Are you sitting comfortably?
Notice something about human history? We’ve got a habit of exploring our boundaries and we like to tell stories – be it in written word or moving pictures or games.
Featured Hero Image: Apocalyptic City by Vapid Sea
Right now things feel pretty saturated with such experiences past, present and near future. From reality TV shows to YouTube to a billion bloggers typing out their thoughts every day. Content galore. And a sense that there’s not much left to explore: discounting the unplumbed depths of our vast oceans and the somewhat large expanse of our Galaxy and the rest of the Universe.
But I’m focusing on us and this little blue ball we currently live on.
We’re reaching critical mass. Collapse marker. Reset point.
You’re probably aware of that deep gnawing feeling that something big and bad is heading our way. That’s because Time is just the way your brain organises and processes the information being made available to it. There’s much more to see if you can submerge into the Collective Unconscious or ascend into the realms of the Astral Plane. Some of us already know what’s coming.
And you don’t need to be able to peer into ever-shifting temporal flux of the future to see it. Just twist your head around and peer back at where you’ve come from.
In the last 4.5 billion years of this planet’s history life has been gassed, burned, buried, frozen, flooded and impacted into near total extinction. Five mass extinction events precede our tiny slice of organic history.
- Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction
- Late Devonian mass extinction
- Permian mass extinction
- Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction
- Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction
Most of us are aware of the Dinosaurs dying out but long before that the Permian mass extinction wiped out 96% of all species. Hence why this particular event is called the Great Dying. Think about it, all life on Earth today has evolved from just 4% of the species that survived.
What kind of bipedal – or otherwise – creatures never had a chance to emerge into this present day reality? Do you think humans would be the dominant species or food for something else?
A moot point. We’re here and we’re enjoying the fact. Mostly.
It’s hasn’t been an easy ride. Yet modern humans have so far managed to duck below the extinction blade whilst the Neanderthals and other groups have not. Can you explain why? We’re problem solvers and have a natural instinct to adapt.
When the sixth mass extinction event does swing into view, soon, it’s in your best interests to be prepared – and perhaps motivate some of your fellow Homo sapiens to do the same.
Environmental damage and climate change are high on the agenda for media, scientific lobby groups and some governments but don’t take your eyes off the inky blackness of space. There’s an asteroid with our name on it out there somewhere. Likewise, a gamma-ray burst could just as quickly zap us back into the stone age. And if your feet are planted firmly on the ground, consider the vast pools of superheated magma looking for ways to vent: a nuclear winter could be triggered just as much by a super volcano as cascade of atomic bombs.
Bee colonies are dying. If bees go extinct then the foundation for the pollination of crops will collapse. Further extinctions will tumble outwards. We’re already witnessing 33% of amphibian species under threat of extinction. And some estimates place the number of actual species extinctions on the planet at more than 25,000 per year.
Paleontologist Richard Leakey coined the term “sixth extinction” and the weird thing is, we might be living through it right now. Because most extinctions don’t happen quickly. They take hundreds of thousands of years to conclude. Earth has room for a long memory.
So what can you do?
Me, I’m building a space ship. I haven’t figured out where I’m going to run to yet but once somebody comes up with a realistic Goldilocks candidate I’m outta here.
For the rest of you landlubbers, survival is going to require some pragmatic thinking and quite a lot of effort.
You might have given this some thought. You might already be a prepper or a survivalist; even if you don’t have a permacrete bunker fitted with independent air supply, short-wave radio, microwave transceiver, trauma kits and enough ration packs to survive a year.
A poignant fact, probably somewhere near or far on the terrain of your apocalypse awareness, is what happens when wide-span distribution networks stop running. Either through natural disaster or through man-made circumstances such as fuel strikes. When the shops stop restocking shelves a dull panic sets in amongst the primate cells of the brain. No food. No water. A grab for available resources takes place. Tensions rocket. Violence lurks between every second. And this is whilst the idea of it being a short-term problem sits in mind. Imagine what happens when there isn’t any resolution of the problem in sight. Well, Hollywood and independent film-makers have created hundreds of scenarios to enjoy whilst we shovel hotdogs and popcorn down our gobs. Personally I’d like to hope there was a little bit more goodwill in the human spirit. The natural instinct to survive usually includes the desire to help others. We’re a social species. We need others to help us cope.
One way to avoid the rush and crush of apocalyptic looters is to be prepared. Spend one afternoon and a little bit of money and you’ll have a better chance to be a part of the next 4%. A backpack. Lighweight waterproofs. Canned food. Water purification tablets. A light source. A pair of ski radios. Spare batteries. Small first aid kit. A bottle of hard liquor (antiseptic, dutch-courage and part of your bartering kit). A hunting knife. An axe. Bartering kit: non-perishable or semi-perishable items that will be perceived as luxury years after Day Zero such as perfumed soap, high-quality chocolate, spices, coffee and, wait for it, even toilet paper). Some of these things will need checking and replacing periodically.
Next, discuss the plan with people you care about. Identify people you know with military experience and knowledge of how to grow food. Loop them into your plan. Give them a simple print out with a map and two rendezvous points, one primary, one fallback.
There. Done. You’re organised and you’re prepared.
It’s going to be a hard slog. No doubt about it. But you now have a better chance to make it and join the small contingent of living organism that will carry the DNA through to the next epoch.
This is the point where I interject some of my personal bias. If you know anybody involved in the brain-dead risk averse cancer of human society called Health & Safety, take steps to ensure they don’t survive.
Even better, carpet tape them to a barn door by their hands and feet and ask them how it feels to have robbed an entire generation of the fun of evolutionary pressure.
This ties into the bigger idea. It’s not enough to just save yourself and a handful of friends and family. We, as individuals and a society, need to consider a wider plan when what we’re facing is a total mass extinction event.
Don’t worry. We’ve done it all before. And 100,000 years ago we didn’t have the benefit of nanomech, cyberware or synthetic biology to carry our exhausted muscles and poisoned organs over the radiation-blasted, lava burned, Earthquake cracked barriers to survival.
100,000 years ago the total population of Homo sapiens on the planet could be measured in the 1,000s.
Maybe that’s the number that escaped the flesh pits of the Elder Things after the Shoggoth revolt. Or possibly all that remained of the population that managed to escape the final death of Mars. Most theorists agree on a mix of climate change and the brutal hardships of the migration from Africa. Whatever caused it, the fossil record and genetic analysis generate a consistent image of Earth being a lonely place to be back then.
That was actually an advantage when it came to our predilection for roaming far and wide, exploring and pushing boundaries. The low population drove us to seek new experiences and adapt. And because humans have a great diversity in what they can eat, and can persist in a large variety of locations, it meant they spread and multiplied. The gene pool scattered, like seeds on a global wind.
The problem now is that humans have done rather too well at surviving. The population is bursting sustainability boundaries. The next set of big wars won’t be fought over land and political differences, but are going to be about grabbing water and food. When the poor people can’t afford bread in their bellies they march on their feet. Chaos follows.
Nature abhors stasis.
A moment of balance and calm is merely the middle point between one extreme and another.
Maybe that moment is a couple of centuries long. Or a couple of millennia? Or 10,000 years.
The city is a relatively modern invention compared against the time-frame of human history. Many humans feel comfortable cocooned within steel, concrete, glass and brick shells, disconnected from the brutality / beauty of Nature. But when the power stops and the water ceases to flow, and the drains backup and the dead begin to rot, bringing in disease, vermin and lice, then cities become the stage for a horror show.
That very lack of Nature, the absence of a self-sustainable existence, can quickly turn all that concrete into a prison and a death trap.
One possible solution then, is to change the fabric of the modern city. Help change the modern city into the city of the future.
Right now, French architect Vincent Callebaut has devised a masterplan to transform the military district of Rome into a self-sufficient urban ecosystem. The ‘città della scienza’, or the ‘city of science’, encourages the promotion of sustainable design, low carbon transportation and renewable energies.
Synthetic biology and nanotechnology are opening up avenues of practical research that could bring about this change. Products, supported by a viable commercial model, that attract users through financial savings (on energy bills), improved health (maybe), and appealing to the Gaia-morality of saving planet Earth. Such products could harness energy from the sun, utilise rainwater and bacteria, with a final result of providing living spaces with heat, light through luminescence, cleaner air, moderate electricity and some staple nutrition. Things like sodalum panels for light, gelweed for fabric and food are the bleeding edge of new tech, but for any meaningful benefit to emerge this has to be more than a few novelty ‘air fresheners hanging in beautiful apartments.
Deploy the technology across an entire city and you magnify the benefits. You turn a city from a likely tomb into a potential survival hub. A wedge to lift the competitive odds against total extinction.
Unless, of course, the Sun explodes.
The ultimate survival trick is for humanity to get off the planet.
Throw those gene seeds up into the interstellar winds to scatter and evolve.
The technology developed to improve human cities can be applied to the issue of humans surviving long-term space travel and bedding down when they get somewhere.
But what will those distant humans look like?
5 million years ago we were no taller than an 8-year-old child and covered in fur, and not too different from our ancestral apes except that we had learned to walk upright. Skip three million years of evolutionary drift and you’ll find us walking around with bigger skulls and nearly as tall as humans are today; that boost in height and intelligence gave us greater ability to cope physically with different terrain and problem solve when we got somewhere new; we could move faster, further and more importantly we could develop tools. The remarkably crafted hand axes they carried around were no different to the 21st century electronic tablets that will soon morph into the ubiquitous PA.
Regardless of the exponential complexity being packed into the data punch of modern computers, which will eventually merge into the bio-chemical and neural processes of the body, humans will always feel more comfortable with something weighty and meaningful clenched in one fist. This is still 2 million years ago. And this creature isn’t yet us but one of numerous tool-using hominids walking around Africa and migrating north and out through Egypt. In fact, there were several migrations. A combination of catastrophic changes in climate and environment, and new opportunities through evolutionary developments saw these hominids spread along the coast of North Africa, deep into Europe and down across Asia.
1.5 million years ago some of them mastered the technology of building fire. 500, 000 years ago an evolutionary fork led to the Neanderthals emerging across Spain, England, Russia and further, but fate drew them down into extinction.
200,000 years ago, a separate thread of evolution led to something walking around that was almost indistinguishable from humans today: Homo sapien. For nearly 100,000 years they behaved no different to their predecessors and then something changed.
100,000 years ago Homo sapiens went through a radical up-shift in the way they used their brains: they began to work with abstract ideas, using language and symbols to communicate, share stories and exchange knowledge. Art, fashion, complex advancements in stone technology emerged from what was a cultural revolution. We became capable of visualising what was not directly in front of us. Imagining new concepts and new worlds, and telling others about those ideas.
A similar event is about to transform modern humans today.
The “people” who reach for the stars and eventually get there won’t be the Homo sapien pioneers that launch the first raft of journeys. They will be Homo simicrants. Organic minds born into flesh and then… selectively adjusted.
Before that though, Borgendrill Corporation will kick-start the Galaxy race with its rafts of machine colonies. Machines capable of landing on distant asteroids and planets to mine raw materials, capable of self-replication, to build cargo haulers for sending resources back down the logistical chain towards Earth, and launchers to probe further and deeper into space. Land, mine, repeat. Duplicate. Improve. Evolve.
Around the same time, either just before, during or after the public successes of the Borgendrill techno-commercial empire, a new form of intelligence will ascend into consciousness. Not artificial intelligence but alternative intelligence. Machine-based, human inspired. If it doesn’t kill us it will make us stronger.
The baby-steps we mortals are taking with synthetic biology and nanomech will be pushed into a headlong sprint by the power of the AI minds.
New materials. New cultures. New habitats and living environments for the space-faring genomes that first struck rocks against rocks to break them into razor-sharp tools.
What this means, is that when the rest of us are pulverised, gassed, oven-roasted or starved into extinction by a cataclysmic Earth event, there will be human minds capable of observing the event; they just might not look like humans.
She stepped out from the Subtak pod with the grace and elegance of a catwalk model. Her long limbs encased in highly glossed carbo-plastic, bright scarlet in colour; the tight, stylised curves the best in design from Hitochi Karawaki. She paused for a moment, appreciating the view through arcing walls of fu-glass. She could clearly see the platform’s dispersed superstructure where it radiated away from the nub-station on rods that were dozens of miles in length. Powerful lights glittering off every surface.
Sansan Kalinka savoured this moment of return – before the feeling of dread swept in like the inexorable tide of approaching doom.
Her human eyes, large and blue, were set within a fleshy, organic face that was both attractive and based directly on her true form. The machine body was not.
She focussed past the receding lines of the Nergüi platform, to the inky blackness beyond the glare of the lights, where, out there, some 50,000 AU away, was planet Earth. An invisible speck at this distance. Place of her origin. Cradle of her early years of struggle and failure. And now, threatening to tear down the gold-plated walls of her new life of success.
Mother what have you done? And why am I so scared to go back?
Sansan began walking towards the arrivals lounge, a UTOC Marine already opening up the portal at the far end of the fu-glass passageway to direct them to the security check-in. His gaze caught a fraction of her then did a double-take. She beamed a smile. He didn’t look away.
The three other passengers, all sweaty flesh and creased clothing, had also travelled through from the other side of the First Arterial; they gave her a wide-berth, as if wary of encroaching on her personal space, both intimidated and impressed by her blend of machine-design and raw, unblemished human beauty. Icon of the Hitochi Karawaki fashion laboratories.
Her pace slowed as her attention went to the nearby industrial facility. A name in soft green and amber lights:
Long forgotten memories pushed through the filters of her past, and abruptly she recalled her years of working there, next to the Crystal Garden and a life occupying the chassis of a dull, grey Sony Houseman. She’d given up her flesh body back on Earth to pay off her debts, and shipped out here to start a new life at the bottom rung of the ladder. All the sacrifices she’d made had led her to this moment. At a crossroads: to continue on to Earth to help her mother, or to head back, with assured future of growing fame and reward.
# # # Excerpt from short story Kalinka.
You can read this story in its entirety if you visit David J Rodger’s Facebook page (click here) and “like” it. David J Rodger will respond by sending you a private message with a FREE short story attached. If you want Kalinka just say so.
As a final footnote. Our own relatively comfortable duvet of history gets ripped up rather sooner than we’re all expecting. Just after the Borgendrill Enigma and the emergence of AI helps to launch thousands of colonists and settlers into Deep Space, it is the agents of the Cthulhu Mythos who bring about Earth’s near demise. It is the event known by survivors as Yellow Dawn. Ten years later it is Age of Hastur. Ten-thousand years after that, it is the Age of Dragomir.
If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction then you may find the novel Dog Eat Dog a good book to read.
Good books are hard to find. Make your best discovery today. Shop now.
- Paperback from Amazon: US ($), UK (£), DE (Euro)
- Paperback: from LULU
- Kindle: US ($), UK (£), DE (Euro)
# # #