Its 2071, and We Have Bioengineered Our Own Extinction – The New York Times

Posted: December 9, 2019 at 8:41 pm

I must admit that my new state of being probably helps me to see what is so unclear to others: An entire new society is emerging within our very homes and bodies. Imbuing tardigrades or water bears with sentinel duty at the microbial level (Bartlett, Peachpie, and Nuthatch, 2027) may have improved our resistance to super-viruses through our new helpers herding of microbial antibiotics as their sheep dogs, but it has done nothing to avoid hacking, the metric that haunts all of our biological transactions these days. We have already lost sex, the hug and the handshake to threats of hacking, left only with remote budding and pathetic five-senses Scryping. But, now, with animals bred from spores, how can we avoid contamination if we cant even be sure what were inhaling? Why shouldnt biotech become expert at using biotech to change us?

All I can report is that ever since the death of fiction and the rise of artistic biotech, I have more insight into what is happening because everything has become more personal than before, living under the skin. My last narrative biotech opera took the form of a giant bear linked forever in crude dance with my new home: a giant astronaut with an oblique face panel. That I now reside, in my squid-fungal form, in the water inside this astronaut suit, provides what I hope is a kind of fatal authenticity that will convince you. I thought I was protected by my new situation, but I too have woken up disoriented, stripped of cryo-currency, and in an unsafe place. I have experienced the contamination you may only feel lurking.

Despite these personal experiences, I am supposed to reassure you now. I am supposed to tell you of remedies. But I dont believe we can avoid contamination any more than we can avoid the calls of long-dead animals that burst forth from the air, our last gift of propaganda from fossil fuel companies. We ignore these sounds much as we once ignored roadkill, but ignoring something doesnt put a stop to it.

How ironic, then, if we did not actually outrun the climate crisis, but became It and were subsumed by It and now we do not know what we are, because we have been made so different. The unexamined life was once a source of joy, but now un-joys us in the remaking because our methods were suspect and extreme.

If you read this, inspect yourself. Find your contamination and greet it warmly. Attempt to make friends with it, and perhaps it will not destroy us.

For we are all arks of some kind now.

Jeff VanderMeer is a science fiction writer. His most recent novel is Dead Astronauts.

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Its 2071, and We Have Bioengineered Our Own Extinction - The New York Times

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