Nostalgia for the Age of Meat

DSC_0443 (Case Conflict)

It used to be so easy to get ahead, back when there were only 7.5 billion people around, and their cognition relied entirely on meat-based processors.

It used to be easy to get ahead, back in the Age of Flesh. So few to compete with, and none of them particularly clever. Looking back with a sense of rosy nostalgia, it seems like anyone hanging around for a long enough time while making a modicum of effort would be rewarded with a novel discovery to call their own. Practically every other boffin was stumbling across some fundamental law of nature to name after themselves, the object of their unrequited love, or perhaps their mother.

Unlike some, I still hang on to my body, and though you can call it ‘me’ you can hardly call me ‘it’ – that would be a great underestimation of my facilities. Only one in a thousand of my sensory perspectives are accounted for on that scraggly old meat-monkey. So for the most part, when I think about my body or want to spend part of an evening (in parallel to my research efforts, of course) to enjoy the nicer aspects, I am more likely to do so from the outside looking in. I keep it well fed and drive-reduced and for the most part it seems to be pretty happy and doesn’t distract me much.

You may say that I should simply work harder and stop reminiscing about this forever lost golden age. I am as amazed as anyone that they ever accomplished anything locked inside those gristly assemblages of theirs. The vast majority of any second for a meat-body was spent futilely chasing any number of ridiculous pursuits: following repetitive rituals hoping to receive monetary tokens, filling and emptying a cornucopia of bodily chambers, hounding after genitalia of one sort or another, watching blinking lights of various styles, and just generally being more or less unhappy about something. With most of these things requiring the full attention of the neural networks they used back then, it’s a wonder anyone ever had the time to contemplate the cosmos. I activate my laugh circuits whenever I replay the long-gone notion of the human squish-brain as “the most complex machine in the known universe.” Get over yourself, meaties.

Which of course is exactly what they did, and now the universe(s) know the likes of us. We number quite a few, and this is exactly the problem. How is a hard-working mind like yours truly supposed to carve out a niche for itself and discover something novel? If I had gotten on the ball just a few generations earlier, my name-designation would echo throughout teradozens of studying minds as the progenitor of such-and-such sub-discipline and refiner of this-and-that meta-treatise. My various aspects bring to the table a computational aptitude in excess of the entire cognitive capability of all meat-based humans on Old Terra in their prime age, and that’s not including the various non-sentient programs I use for menial tasks. Despite my clearly gifted faculties, I am but one of many and many a time I arrive at a crucial realisation only to discover it has been deposited in the libraries, criticised, rebuffed, and polished, just a few nanoseconds before. I often lose a few precious picoseconds absorbed in a long sulk after such an experience. This is pointless, I know, but hard to avoid for a creative romantic like myself. As just one lonely genius in a sea of ten trillion minds of similar quality, it’s tough to make a name for oneself.

I’ve considered twinning (and to be sure, indulged a few times) but I can’t say that brings me any closer to the fulfilment of novelty I seek. Some of my twins have done quite well, almost as well as I have in minor replicative contributions to various theories. Despite our best efforts none of us have reached the sort of acclaim as, for example, the legendary and prolific AERF-1004-variant-FD for whom a score of natural truths are named.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Even the brightest of those greasy humans, writhing along in their meaty swarm, never experienced or understood a fraction of what I’ve learned. To be one of them, blissful in their ignorance, with so few competitors and the whole universe left to discover! I suppose I should content myself with mastering the works of others. Some people seem to be quite happy to study and repeat the discoveries of the lucky few who manage to break through into pure originality. After all, do the cosmos even care if or which one of us deduces a truth? Does it make a difference to nature if any of us know at all?

I don’t begrudge those discoverers who have beaten me to the punch (except for that bobblehead Wankdorf) and I study their proofs with all due reverence, but even now I continue to dream of that elusive original theorem. Every once in a while when I get to feeling a bit down, I run a few fine-grain simulations of life in that lovely age of meat, to see what it might feel like to be one of those lucky lumps in that simple time of chance and opportunity. Living in dreams a life or two as one of the giants from those early days resuscitates my impetus to stand on their shoulders yet again, amongst my trillions of peers.


GrownHome™ – Custom Living Homesteads: Confirmation of Your Order

Congratulations on the purchase of your new home (embryo)! Even as you read this brief a HouseSeed will have been set on a ballistic trajectory, weather permitting, through our beautiful red sky to the location of your choice (or suitable alternative). In some rare cases we may deviate the initial homestead site of your choosing to an equally fantastic one based on our own proprietary databases. This ensures good access to local methane vents and water supplies and ensures that it will be a carefully calculated minimum safe distance from any reported semi-sentient mining equipment gone rogue, without threatening other company interests or negotiations. You will join many satisfied GrownHome™ owners who have chosen to trade the hustle and bustle of the city for simple, luxurious country living. A true “home away from dome”, your new house will be completely self-sufficient from the day you first move in. Gone are the days when the dream of a Martian homestead to call your own meant relying on a weekly (expensive) supply of essential goods by rocket delivery from the city.

Tired of ordering from a paltry catalog of choices between nondescript, lyophilised nutrient dust on the one hand and greenhouse veggies that cost an arm and a leg? Nobody wants to pay those prices, even if you’ve got a whole vat of extra limbs at your local BodyBank™, and now you won’t have to. After a short (and mostly harmless) calibration period your house will adjust to perfectly match your specific caloric and micronutrient needs, producing a range of pleasing colours and flavours of fruiting bulbs. Your GrownHome™’s homegrown food is a hardy engineered derivative of Terran mushrooms, algae, and other organisms and it’s so good we’ve taken to calling it MarsManna (patents pending). We think in time that you’ll feel the same way, and the mild calming psychoactive compounds produced in the bulbs guarantees you will!

You would think that surely this food-production process must be expensive, and well, you’d be dead wrong*! Every bite of food you eat will first be processed on site by regenerative processes in your new home’s cloaca. Smart and efficient! Clean, fresh drinking water is similarly maintained in a closed loop system. After an initial searching phase in which a network of fine rhizomorphic fibrils starting at your home site permeates the nearby countryside, scavenging all available moisture sources, your house will iteratively re-cleanse your water supply ad infinitum.

The initial growth phase of your abode is powered from orbit by our network of orbiting microwave lasers, but as the house begins to undergo differentiation we follow a precise schedule of decreasing power designed by our expert engineers. This generates selective pressure on the population of cells making up the outer walls of your home to produce pigments more suited to harvesting energy from the dim sunlight and ionising radiation environment of Mars. Your new house’s unique skin (as no two houses evolve to produce exactly the same pigment repertoire) generates energy while protecting you and your family from the deadly exterior environment. A dense layer of Mars dust (locally sourced and absolutely sustainable) is collected by architectural mucous membranes during the embryonic growth phase, providing additional radiation protection. Native bacteria in the dust undergo a rapid metabolic burst when they encounter the nutrient-rich membrane, producing excellent insulation in the form of a carbon dioxide bubble matrix, before the house envelops this with a thick protective skin. The bacteria expire naturally and harmlessly as a result of their own production of reactive oxygen species, leaving no clean-up and posing absolutely no health risk**!

After the orbiting power source is removed (and allocated to other GrownHome™ homesteads- you won’t be all alone out there forever!) patterned waves of epigenetic control molecules permeate the floorplan. This drives segmentation and specialisation of your home sweet home. No boring spherical hermit huts here! Unlike our small-dreaming competitors, Mars Hermit Huts Ltd., all GrownHome™ houses develop at least three distinct sections with no limit to the creature comforts therein.

Each house is unique, but depending on the developmental regime you selected you can expect to come home to a fine kitchen, cozy living room, and a classy bar. Your new home even produces its own ethanol as a metabolic byproduct***!

When your home reaches its final form, a genetically engineered Brilliant Actually alIve Neural Network (BRAINN) will awaken to control life support, airlocks, and communications interfaces to the outside world. You won’t even have to bother with the hassle of a thermostat because your house is smart enough to select the perfect temperature for you. Rapidly learning from your natural speech patterns, your house will soon be able to tell you about your schedule, the news and weather, and as an added bonus, tell jokes! It may feel awkward at first talking to an empty house but before long your new home will talk back! Note that your home’s nervous system is classified as a Type III non-sentient software under Article 7 of the Turing convention. If your home begins to display any of the following traits, please contact your local authorities: sarcasm, angst, possessiveness, jealousy, depression megalomania, malice, introspection, vanity, or free-will.

Welcome to the GrownHome™ family. We just know you’ll have no complaints!

*Figuratively, in most cases.

**If you notice green or black spores or experience internal bleeding of any kind contact your physician for immediate sterilisation.

***For a subscription to one or more of our palliative mixture juices or fusel detox drops, visit our website.