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After humanity…

by Gabriel Dabi-Schwebel

" With technology, we are on the point of breaking the barrier of meaning and setting up a direct connection between man and machine. "

Will Mankind ever be able to gauge its real place in the universe? If Gaia – Earth – was a living organism, Mankind would be a parasitical species on the point of killing its host and, consequently, itself. When does a species living on Earth become a danger to the planet, a parasite capable of killing its host? At what moment can a state of emergency be decreed? When will Mankind reach the point of no return?

Overpopulation, over-exploitation of water and land resources, intensive farming, over-fishing, predation, reduction of the undeveloped habitat, pollution, an increase in the greenhouse effect, acidification of the oceans, the dying out of entire species, desertification. By interfering more and more with Gaia in the name of progress, Mankind has gradually become a parasite on its host, to the point of deregulating the eco-system badly enough to endanger its own existence. The observation is not original, and the list of consequences is a long one. Some of them are obvious, manifesting themselves on a daily basis: violent climate change, decrease in food resources, the impoverishment of non-renewable energy resources … Since it is politically correct to champion the cause of biodiversity, a socially acceptable concept if ever there was one, we should perhaps explore the limits of the bio–logical “host-parasite” relationship.

In its “parasite-host” relationship, the life of Mankind on Earth is a continual arms race. It’s an offensive-defensive formula. The parasite evolves with a view to survive either in or around its host. Meanwhile, natural selection encourages the host to develop defences. The host evolves in order to avoid the parasite, to defend itself against it, or to get rid of it: animals adapt their immune systems, plants produce toxins. According to some theories, climatic accidents are Gaia’s weapons of defence against the human species, a bout of fever capable of killing the parasitical bacterium. Typhoon Haiyan claimed 4,460 lives in the Philippines (provisional UN figures); Hurricane Flora claimed 5,000 victims in Haiti; the earthquake in Japan took 23,500 lives; the tsunami in Indonesia, 220,000. The recrudescence of typhoons, cyclones and floods is, according to such theories, designed to calm our ardours and chase us out of Earth. Other parasitical species, including the most beneficent, will suffer the same fate, including some animals, as well as plants, which, by means of photosynthesis, make it possible to breathe the air around us. Like the antibiotics that act indiscriminately on the bacteria in our bodies (bad bacteria responsible for our ailments, but also bacteria that are good for us), thus forcing the intestinal flora to reconstitute itself entirely. By doing away with Mankind, Gaia would lose part of its riches and would precipitate a phenomenon of auto-degeneration; only the hardiest species would survive (scorpions, deep sea marine life, ferns), and the planet would run the risk of once again becoming inert, like its lifeless companions in the Solar System. The life cycle applied to the scale of a planet remains the same: birth, growth, degeneration, death. Since Gaia is unique – no planet capable of supporting human life has yet been found – the death of the host results in the death of the parasite.

Clearly, the only way out for humanity and for the planet is an evolution of the “parasite-host” relationship towards a symbiosis of benefit to one and all. In other words, an intimate and sustainable association between two organisms belonging to different species.
This optimistic scenario would involve Mankind becoming aware of its limits. We would have to launch a collective decision-making process at a global level designed to regulate our activities. A planet-wide revolution! Of course, this has already been attempted: environmental conferences (the COP19 has just ended in Warsaw), the Kyoto Protocol, Earth Summits, French environmental legislation and other international agreements for regulating fisheries and protecting biodiversity. But it has to be admitted that, with the exception of the Montreal Protocol, developed to deal with the problem of the hole in the ozone layer, such initiatives have rarely been crowned with success. Laws and decrees voted through parliaments are either rarely applied, or are subject to so many amendments that they lose all force. Mankind’s activities are increasingly harmful to Gaia. Yes, the time has come to declare a state of emergency. Time is running out.
Let’s be clear about this: there are still too many international disputes over natural resources, wealth distribution issues and questions of culture and identity for us to be able to come to an agreement. It is true that, with time, these disparities are becoming more manageable, and, as demonstrated by Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathetic Civilization, there has been an increase in levels of human empathy. But will these positive evolutions gain enough pace to claim victory in the race against the clock in which we are involved? The signs are not good. If it wants to envisage a different solution to the conundrum of how it can survive as a species, a solution not exclusively based on its intelligence and all-powerfulness, Mankind will have to lay down its arms, including the weapon of pride.

Symbiosis with a new species? Why not? From Mankind’s point of view, the least favourable scenario would be a new evolution of the species. A mutation as revolutionary as that which witnessed the transition from mono-cellular to multi-cellular organisms. An evolution in which Mankind becomes part of a whole, like an ant in an anthill. This evolution seems possible because it is not impossible. Because, with technology, we are on the point of breaking the barrier of meaning and setting up a direct connection between man and machine. In effect, we are not far from a time when machines will be capable of communicating directly with the human brain and transcribing into data emotional and sensorial perceptions in order to reproduce them. When that time comes, what constitutes the specificity of the human being, her individual consciousness, will dissolve into a whole, a whole composed of the human and the machine, of organic matter and silicon (or any other material, depending on the evolution of computer technology), traversed by magnetic and electric fields, permanently connected both to other neo-humans and to the Earth. This new “Organism” – bigger and more complex than any other organism that has ever lived on Earth up to now – will be able to exist in harmony and symbiosis with Gaia. It will exist at the scale of the planet, indissociable from other entities, communication networks making it possible to exchange thoughts and ideas around the globe instantly. It will be capable of at least partially feeling what Gaia feels thanks to observation satellites, to data sensors and state-of-the-art technologies. Above all, this “Organism” will be capable of regulating both itself and Gaia in order to guarantee their respective survival. Within a unique organism in which individuality no longer plays a role, there would be no need for complex decision-making processes (the right decision, the fruit of a collective, common sense, would be sufficient in and of itself). In my view, this is the most likely evolution.

Addendum: The birth of this new “Organism” does not necessarily imply the end of Humanity. It would, rather, mean the end of Mankind’s dominion on Earth. If Mankind stops harming Gaia, it may be able to co-exist, in the proper sense of the term, with the “Organism”, as well as with other animal and vegetable species. This “Organism” will, perhaps, be able, unlike Humanity, to colonise other planets. For example, by using the potentialities of the two realms – carbon (organic) and silicon – Mankind could substantially boost its resistance to extreme eco-systems. In a futuristic scenario, it is highly probable that life will be propagated beyond Plant Earth. A perspective that may be worrying for us, but which is promising in terms of the evolution of the living. History is on the march.

Gabriel Dabi-Schwebel
Entrepreneur specialising in interactive marketing, digital technology
and digital services since 1996, Gabriel has been involved in launching
numerous revolutions: 3G, VoD, Triple Play, mobile TV, Smartphone Apps,
Smart Grid, etc. In 2012, he set up the firm, 1min30, which specialises
in Inbound Marketing.

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