrote back in 2005, and I, and everyone else, have become one of the very people described at the end of the article…*

A click and a whirr… And here we are, like the Jam said ”This is the modern world, that I’ve learned about’, 2005, the modern age. Well terminators didn’t descend upon the earth in August 97′, 1984 came and went without a hitch, like the government imprisoning society for instance (although that one is in the pipeline), but it doesn’t look like we’ll be at any sort of ‘Blade Runner’ level of existence anytime soon, flying cars and the suchlike, ‘Space Oddysey 2001′ wasn’t far wrong though…space exploration has been well on its way since the 70’s.So what have we learned? What is different now to when you were born? More importantly, what’s to come? We’ve had our Stone Age, Copper Age, Bronze Age and an Iron Age was thrown in there somewhere too, even a brief stint in the Stoned Age (see Summer of Love 1967). So where are we now? The Silicon Age? Is that over yet? Certainly a lot has happened, even in just the past 30 years a helluva’ lot has went down! Microwaves, mobiles, t’internet, VCR, CD, DVD, LCD, LSD, LED, MP3, satellites, nukes, CAT scans, digital cameras, personal stereos, pocket calculators, camcorders and self-contained artificial hearts, and so on…

These are all technological advancements, but what of the natural course of things, such as evolution? How have humans developed in the last 1,000 years? How many humans does it take to screw a lightbulb? Well we don’t seem to have changed much, in fact, I would say that evolution as far as humans are concerned is as dead as the diplodocus! I don’t think we’ve advanced all that much within our bodies since we climbed down out of the trees. Our evolution lies no longer within the vehicles of our mind, but with the vehicles of our roads – technology. Fast cars have become our extra legs, heavy machinery our extra arms, through telescopes we have superior vision to any damn eagle! And through jet planes we’ve mastered the holy grail – the power of flight – and beyond, to outer space! Wasn’t it Neil Armstrong that once said ”Through infinity, and beyond” Haha.

But maybe the computer screen and social media are a step towards a collective consciousness, with the computer acting as an interface to ease us in to the notion.

So what about the animals? They don’t have telescopes so why don’t they evolve further? If we all came from apes, why aren’t the apes you see today picking up tools, or discovering fire, or microwaving a burrito? Well of course evolution is too slow a thing to measure with the naked eye of history. And maybe, given time, the apes will invent the wheel (again). Perhaps even another 30 million years down the highway of space and time we’ll be sharing our bars and bus seats with some distant relative of the lion – some half-humanoid, half-feline drunken figure standing next to you at the whiskey-drenched bar ordering up antelope steak, extremely rare, and a pint of blood with a Wild Turkey chaser!

Some may say that the only progress we could possibly make from our current state of super-being would be to develop superhuman characteristics – like Spiderman, The Fantastic 4, or Beetlejuice – but then you might reply that this is absolutely ludicrous by any stretch of the imagination…or is it?
Is there not evidence all around us of such superhuman qualities? I don’t think there is a single super hero character whose special skills can’t be attributed to a member of the animal world, right here on the ravaged face of this green planet, what super hero powers are there? X-ray vision? Bats and dolphins already pass off a form of this with the way they use radar to sense what is round the corner, or on the other side of a wall, or a few miles ahead.

Harnessing the power of electricity to shock you? Like Blanka or Darth Vader or even, like the electric eel (Isn’t that a little backwards!? A water-based animal going more electric than Bob Dylan in 1965!) Then there’s shape-shifting, camouflage skills, which you could compare to a chameleon or any number of spiders and mammals.

The ability to fly is an easy one; the bumble bee shouldn’t, aerodynamically-speaking, be able to take flight, but the bee, not knowing this, continues to fly anyway. Super speed? Like a cheetah or a shrimp? Extraordinary strength? An ant lifts ten times its own body weight, an ant carrying a leaf as they do, is the equivalent of us lifting our entire house onto our backs and trotting off!

The ability to transcend great distances in a single leap is covered (literally) by the flea, clearing the equivalent of a skyscraper every time it jumps. In fact, not one single superhuman trait hasn’t already been identified by the animal kingdom. Indeed, these creatures were the inspiration for the characters in the first place. Biomimicry, inventions inspired by biology, just like the design of the first plane was modelled on a dragonfly, the submarine modelled on the whale, emulating echolocation in bats has led to an ultracane for the visually impaired. Other examples include; solar cells made like leaves, bionic cars inspired by the boxfish, and wetsuit fabric that mimics shark skin.

In Utah they’ve transplanted the genes from a silk spider that tell it to make silk and have put it in goats. Now, instead of milk the genetically-modified goats produce vast quantities of spider silk that is one of the strongest substances known to man. Could the same methods be used to make a Spiderman, a man that produces web, why not take the gene from an electric eel and make a Blanka!?

But maybe there is nowhere for humans to go on the chain of evolution now. One thing’s for sure, if the only way up, from now on, is through electronic gadgets, we’re all going to become a hell of a lot more isolated and withdrawn.

When I’m sitting on the train to work, you can almost guarantee, that anybody who gets on, whether it be OAPs, neds, workers, schoolkids, businessmen, absolutely anybody, they’ll get on, sit down, take a disinterested glance around, whip out their phone and start jabbering away on the buttons like a person possessed undergoing exorcism. What are you doing exactly? Texting? Gaming? Surfing? All of the above simultaneously no doubt! A phone is like a Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Dr.Who’s sonic screwdriver rolled into one nowadays!

The point being that we are gradually losing the ability to converse at an everyday level. Imagine the difference between the carriage on a train in the 40’s, or even the early 80’s – no mobiles to get consumed in, forcing, godforbid, conversation, between fellow passengers, interaction with strangers, completely unheard of in these days of personal everything; personal phones, personal MP3’s, personal Playstations, and not to mention the ultimate of personal computers, the laptop.

Pretty soon we’re only going to know how to communicate in terms of text message, MSN, email or Facebook! I can see it now – the year is 2025, two people sit opposite each other on some sort of futuristic, high-speed, bulletin train that does Glasgow to London in thirty minutes, a laptop fitted to each table, the two people’s jaws have ceased to work, rusted through decades of neglect and disuse, the two people have laptops though, balanced precariously on their knees, the USB is wired straight into their frontal lobe so only the whites of their eyes show as the mind processes the vast swarms of information. Cyberspace is crammed into their cyberminds, intense, deep conversation exists between them, but not on the outside, on the outside there is only silence, complete and total nuclear silence (even train engines in this time don’t nake a noise, just a smooth whisper through the air).

And yet on a train in the 60’s there are pockets of discussion everywhere – strangers talking to strangers, friendships are being forged up and down the carriages – You try to talk to somebody on a train now, and they’ll think you’re crazy, or that you’re going to hurt them, or both! if you’re on a train look to your left and right – there’ll be someone with headphones stuffed in their ears, head nodding softly, the annoyingly catchy riff of some pop jingle echoing faintly from the deep depths of their 180g iPod, somebody with a laptop perched on their thighs, their face bathed in a bluish glow as the World Wide Web hums away in front of them, access to anywhere, and anybody in Whole Wide World and yet ironically they are completely submerged in isolation, and on top of all these wireless hordes there will be a whole symphony of folk stabbing at the keys on their phone, playing golf, texting, surfing, rotting…alone.

It’s got to a point that if I get on a train and I need to make an important call, or I know for a fact there is a text message from somebody, just sitting there waiting to be read, I’ll refrain from getting my phone out at the risk of being associated with these maniacs who seem to have information super highways¬†connected to their brains, wirelessly, of course.

I refrain these days from looking at my phone in public at all, unless I absolutely have to, I like to take a look around now and then at the world that is unfolding while everyone has their head in the sand, literally in the silicone. Or maybe I was just born somewhere on wrong side of The Digital Revolution, The Age of Information, The Digi-Decades, The Mobile Millennia, or indeed the cusp of an I.T Age… Isolation Technology… An ‘Ice Age’ as it were.

C.T.H

Advertisements