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Monday, 17 June 2019

The Future is a post-natural age!!

Many see the future as an apocalyptic hell. Pick your ending natural disaster, manmade catastrophe or an alien invasion it seems that the future of the human race and the planet is not something many are looking forward to but this is nothing new, a study by sociologist Elise Boulding shows that in western societies at least, the ideas on the end of the world come in cyclic patterns.
I feel we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We as species have always been able to build our way out of trouble even if we sometimes cause a whole new set of problems.
So what could the future hold?
Let’s take a look

The world is not in the best of shape at the moment, pollution is causing untold damage in many environments of the world. Climate change and the claims that we are in the midst of another great extinction event continue to make the headlines.
If this doesn’t change many see a bleak future ahead, and possibly the end of our species. But what if we do as we always have done, and build our way out of trouble?
We have an ever increasing range of technologies that could enable us to build on the very small scale to the extremely large and even manipulate genes to create life to replace that which we drove extinct.
This new era is known as the ‘post-natural' age and it could be a strange and beautiful place.
Mankind has had a hand in changing the world irreversibly, from the move to farming from hunter gathering to the breeding of animals to provide more meat or work for us.
If we go back to around 10,000 years ago, we see the first signs of selective breeding, the slow manipulation of an organisms genes through reproduction to emphasize the trait we found the most desirable.
 Today, technology enables us to make these changes in a single generation.
The sperm from a single male of a species can be collected and used to impregnate multiple females of the species. We can change the genes of the newly created embryos, the first steps in creating manmade life forms.
We have and are propagating a large number of organisms all over the world, creating a huge biomass that wouldn’t exist without us.
 But these changes may only be the beginning.
Our future could be something we can hardly imagine today Researcher Lauren Holt has explored this future and speculates on some of the changes we could see.
This research is being carried out in a small museum in a quiet area of Pittsburgh , The Center for Post Natural History is home to a collection of strange specimens, explore the laboratories you may find such oddities as a rib-less mouse embryo, sterile male screwworm, a sample of E. coli x1776. There is also the first of the creatures that could become common place in the future. a stuffed transgenic BioSteel goat named Freckles, genetically modified to produce spider silk proteins in her milk.
The main focus of the establishment is the topic of post naturalism they look into such things as the origins, habitats, and evolution of organisms that have been intentionally and heritably altered with genetic engineering, and the influence of human culture and biotechnology on evolution. The museum has a mission statement to educate and encourage people to think about each species of animal and its natural, evolutionary history, and they should consider what a “post-natural “future holds for these creatures.
The changes which come will alter all the flora and fauna that lives on the Earth.
The museum strives to answer
How nature will change?
How will genetic engineering change the path of evolution of the animals and even us?
Let’s take a look at some of these animals starting with the most common of farm animals the Cow!
The cow is an important animal providing many products used and consumed by people, it is not the most heavily farmed animal. The current demand for protein has seen poultry and chicken farms grow into a huge global operation with 70% of all avians alive on this planet being the farmed fowl.
The cattle farms of the future (if meat does not end up being lab grown) will be very different from today. Drones and automated machines will take over the care for the animals and the bovines themselves will be very different beasts.
Farmers have for millennia selectively bred animals to increase their inherent resilience and productivity. This breeding has seen dairy cows produce four times more milk than cows’ from75 years ago. With genetic sequencing, science could soon bring these animals to peak productivity.
Also the creation of superfoods tailored to optimize their energy, protein, and vitamins while improving overall wellbeing will give better yields and healthier herds. These cows could be engineered to grow larger while needing less water and food, we may well see a supersized animal that produces more for us to use.
There is space for such animals because we have destroyed so much of the environment that we have caused mammals to shrink. Hunting has killed of much of the large fauna according to the paleo-biologist Felisa Smith.
There have already been irreversible losses of biodiversity and species.
This is when technologies like CRISPR step in with scientist creating animals that could fill the space or vacated niches.
Crispr-Cas9, can be used to move genes between species, make certain genes more prevalent in populations of living animals it can even be used to create wholly synthetic organisms.

The genetic modification of animals has been used to exterminate certain species. Humanity has been waging war on the mosquito since the beginning of time, the tiny insect remains one of humanity’s greatest natural enemies.
The war could however be coming  to a close the use of Biotechnology has allowing for the creation and release of hordes of sterile males, these genetically modified males will used  to crash the breeding  population. This manipulation will not be isolated to insects as climate change takes hold, scientists and policy makers have begun to prioritize “ecosystem services”.
They are looking into pollination and the replenishment of fish stocks, and are considering how bio-engineered organisms or mechanical agents could help if released into the wild. One of the first experiments has already taken place, scientist releasing heat resistant coral polyps to replenish reefs due to their engineered ability to survive hotter ocean temperatures.
Another highly important animal that is on the brink of extinction and if it were to disappear it could crash the countless ecosystems around the planet, is the bee.
This scenario was the focus of an excellent Black Mirror episode.
Experts today are editing the genes of bees to help them with the ability to withstand a disease which is causing the die off of the pollinator’s globally. There are also plans to create technologies to replace the insects, engineering on the nano-scale building billions of mechanical drones to take over the job of pollinizing the plants of the world.
Others have imagined creatures that would be engineered to fill roles that the currently do not.
Vincent fourniers created a book of animals that could be seen in the future using today’s science as a starting point.
 The Rain Bird (Aucellus pluvia)
Rain Bird (Aucellus pluvia), one of Fournier's imagined creatures, would have the ability to provoke rainfall by disturbing the clouds' static electricity other animals he imagined would have far greater abilities. The White Fennec (Zerdas hypnoticus) an imagined creature with the ability to access and control minds.
If we extend our lens to the far future, how will these technologies change our relationship with the rest of life on Earth?

Various trajectories lay in front of us, from the holistic to the truly strange.
There has been a significant jump in our capabilities to construct not just mechanical machines but also create manipulate and redesign living cells sometime create unique manmade life forms.
Firstly, we shouldn’t be too negative about the future it is possible that we may decide to scale back our manipulation of nature and the wild.
Scientist are aware of problems that we find with the technologies used, as example the way in which edit DNA can often cause unintended damage. The scissors used to cut the molecules not yet being accurate enough. This small inaccuracy can have huge implications on this technologies future use, a small error in the genetic code of an animal passed down over generations can express itself in serious ways.
There is the potential for us to create what could be equated to genetic diseases, so if we do continue we must do so with caution and create a more accurate way to edit cells.
There is also the distinct possibility that humanity may collectively decide to turn its back on this genetic engineering and choose to re-wild nature, making more space for the non-human to exist on a well-functioning planet. Some would say that this plan has been put into action today with programs like Agenda 21 moving the world populations into mega cities and leaving large areas to be reclaimed by nature, we could dig deeper into Agenda 21 in another video.
Let me know if that is something you would like to see?

    If the future peoples of the world do choose to use newly developed science to engineer their way out of problems they must be cautious. Humanity possessing this power along with our curiosity to manipulate the raw materials of life are seductive and ever-increasing!
This is why many believe that plans for human resettlement are the way to go, they think that they provide the most effective way to both protect fragile ecosystems and sustain the human population long term. The activities of societies would be concentrated into inner cities every need we have catered for in that space. Multistory buildings used as farms, water treatment plants recycling H2O for both consumption and production.
One thing that this idea fails to take into account is that evolution will continue in these newly created wild areas. If we spent a number of years away from these places it is very possible that they would still evolve into places we would not recognize. This is something that people sometimes struggle with, we often see things as static in the short term but in the long term we focus on changes. We may need to shift our thinking when considering a ‘post natural future’.
If we choose a technology based future we must be careful to avoid an arms race of sorts. National and private companies developing and implementing corporate plans and law to patent and own ecosystems, animals and the planet. This is an idea that has featured in many works of science fiction.
The world of ‘Aeon flux’ being a great example of what we might see.
The movie and comic books are filled with creatures and humans that have been altered at the genetic level. We see life forms just like those theorized by Vincent Fournier.
 The chimeric organisms created by the French artist could be accurate, creatures like the genetically altered beetles that would become GPS linked and help map the world, birds with metal legs to help them resist a harsher environment and fish adapted to serve as drones. These aquatic life forms becoming the soldiers of future!
If you haven’t heard of this man’s work before I recommend you give it search, you can lose hours pondering his designs and thoughts on the post natural world ahead.
His idea of the future may have some truth to it, we have already started engineering organisms, like the BioSteel goat on display in the Center for Post Natural History that I mentioned in part 1 and a Rib less mouse. A rib less mouse embryo, being created in the laboratory to explore the function of Hox genes. The engineered mouse embryos, BioSteel goat, and fluorescent fish at the Center of Post Natural History may just be the beginning.
These animals  seen as property and is offered protection under law which sees harsher penalties for intellectual and property rights infringements. This legal protection is stronger than the laws which protect natural animals. This could see us placing higher emphasis and value on engineered life.
As such, modified organisms are likely to either replace nature as it stands, or, corporations might seek to, overtly or covertly, do away with comparably unreliable biological entities entirely or populate it with synthesized agents.
 It’s a scary future that would likely be a fragile balance of natural and manmade it could lead to many complications, in addition creating a world devoid of biophilia. We as species are not outside of this realm of engineering if we look very far ahead, a bio-engineered future could even change our sense of what it means to be human.
The idea of Tran humanist future is a topic I have approached a couple of times before, the idea that we will merge with machines becoming cybernetic organisms has been the subject of many papers, movies and books.
They often warn of people losing what makes us human as we alter our bodies, the idea that with each upgrade we sacrifice a little humanity.
The gene altering technologies of a post natural world give us another option. We could merge with plants and animals. Donna Haraway has proposed the idea that we must become part plant, animal or vegetable, she name this transformation “sympoiesis” – a mutually beneficial hybridization with humans.
This could mean that we become invested in the things that we need to survive and that they could be the same as plants and animals. The survival of these modified humans now being linked to survival of natural species, but at that point would we even be considered human?
She is really talking about creating a new dominant species, and you know how that would most likely work out for good old home grown homosapiens!!
This post-natural future takes many past their comfort zone.
What really matters in the broader arc of human history is the legacy we have to our descendants. We should not make changes today that will harm their future
.let me know you thoughts in the comments below

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