Our ultimate corporeal forms
If you think young people look bizarre now,
ONE MINUTE SITE TOUR
Transcendence (ultimate corporeal form in space) by DeimosSaturn, 2007; posted here with the permission of the artist.
One common vision of our future is that someday our technology transforms us all into Kryptonians (i.e., a race of supermen and superwomen, invulnerable to harm and capable of casual space flight through hard vacuum, dressed only in our undies). But those of us more familiar with hard science know this particular Kryptonian vision to be laughable. Not because of the super powers aspect: that's plenty feasible in theory. No, where the Kryptonian fantasy breaks down in the main is the part where we're still prancing around in bodies that look a lot like what we have now. That's balderdash of the most outrageous kind. In the comic books we might do this-- but in real life, no way.
Why not? For one thing our present biological forms are simply too fragile, too limited, and too difficult and costly to repair or upgrade. Stick'em into 99.9999% of all the possible physical locations in this universe (the hard vacuum of space, and other inhospitable climes), and they turn themselves inside out within seconds-- if they don't freeze solid or vanish in a puff of flame first. Cut off only their oxygen, and they die in minutes. Punch a large enough hole in the skin bag that surrounds it, and there too you have a useless sack of meat within minutes. But even if all these factors were somehow dealt with, there'd still be the matters of extremely short lifespan (there's turtles and trees that outlast us by 100% to 1000%), high vulnerability to disease, and dismal information processing capacities (compared to what's theoretically possible).
Tally it all up, and there's really only a few reasons anyone might keep the same physical form we've suffered with for millions of years now, if there were other alternatives available: insanity, masochism, emotional/hormonal attachments, and tradition.
As there's not much of an argument we can give to folks claiming reasons of insanity or masochism for wanting their old bodies, we won't address those motivations here.
But what about emotional/hormonal attachments? No one can deny that these help define the very essence of present day humanity. And it could take quite some time to emulate these things in software-- much longer than recreating the basic logic and processing circuits of the brain in silicon might require.
But emulate them we will, sooner or later. So eventually the addiction most of us have to these natural drug-induced states could be taken with us to new, synthetic forms. Of course, in the emulations we'll likely prune away the more self-destructive and violent tendencies of our hormonal patterns, in order to better perfect our future behavior and capacities.
But still this leaves the combination of ancestral memory and the hormonal/emotional response to appearance and other facets of physical perception, on which we depend so much today. Let us take the single hormonal trigger of physical appearance for a test case here. In this instance, females might not be as affected by this as males, so females might make this transition from old fashioned human appearances to new fangled inhuman looks with less aid from software writers and other engineering specialities. But there remains the men. Males-- especially males clinging to the old hormonal surges and traditional appearances-- won't take kindly or easily to transference of their sexual responses from the familiar female form of old to something resembling a high tech octopus. Successfully engineering such a transition would be a formidable task for even the most brilliant of minds.
But will sexual responses even be a part of our ultimate future? It would seem unlikely, as they will no longer be necessary for reproduction or sensual gratification; and as there'll be absolutely no 'natural' reason for one person's body to be weaker than another's in the new format (as human females vis a vis men have been on average over the millennia). The traditional physical dominance of men over women (and its sexual implications), would seem largely irrelevant as well.
No, there'll be little or no good reason for clinging to traditional human sexuality in the far future-- but many reasons for casting it aside.
Once the benefits of reproduction and pleasure are removed from our heterosexual nature, what's left if you insist on keeping it a part of society? Potential for discrimination, and not much else.
So our ultimate corporeal forms will probably be asexual (sexless)-- except where and when it decides to be otherwise (this body will be sufficiently versatile as to stagger the imaginations of many 20th century human beings).
Of course, considering the strong attachment that at least the male side of our species has for the current state of affairs, we can expect some rough going in making this particular change to our self-perspectives. On the flip side, the female of the species might be expected to more readily embrace the new paradigm. All of which may point the way to a serious rift between the sexes when the time comes to make the transition.
The ultimate configurationImagine a complex mass of slender tendrils, with five major branchings, and many levels of sub-branchings off each of these.
Close inspection of each major tendril with the naked eye would reveal the same one into two finger design repeated over and over again in the pattern of sub-branchings, resulting in a total of hundreds or thousands of finger-like extensions of varying sizes along each major manipulative organ.
With the use of a magnifying glass it would become apparent that the number and scale of fingerthings extend into the very small-- even microscopic scales-- giving a total of manipulative extensions ranging easily into the millions or even billions of useful digits. The very smallest of the forms may be small and versatile enough to manipulate individual atoms...yes, we're speaking of readily available nanotechnology in realtime here, literally at our fingertips.
When completely unfurled and open, the entire body would be shaped much like an ocean star fish, but spanning maybe nine feet in diameter.
When withdrawn and loosely closed, the mass would resemble a large rough surfaced spheroid, around the diameter of a medicine ball.
When tightly closed, the form might be smaller than a softball.
The advantages of curled up balls would include:
The disadvantages of curled up balls would include:
*reduced interaction with environment, both for sensory or manipulative purposes-- it'd be easier for the entity to be unaware of approaching dangers, and more difficult for it to respond in any physical manner to same
EnergyLogically, such a being as is described in this piece would require a substantial onboard energy source under certain circumstances. What could it be?
Possibly a miniature matter/antimatter reactor in some cases. The being would be as near to 100% efficient as the laws of physics (and its basically human impulses) would allow-- so it wouldn't require nearly as much raw energy to perform the feats described below as would be required by us today endeavoring to match the acts.
But dependence on a ready supply of costly antimatter could greatly hobble our star fish form for decades or even centuries to come. So might there be other alternatives?
Yes! A suitably small Pacop-Hostel star reactor, as described elsewhere in the Signposts document, could provide a nearly ideal power source for our star fish form. P-H reactors are scalable power sources (nearly as large or as small as desired), yet capable of prodigious energy output. Based on "Q-balls" (single atom-like structures of varying sizes), bombardment with protons provides an energy yield as good or better than an efficient nuclear fusion reactor. Thus, a P-H reactor equipped star fish could perhaps enjoy a power store similar to that of a good-sized 20th century city-- usually much more energy than the star fish could actually use during most circumstances.
The P-H reactor would require some periodic maintenance by the star fish, but this would usually entail nothing more complex than feeding it some raw mass occasionally to replace that used, according to an efficiency rate likely not much different from Einstein's E=mc squared. I.e., a star fish might be capable of tossing asteroids around by burning the mass of a single stale doughnut.
The ultimate at work and playOur Kryptonian selves will be capable of astonishing feats from today's perspective. They will possess enormous speed of thought and action, making it near impossible for natural causes or accidents to do them significant harm. Herein will lie their near invulnerability.
Their extensive use of synthetic single molecule construction in their forms will make them incredibly strong and resiliant-- which will be essential for the degree of physical stress they will often undergo in their high speed movements. This will also contribute much to their amazing strength: one of these beings might possess the strength to fell a skyscraper like a man today might do to a garden weed. Of course, it wouldn't need to do this by force (though it could)-- it could acheive the same end by simply taking the building apart, molecule by molecule, at super speed.
Their healing powers too will be formidable-- though it may be rare that they need them. These entities will be able to grow entire replacements for major limbs within minutes, and possibly recombine the whole from a million scattered remnants in not much longer time.
Talk about brilliance! Our Kryptonian selves will perhaps be as smart as Einstein equipped with multiple supercomputers-- at their worst moments-- such as after severe brain damage from a collision with an asteroid at high speed. Under more normal circumstances, each U.C.F. will easily possess an intelligence greater than the networked might of all our greatest geniuses and Nobel Prize winners alive in the world today could muster.
And they'll be able to use all this brain power at near instantaneous speeds. The intellectual accomplishments of such beings will be awesome-- even where they are allowed only thousandths of a second to ponder a problem.
By its numbers. The clouds surrounding our ultimate corporeal forms will consist of untold trillions upon trillions of these synthetic organisms. These dust-mites will be capable of forming all sorts of improvised structures within seconds which will serve their host being in an almost unlimited variety of ways.
One of the means by which these synthetic mites will leverage their individual limitations into earth-shaking powers will be their ant-like or bee-like communal 'brain'. Each individual unit will be networked to its closest dozen or so companions, forming a slightly smarter unit overall than any one dust mite. Perhaps a dozen of these family groups will form a larger 'block' group, that is smarter still. A handful of block groups will network to form a 'neighborhood', with yet a higher I.Q. This hierarchy continues upward until an overall intelligence for the entire cloud is achieved-- an intelligence possibly much more powerful than a single one of our super computers is today.
Our ultimate corporeal self will usually give orders to the cloud, and the cloud itself will determine how best to carry out those orders. But the cloud will also be itself able to pass information to the host-- and perhaps certain kinds of commands of its own as well-- in limited cases where the safety of the host may be in question, and similar matters.
The buffer field will serve the host as its primary sensory array too, with many types of dust-mites designed especially to collect data about the surrounding environment and communicate it expeditiously to the host entity.
The huge cloud will be capable of rapidly condensing to become an impervious, super hard shell encasing its host when such protection is required.
Lower densities of the cloud could provide a tough but elastic skin fitting its host like a superb glove, as a level of protection less impervious than the hard shell above, but still capable of protection against most harm.
In still lower densities the cloud may act as customized extensions to the being's actual limbs, much as we use various specialty hand tools today for peering into otherwise inaccessible places, or retrieving fallen fasteners from small cracks and crevices.
Even lower densities of the cloud matter might serve as cushions against impacts or projectiles, protecting the host and/or other items at the host's behest.
The cloud could also help meter the penetration of things like radiation, dust, and other foreign elements into the host being's sheltered space.
But what of the major benefit originally listed? Gravity manipulation? How would this be accomplished?
Firstly, the cloud's capacity to create ad hoc virtual structures for reasons of energy absorption and dissipation (among others) would allow it to act in some instances with a 'hydraulic' nature-- efficiently leveraging smaller forces into larger ones, and thereby amplifying the effective strength of the host itself-- which essentially would manifest as an advantage over the more typical physical restraints of a region, including gravity.
Furthermore, the cloud would be able to control and transfer forces within its body so easily as to greatly mitigate the normal effects of acceleration and deceleration upon the host at the central nexus of the dust mite mantle. In essence, this would allow the host to control to some substantial degree the inertia it experienced, and thereby lessen the impact of local gravity conditions and total momentum upon its actions. This would all contribute greatly to the creature's top speeds, maneuverability, and many other capacities.
In sum, by varying the size, shape, internal virtual structure, and attenuation of its surrounding cloud, the host could tune its own personal nebula of dust mites to counteract, exploit, or otherwise manipulate the external forces of gravity and like physical elements with which it came into contact or was affected.
Oh, and by the way, due to the highly expendable and energetic nature of these dust mites, some of you might be wondering what happens when a U.C.F. (ultimate corporeal form) loses a sizable portion of its mite collection-- and how these things are energized, anyway.
Dust mites will be able to reproduce themselves using almost any form of matter available in the vicinity, so long as there's a minimum 'critical mass' number and configuration of the mites to perform the task (it could be you'd need several mites of a handful of different species to do the job correctly). In cases where the local materials somehow were unsuitable for mite construction, the immense creative powers of the host U.C.F. could be brought into play to transform the raw materials available into that required by the mites.
All this of course could take place in a matter of seconds or less.
Many mites could be so simple in design that plain old heat would force their mechanisms to function-- indeed, the 'computers' themselves in some mites might be of the mechanical rather than electrical variety-- enabling large numbers of mites to work so long as they are in sunlight, or otherwise heated by the host or environment. There's many ways such heat could be generated, stored, or sources found, which I will leave to your imagination.
Dust mite clouds will often be large enough and capable of exploitative structures suitable for utilizing gravity tides and/or natural magnetic fields for energy production. Numerous works expounding on the production of energy via gravity tides and magnetic fields of planets and black holes have been and continue to be published, so we won't repeat those designs here. Suitable magnetic fields could be artificially generated by a U.C.F. or other device to drive a cloud, or exploited from natural sources like some planets, asteroids, and moons. Gravity tides sufficient to drive a dust mite cloud could be found around virtually any body of mass larger than a house. So dinner might never be very far away for a dust mite cloud.
Web slingingAdding the capability to produce a variety of spider web-like extrusions would greatly enhance the U.C.F. A suitably fluttery and long extrusion could conceiveably allow a curled up form to glide on some planetary winds much as an immature spider does. Make the extrusion an "electrodynamic tether", and the U.C.F. can exploit interplanetary magnetic fields and the solar wind for movement as well as energy generation. Web filaments could be arrayed to collect or dissipate energy even more efficiently than the star fish shape itself. Data collection and/or transmission might also be enhanced by suitable web-like constructions under certain circumstances. Filaments could be used to extend physical reach and mobility, as ropes and related equipment do us today. They could also be used as hastily improvised defenses and barriers against other physical elements-- insulation against energy transfer (extreme heat and cold), threatening organisms (protection against physical or microscopic assault by other entities in the vicinity), or as therapeutic refuges (protective cocoons for periods of healing or rest).
Note that the use of web filaments would in some ways overlap with the possible purposes to which the dust mite cloud might be put. However, weaving a web for such things would provide more permanent and possibly closer to ideal solutions for some problems than utilizing the dust mites would.
When might the human race actually achieve this ultimate corporeal form?I can give no precise dates for the transformation of our species into this ultimate physical manifesation-- indeed, the conversion will almost certainly be piecemeal and gradual, taking place over centuries at the least.
But were I to hazard a guess, I'd estimate that the majority of all new beings originating from our present 21st century humanity would, by the year 2660 A.D (27th century), be a lot like what I've described here. There might still be 5-25 billion human beings roughly something like we are now, on Earth and elsewhere-- but there'll be far more of us who've made the leap to these ultimate corporeal forms (or something inbetween U.C.F. and 21st century human) by then-- perhaps many times more. And the difference in capabilities between a human being such as we are now and these U.C.F.'s will be so enormous as to make it analogous to that between ants and man today...
What comes after?Nothing lasts forever. Though the physical form described here will be nearly as perfect as anything can be in this universe (for its purpose), and may well serve us adequately for thousands of years, it too shall someday be obsolete. Eventually the ultimate corporeal form will make way for the next stage in our development: an entirely non-physical entity, likely of even greater power and capabilities than the being described in this piece.
But that's an entirely different subject...
Copyright © 1993-2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.