Monday, 13 March 2017

And pigs can fly..?


 The following is the unedited version of an exposé currently featured in the 18th revised edition of The Moonshine Memorandum (see below): 
           Next, Craig Venter announced he was working on a digital-biological converter for Mars, and predicted that aliens would soon be able to replicate humans from digitized DNA broadcast into space for extraterrestrial download. Cool. No big deal. Venter is a scientist of enormous repute, a Prometheus-like character and DNA pioneer who is about to  open a clinic in San Diego that will sequence your genome and offer a “longevity plan” which I will not pretend to understand, but which is said to  extend from the Double Helix to the Dawn of Eternal Life. And while “the legislation of assisted dying will become a necessity as the population ages and society becomes less willing and less financially able to look after the elderly,”[1] celebrities are queuing up to 6 billion digits of the elusive chemical code. Which is all fine and dandy. Except that to envisage the golden age of human civilization in terms of Morlocks and Elois entails an altogether greater degree of callousness than that which I am able to muster. 
            Venter may set out to prove that a creative genius can succeed where the scientific establishment has  failed – or where they simply lack the imagination and the will to proceed. That’s his style. He is the iconoclast, the risk-taker,  idiosyncratic and endowed with an ego that sends lesser mortals into a spin. But what I demand to know is how one can distinguish between a viable project and a delusional scientist. Of course, there is nothing new in the idea that scientists are in some way
touched by the divine. What has changed is that they are no longer held responsible for the madness of their schemes, because a large part of such madness can be attributed to the lunacy of society. I, too,  should love to try my hand at a little madcap small talk about ‘geo-engineering’- the first refuge of the thwarted egomaniac - but, alas, there’s no time. Some of us should get real. Climate change rather than population growth boasts an ever increasing number of confabulists, such as Harvard physics professor David Keith, whose paper, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters  concludes that it would be “comparatively inexpensive” to spray sufficient sulphur particles 68,000 ft above the tropics to cut the rate of global warming in half. Which is achieved, apparently by creating  the same cooling effect as was generated by the eruption of volcanoes such as Mounts Pinatubo in the Philippines and St Helens in Northwest America.
            And pigs can fly..?
            Unsurprisingly, in the hothouse of imagination absurdities abound. As far as ‘climate remediation’ or ‘planet hacking’ is concerned, there is no beating them. Though the flaw really is not with the Planet, if you ask me, but  with the deteriorating relationship between the global economy and the earth’s ecosystem, or what you might call a clash between a thought system based upon mathematical logic, and another that relies upon mad scientists wanting to save the world with carbon capture technology and ethically reclaimed light bulbs.
But these are circumstantial rather than factual distinctions. Perhaps these extremely self-assured prodigies also find it more difficult than I to accept the lesson of history that over-expanded civilizations can experience catastrophic failure. Or that ours must catastrophically fail, because the only long-term solution to the problem of global warming is a demographic one, and one that can only be achieved by making fundamental changes within a culture that regards economic growth as a legitimate activity.  What we need is an event that changes our priorities. For whatever the truth about global warming, the planet is shrinking at an alarming rate. And it is useful to remember that if the Earth were compressed to half its present radius, we would all weigh four times as much. Nor is this just about the degree to which necessity dictates the effect of the size No, this is  about the fundamentally synonymous roles of economic growth and demographic escalation. Precisely because growth and productivity are linked to the volume of consumer population, the only answer to long-term economic decline is more humans and plenty of them.
Within the social economy, multiplication is the only form of growth, and stasis of any sort to be excluded at all cost. The headcount, in other words, is fundamental to economic expansion – and in business terms this is the categorical imperative. Without demographic growth, we drift into decline. But no population can expand indefinitely. And with the profits of war far exceeding those of trade, we have at last devised the instrument of our own destruction. For how otherwise is the world going to defray a demographic behemoth like runaway humanity?
            Militarise the economy – with the aim not to end, but perpetuate war!




[1] So professed by Elizabeth Coulouris who chose suicide rather than a care home.
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Malleus Maleficus an advocate of English liberal democracy, and the  anonymous author of an historical apology of the British Empire.

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