Dom Carter

Unnatual Selection

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, we are presented with a vision of our own distant descendants, where the human race has split into two genetically divergent species, the savage Morlocks and their meat-flock, the Eloi. Although this early example of dying-Earth fiction was written before the advent of genomic mapping, the dystopian future depicted could eventually become a reality.

Genetic engineering, cognitive augmentation and expensive gene therapies will widen the existing social Rubicon imposed by economic disparity. Deprived of nutrition, saturated in toxins, our physiology coursing with stress-hormones, we, the embattled underclasses, are unwittingly shouldering an indelible epigenetic burden. The effluvium of modern lifestyles is irreversibly staining our genes, with every smoky breath and tainted sip of water; methyl-markers accumulate on our DNA, and are passed on to our offspring. In the short-term, this isn’t a massive problem, but when compounded over thousands of generations, our race will become physically as well as socially delineated. Those with sufficient resources will be able to tune their progeny for success, with increased intelligence, strength and health. For expectant parents of the future-elite, genetic abnormalities and underachievement will be the footnotes on a closed historical chapter.

Current trends indicate that the birth-rate decreases as countries develop economically, but birth-rate and population statistics are becoming decoupled as people live longer, and therefore, a declining birth rate does not automatically equate to a decline in population. Exacerbating the socio-economic divide, new figures from the US show that although, in some areas, production is up, the number of human workers has fallen. This is attributed to ever-growing technological and software encroachment into the job-market, with the likes of Amazon, Ikea, and large consumer electronics companies employing sophisticated inventory and process technology. It is within the disenfranchised, low-income demographic that birth-rates are highest, and it is this demographic that commonly constitutes the bulk of menial labour and unskilled manufacturing roles. If those jobs are increasingly usurped by efficient, reliable machines, then a sizeable slice of an already restless population will be marginalised, hungry, and angry with their untenable lot in life.

As time marches on and the elite become physically, mentally and existentially separated from the redundant masses, the exploitation of this army of the dispossessed will ramp into atrocity. In War against the Weak, Edwin Black recounts a dark and little publicized facet of President Woodrow Wilson’s early twentieth-century administration of the United States. The dubious pseudo-science of eugenics gained popularity amongst government figures, and led to a campaign of chemical-castration against the disabled and ethnic minorities, even going so far as to include alcoholics and drug addicts within its sinister remit. Black’s prose illuminates the path that began with the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, and ended in the gas-chambers of Auschwitz. The book explores how the U.S. government’s sanctioning of eugenics methods lent a spurious air of authority to a campaign of sterilisation and enforced euthanasia against the so-called ‘feebleminded’.

These events, and those that followed in the Second World War, seem distant today, almost unreal, the regrettable actions of the ignorant and unenlightened, but, with social upheaval, and the troubling rise in popularity of xenophobic politics, it’s possible that, through genetic manipulation, a master-race will invent itself, both in thought and in action. A distinction will be made between the altered and the natural, the smart and the dumb, the rich and the poor. Perhaps, if we cast ahead, further into our potential destiny, we might see super-intelligent Aryans cracking a digital whip over their devolved and impoverished cousins, deep future chambers echoing with the pain of millions crushed beneath the tank-treads of relentless civilisation. And further again, until the overlords have shed their flesh to exist as pure consciousness in a synthetic Garden of Eden, the now unrecognisable sub-humans left to feed off the filth, converting toxic sludge to fertiliser as they worm their way mindlessly across land made putrid with neglect.

If we eschew epigenetics and compounded devolution, we are still faced with the ticking time-bombs of misguided, biased, ill-fitting programs of education, of fluctuating moral commonality and a burgeoning excess of role-model absenteeism and corruptive parenting. If we combine higher birth-rates with economically marginalised groups, then slowly drizzle in a generous helping of government irresponsibility, beat it all together with the whisk of societal unrest, and smear the steaming concoction in a glaze of technological advancement, we’ve a recipe for riotous dismemberment.

Psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen have released two books based upon their research into national intelligence levels. IQ and the Wealth of Nations and IQ and Global Inequality are controversial works, scorned and praised in equal measure, but if we take their statistics at face value, we find a clear correlation between intelligence and economic standing. The heritability of intelligence remains open to debate, but there is certainly evidence that the distribution of wealth, both at a national and global level, affects the consolidated intellect of a nation.

In The Cosmic Serpent – DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Jeremy Narby details his encounters with the shamanic practitioners of Western Amazonian. When questioned as to the source of their medicinal plant knowledge, they explained that, whilst under the hallucinogenic influence of ayahuasca, the medicinal uses of the jungle flora were revealed to them. Narby attempts to explain the unfathomable knowledge-transfer with science. After a great deal of reading he came across research conducted in the early 1980s, proving that DNA emits an ultra-weak, but astonishingly coherent photonic output, with a wavelength exactly correspondent to visible light. Could this be how the shamans were acquiring their knowledge? By reading the very light of life?

If we were to look inside ourselves, and bear witness to the light-journey of our own biological foundations, would we see every step of our evolution, the convoluted chain of species that connects us with the Precambrian, and then beyond, panspermia, the infinite universe, the void, the absence of all? Or, would we see a guttering candle, a flickering flame labouring in the smoke of its own exhaust?

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Architects of the Storm

Devastation
On the ninth of November, 2013, I sat down on a bench in Manley, Australia, and picked up a discarded newspaper. A dark, swirling satellite image glowered from the front page, Typhoon Yolanda had struck the Philippines. I dropped the paper and raced home to make some calls. After affirming the safety of my loved ones and colleagues, I messaged an old friend, Jay Neil Ancheta from VSO Bahaginan, and he put me in contact with John Paul Maunes, Executive Director of the Gualandi Volunteer Service Program in Cebu City, a charitable project aimed at People With Disabilities (PWDs). I offered to join their organisation in a voluntary capacity for an indefinite length of time. John Paul accepted, and within a matter of days I’d hopped a flight to Manila, then another to Cebu City.

In the taxi from the airport, I flicked through the news-sites on my phone, searching for updates from Tacloban, a devastated city in the East Visayas, not far from where I would be deployed. The situation was appalling, there were so many dead that the emergency services had run out of body bags. As I swiped through images of civic annihilation, crying children and piled corpses, I came across an article about US military rations that had been donated for the survivors. They were being sold to the public in a Manila mall. Unfortunately, Filipino politics is breathtakingly corrupt. Before the typhoon, I’d been following the much publicised Pork Barrel scandal, where politicians were found to be fabricating charitable organisations in order to appropriate funds from a tax-money slush-fund for the country’s poor and vulnerable. The human animal still has the ability to surprise me.

It’s one in the morning as I step from the taxi into a dusty compound filled with volunteers sweating under the stark glare of temporary floodlights. A young man with a warm grin pushed his cap to the back of his head and came over to shake my hand, introducing himself as JP, Executive Director. He was a delightful fellow, clad in loose synthetic shorts and a pair of flip-flops; he welcomed me and gave me a brief introduction to the organisation. Not wanting to waste any time, I dropped my bag on the floor and began hauling completed sacks of relief goods out to the car park for the morning’s pick up.

By three the volunteers had dispersed and I was asleep on a thin travel-mattress beneath a desk in the office, by five I was up and dressed, at five-thirty the trucks arrived. A batch of Filipino volunteers helped us load the heavy sacks; carrying them above our heads we pushed them high up the trucks’ sides so the wiry drivers could drag them aboard. Two minivans, filled with volunteers from all over the Philippines, accompanied the trucks as we moved north through Bogo City and on to the Hagnaya Ferry Terminal outside San Remigio. The journey took around four hours, and as I stared out of the van’s window, the evidence of Yolanda’s destructive power mounted with every kilometre we travelled. At first the damage was light, only small sections of the corrugated roofs were missing, or peeled back like sardine tins, but by the time we’d reached Bogo, buildings had been razed to the ground, whole swathes of forest were flattened, their trunks splintered to toothpicks.

At the ferry terminal, the area most directly affected by the typhoon, large fishing boats had been hurled from the water to smash down amongst the buildings of the port; roads were filled with fallen trees and piles of debris. Picking our way through, we drove the relief goods to the end of the concrete jetty and transferred the sacks to four long outrigger canoes. After crossing the Tanon Strait to Bantayan Island, we off-loaded the food into hastily erected tarpaulin tents whilst the islanders engulfed us in smiles.

Community in full

I made many such trips to devastated communities in Northern Cebu, in the company of psychologists, nurses, teachers, entertainers and musicians, who would talk to the people about their experiences, and entertain them through song, drama and poetry. I believe those people derived as much nourishment from the social interaction and the chance for levity as they did the food.

As international aid flooded into the area, roads cleared and vital infrastructure began to be restored, the demand for food and water dropped, but the people were still crying out for building materials. Alongside two German students form Malaysia, I was assigned to an evaluation team sent to the remote hinterlands of Northern Cebu, to find recipients for the home-repair kits GVSP had amassed.

Sitting beside a film crew in the open-bed of a battered van, I looked back down the mountain. Lush green fronds caressed the remains of shattered huts, entire fields of crops were strewn across the hillsides, uprooted trees lay across the branches of their remaining brethren, like casualties being carried from a battlefield. When the van could go no further, we shouldered the camera equipment and supplies, and continued on foot. Children sat in the mud at the sides of the trail, poking at burning piles of detritus, with thick, noxious smoke curling around their squinting faces. Some ran ahead, calling out as they went.

A woman appeared from the jungle, smiling as she wiped tears from her eyes. We broke from the trail and followed her into the forest, side-stepping the yawning hole where a tree had once stood. She led us to a clearing with two small branch-and-leaf huts at its centre. To the edge of the clearing stood a frail old man, our guide approached him and spoke loudly in his ear. Turning to face roughly in our direction, he beckoned us to follow him as he placed his hands on a length of cord that had been strung between the trunks of the trees. He took us from the clearing, his steps shuffling, the sealed lids of his eyes pointing this way and that as clouds of mosquitoes burst from the dense foliage. At the end of the string there was another clearing, occupied by an empty concrete plinth.

‘His house,’ our camerawoman explained, pointing to the plinth, ‘it’s all gone, he has no food, no water, no electricity.’

We recorded an interview with the man for a promotional public awareness video, left some food and a home-repair kit, and arranged for a team of volunteers to come and assist with its construction. Back in the van, we did a u-turn and headed further up the mountain, and once again we came to a point where we had to leave our transport and proceed on foot. It was midday by now and the sun was ferocious, the uneven volcanic rock difficult to traverse, with fissures and boulders at irregular intervals. After hiking for thirty minutes we came across a by-now familiar sight, an empty concrete foundation stacked with the broken fragments of someone’s life. We dropped our gear and waited, a few minutes later a young girl came striding confidently along the trail, her eyes useless; she navigated the obstacles by memory, stepping neatly over branches and patches of loose skree.

‘She is eighteen,’ the camerawoman said, ‘after the storm destroyed her house, some men came from another place and raped her here, in the ruins of her house, they choose her because she is blind and cannot identify them.’

The young woman wept uncontrollably as she recounted the terror of being blind in the midst of a typhoon, of being assaulted, of the thirst and the fear. And as I looked around, my eyes misty with tears, I felt nauseated. The squalor, the black-hearted rapists, the destruction, the blunt cruelty of it all crashed down on me, our whole twisted world was summed up atop that mountain. The pillagers of the Earth, the ignorant and the complicit, they all coalesced within in my mind – the architects of the storm.

I have been volunteering on and off since 2008, and I don’t need to go to tropical climes to bear witness to the devastating effects of adverse climatic conditions, the UK has seen all manner of amplified and unseasonable weather conditions in recent years. From stormy summers to unprecedented rainfall, we’ve had a dilute taste of what’s yet to come. But we too are blinded, a barrage of commercialism and stilted entertainment cosset us whilst an unacknowledged guilt festers at our cores. The greasy veil of so-called reality is muddying our minds, fostering a fatalistic nonchalance when focused engagement is urgently required.

Yolanda is the strongest typhoon to have ever made landfall. Not only are the world’s storms intensifying, they’re increasing in number, and the ramping of climatic turbulence will be mirrored in the unravelling of society. Social storms rage all over the globe, tsunamis of hatred and intolerance break sporadically over the cultural beachheads of nation-states, obscured by the ever-present fog of satiating consumption.

A sea-change in the social order is at hand, the storm will see to that, and it’s unlikely to be the altruistic communing some might hope, but a desperate dismemberment of the fragile non-reality of our blinkered existence. We, the architects, will have our scaffold pulled from beneath us, not by a golden band of well-intentioned hacktivists and anti-authoritarians, but by our own desperate, bloodied claws. Incensed by vapidity, tormented by the cracks in our illusion, oppressed by inequality, scarcity and anxiety, we’ll turn to savagery in our disenchantment. But when the dust has settled, when the fantasy of infinite, complacent progression is pierced, when the myth of our civility has dissolved into the tired earth, we can, and will begin again, hopefully chastened by our own stupidity.

I sit now, surrounded by mass-produced technology and furnishings, cheap plastics, and laminated chipboard, espousing change, a radical alteration of our lifestyles to derail the runaway juggernaut of misguided and unsustainable economic growth. Are my words of wisdom also ways of wisdom? Partially, I’m working on it. There’s still a long, difficult journey ahead, but I’ve made a beginning, and the word is spreading. We must educate ourselves, deal honestly with our illusions, and then put them aside, lest a miasma of self-deception and apathy extinguish any hope of averting a dark and savage destiny. However, when shedding our illusions, we must be careful not to allow the rank stench of corruption to fuel pessimistic nihilism. For, without hope, without optimism, we will not change, we will decompose. If beauty and art and togetherness, love, trust and equality are going to win, we must remain positive. With clarity of mind and a strong resolve, we may be able to sway the winds of change onto a less destructive path.

 
http://gvspvolunteers.org/

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rise of the Corporation-State

When Edward Bernays, nephew to Sigmund Freud, took his uncle’s psychological ideas and turned them into what we now call public relations, he transformed individuals into statistics, and we were all relabelled as consumers.
From a corporate viewpoint, our most important function as a society is to consume, consumption drives the economy, but it’s now so much more than supply and demand, consumption has become a way of life.
Our world is crammed to bursting with commercialism, swollen with the stinking refuse of our pleasures and necessities as faceless corporations shovel cash into cavernous bank accounts. Party politics is driven by corporate campaign-donations, our entertainment is peppered with product placement, and we are relentlessly besieged by advertisement in every moment of our waking lives, we are living in a corporation-state.
Perhaps that’s an extreme assertion, but if we’re not, then we’re headed that way. Voter apathy is beginning to undermine the validity of campaign politics, after all, if less than fifty-one percent of the population votes, you’re no longer living in a democracy, if we ever were. And if a minority of socially distant, morally corrupt politicians are handed power, and those politicians are in fear of, in debt to, and controlled by big business, then surely, a corporation-state would be in evidence.
Our food, energy and water are provided to us at an exorbitant fee, we’re totally reliant on industry, commerce and intensive farming. If the infrastructure of our countries were to suddenly collapse, or be destabilised through war or natural disaster, we’d be lost, starving and thirsty in the dark.
Not only do we eat polluted food, drink tainted water, and drape our lives in the ethically devoid produce of unrestrained capitalism, we pay handsomely for the privilege. Could it be possible, with enough time, social unrest, and an ever-growing climate of apathy, that we would see Ronald McDonald made Prime Minister and our wages paid in happy meals?
Of course, that’s a ludicrous extrapolation, but if we can’t challenge our preconceptions of how a society works, of how we live, grow, work and interact, then I fear that democracy will give way to banality, and the Noble Prize will be replaced with a hotdog eating contest.

Who ate all the pies? Dom Carter

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Art or Artificial?

There are now a number of painting robots, and I’m not referring to the programmable arms that spray cars, but machines that can interpret images and choose their own stylistic elements to create innovative, individualised works of art.
For example, one paint-bot is connected to the internet, and chooses images and colour schemes from Google searches of its own devise. It then takes this cache of inspirational material and extrapolates a digital painting. The choices it makes are based on programming, of course, but that programming contains avenues for randomisation and algorithms for aesthetic correlation. Whichever way you look at it, this painting robot is making artistic decisions of its own.
Is this an example of artificial intelligence? I don’t think so. But I do think that its existence engenders an interesting question – at what point does programming and randomisation give way to intelligence? If we replace programming with instinct, and randomisation with trial and error, or the act of learning, then the synthetic parallels the organic, and the existence of artificial intelligence becomes a matter of perspective.
Most would scoff at the idea that a painting robot is anything but a cleverly programmed tool, reactive, unaware. But are we ourselves not cleverly programmed by evolution? If a machine mind were created with enough complexity, with the right programming, is it not possible that it could gain sentience?
Some say that an entity cannot truly be alive unless it has emotions, fear of its own demise, for example. Others argue that organic organisms are quintessentially alive, and cannot be synthesised, that the very act of synthesis automatically renders an artificial entity non-intelligent.
But, when a human mind has been accurately simulated within a quantum computer, or perfectly replicated within a sophisticated automaton, how can we say that the result is not sentient or intelligent when it is an exact digital analogue of ourselves?
When we reach this level of technological complexity, organic intelligence and artificial intelligence will no longer be delineated in terms of ability, the question will be a wholly philosophical one. If we then remove any religious or spiritual notions from the equation, we’re left with a simple comparison, and if both human and machine pass all applicable tests of cognition and sentience, must we not accept the machine as being intelligent and self aware?
Should the above circumstances come to pass, I’ve no doubt that humanists would question the validity and rigour of the testing, and the very definition of what it is to be alive.

I’d be most interested to hear your opinions on this subject; by what criteria can we claim to be self-cognisant?

I think therefore I am. Thanks for reading, Dom Carter

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – The Mathematics of the Infinite

The mathematics of the infinite is as mind-snapping as it sounds; this impossible pursuit has driven great mathematicians mad. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and well studied area of the discipline with its own formulae and hypotheses.
I named my novel Delta Function at a very early stage in the writing, when I came across a beautifully described mathematical function used within the study of the infinite. I’ll have to put it here, as I love it, and always get a delicious mental quiver whenever I read it:
The delta function – an infinitesimal-enriched continuum provided by the hyperreals.
It already sounds like the tagline from a sci-fi thriller. The blurb for Delta Function originally contained this mathematical description, but I thought it was a bit heavy and so removed it.
For me, to think about infinity is to experience a mental shut down. I vividly remember standing in front of the hallway mirror as a child, holding another mirror at my chest and staring down the endless tunnel of reflections. I would do this often, squinting my eyes as I tried to make out the end of the tunnel. Whenever I think about the universe being infinite, or the fact that I can add one to any number that I can think of, my mind goes blank. There are no thoughts or theories or images, there’s just nothing.
In my opinion, the mathematics of the infinite is the scientific equivalent of a search for God, and if great mathematicians like Cantor and Boltzmann lost their minds whilst staring into the void, who am I not to avert my eyes?
When I heard that there was an entire branch of mathematics dedicated to the infinite, I went out and began researching. Almost immediately I came across tales of mathematicians being sent to insane asylums, of suicides and lunacy. I was writing a nameless science-fiction book, but when I came across the above description I knew that I had found my title, Delta Function. Coming up with a title for a book is difficult for me, a project that I’m working on has a title, it’s awful but I don’t know what to change it to. If anybody has any thoughts on the process of titling their work, I’d like to hear from them.
In the novel, when humans are driven to extinction on Earth, thoughts of infinity were very prevalent in my mind. The resurrection of our species, our refusal to be extinguished; these story elements are representative of the infinite – pushed to the limits of endurance, the human mind thinks its way out. We continue to exist, to flourish.
In an interview with Neal Stephenson, he commented that there was too much dystopian science fiction being written, and that authors should write more positive stories. Although I am a cynic, and Delta Function certainly holds a dystopian future for the Earth, given the later diversification and re-emergence of the human race, I think, ultimately, the story is a positive one, a tale of the indomitable human spirit, of change and progression.
Infinity is a multi-faceted concept, and one integral to the mystery of being. We should not shy away from the infinite, but embrace it, not as a hair-tearing problem to be solved, but as a comfort. Whilst we can still add one to the biggest number that we can think of, there’s hope.

These past five posts have shed a small amount of light onto some of the concepts and experiences that went into creating Delta Function, I hope you’ve enjoyed the insight, I’ll be back soon with more mind-seepage, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – Ketamine

The recreational use of drugs has been much maligned, and, for the most part, with good reason. I do not deny the harm that drugs cause, nor do I promote their use. But, I believe that psychotropic substances have the potential to provide us with more than a quick thrill.
Cocaine and amphetamines are little more than feel-good drugs, but if we consider the hallucinogens, then there is something deeper and far more interesting going on. Out of all the mind-altering substances available, ketamine raises more questions than most. Notable medical professionals have dedicated entire tomes to its particular variety of cerebral warping. The spiritually fixated have championed it as the doorway to another realm and it has been said to provide out-of-body experiences like those reputed to occur when a person is close to death.
I take my influences from everything around me, as I’m sure do most writers, and, at times, those influences come in a pharmaceutical form. Whilst creating the Delta Function universe I had some truly inspiring experiences combining ketamine and THC. Some of those experiences have made it into the novel. The people of Delta, one of the planets colonized by humans exiled from Earth, have developed a method of manipulating physical reality using an engineered drug called konnon.
The ideas I propose in the novel came directly from the visions and thought-modes I experienced whilst taking ketamine. To those who’ve never had the inclination to indulge their curiosity, or for those who’ve never been curious, I imagine my words might seem preposterous, deluded or perhaps even dangerously irresponsible, but I’ve found my experiences on ketamine to be wholly positive and inspirational; I can’t say the same of other drugs I’ve tried.
I’ve altered, amplified and extrapolated the chemically induced notions that poured over me as I rode the magic ketamine-carpet. I took thrumming, drug-fuelled glimpses and moulded them into a cohesive plotline; the core premise for the Deltites’ superhuman abilities came directly from my hallucinations.
Writers abusing substances is nothing new; Hunter S. Thompson was renowned for excessive drug and alcohol consumption, William Burroughs was a heroin addict, Philip K. Dick was purported to use LSD (though having researched the man, this may not have been the case), Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Tim Leary, the list of celebrated authors reported to have chemically subverted their minds goes on. I can’t say that drug abuse makes a person more or less creative, all I can say is that, coincidentally or not, many of my favourite writers were wreck-heads.
I have had many unpleasant, even horrific experiences whilst taking drugs, especially hallucinogens, and I would in no way recommend that anybody try them, in fact, I’d say you’ll almost certainly live a happier, healthier life if you steer clear of drugs and alcohol entirely. But the hypocritical adage, ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ comes to mind.

In the next post I’ll be looking at the mathematics of the infinite, and how this perplexing pursuit made its way into the very title of my novel, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – Robotics

Let’s talk a little about robotics; two things need to happen in order for robots to take their inevitable place among us. The first is that they reach a level of physical and mental sophistication that will allow them to operate in public safely and efficiently. The second is that they become economically viable for mass-production.
In my novel, Delta Function, a super-intelligent combat-mech called Ares has taken over the Earth, driving the human race into death and exile. For the purposes of my story, Ares is an artificially-intelligent android that turns against its creators and goes rogue, eventually expunging all non-synthetic life from the face of the Earth.
The creation of artificial intelligence is a difficult, and some say impossible task, but intelligence isn’t a prerequisite for robots to make a massive and lasting impact on our society, they simply need to be useful and cheap. As it stands, the broad spectrum of intelligence and skill amongst humans is met by an equally broad job market. However, if robots are created at a sophisticated enough level, then they will undoubtedly replace humans in a number of key areas. Manual labour and hazardous duties are just two fields where an exact, tireless, unflinching non-sentient automaton could and would outperform a human.
The balance in society would be threatened if a wave of cheap mechanical slaves were to replace a huge swathe of skilled and unskilled people. The likelihood is that a purpose-designed robot could do any task faster, more accurately and more efficiently than a human being. So, if we have a world where robots are building our houses (they’re already building our cars), laying our roads, drilling for oil, erecting wind-turbines and all the other myriad tasks that keep civilisation ticking along, then what happens to the resultant jobless millions?
Cheap robotic labour is an unavoidable consequence of an increasingly technocratic society. Industry chiefs would be delighted to remove people from the manufacturing equation. Having total control over an indefatigable team of possessions, with no rights, desires or emotions, would be any business mogul’s dream come true. But if those displaced from their jobs became disillusioned and angry, as they surely would, then would we see a revolt? The unemployed masses could become dangerously dissatisfied with their lot, and suspicious of the consumer society that has ousted them.
As genetic engineering progresses hand in hand with robotics, as the need for human labour is reduced and ultimately eradicated, would we choose to enhance the intellects of our offspring as a matter of necessity? Lest they be drawn into a listless, marauding underclass.
In my opinion, the only thing that would prevent these unfortunate future circumstances would be the advent and distribution of reliable, renewable energy, like extracting oxygen from water or the generation of electricity from reengineered bacteria. But, the cynic in me says that any technology capable of freeing the population from its dependence on fossil fuels and the big energy providers would be patented, purchased and peddled out at an extortionate price. For the nations of this world to progress, some great acts of global technological donation need to occur, but I really don’t think the CEOs and majority-shareholders have it in them.

In the next instalment of this series I’ll be bringing you my thoughts on the psychoactive properties of ketamine, and how recreational use of the drug has directly impacted on my writing. Thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – Cloning

Hello, I’m Dom Carter. Welcome to another instalment of my Delta Influences article series. In this piece, I’ll be looking at human cloning.

I find the prospect of human cloning and genetic engineering to be very exciting, though if such things became ubiquitous, if they came to be standard, established activities within human society, then a number of tricky existential, legal and social ramifications would need to be addressed.
Firstly, clone rights. If a clone were created exclusively from your DNA, would you, as the genetic ‘parent’, take custody of the completed clone as one would a child, or, given an accelerated growth cycle, would the clone be an autonomous individual with the same personal freedoms as anyone else?
Cloning could be a hugely destructive force, if the technology becomes widely available then I envisage slave labourers and sex workers being produced on an industrial scale, sports teams made to order, and planets colonised by mass-produced eco-engineers. If we take it as a given that all clones would be refined and idealised, unnaturally evolved, then there’s the very real probability of a new elite being formed, those physically and mentally more adept than the norms.
If it were possible to bypass the dangers of natural childbirth, would parents choose to enhance their test-tube-tots, their athletic prowess, their intellect, memories or emotional traits? Research into eradicating mental and physical abnormalities through genetic engineering and manipulation will pave the way for ‘designer babies’. I ask the question, is there something inherently wrong with wanting your offspring to be smarter and fitter? I don’t think so; the problem lies in the distribution of wealth and accessibility of the technology.
If every baby born from this moment on could be guaranteed a certain IQ before conception, or a specific body mass index, or whatever set of attributes and characteristics deemed to comply with some global ideal, why shouldn’t we make our sons and daughters happier and healthier?
But the greed and inequality synonymous with the human condition preclude the possibility of our global-village collaborating in altruism. If cloning and genetic engineering become pervasive in human reproduction, then a new and dangerous societal division would be created, a division along genetic lines, those above and those below.
How about the sanctity of your own thoughts and feelings? If an exact duplicate were made of you, including your personality and memories, would you still be you? If the clone thinks and feels as you do, and shares your every memory and character trait, then is that person not also you? If yourself and your clone took separate paths and were then reunited, decades down the line, could you predict the choices your clone would make? Propose accurate hypothesises as to the appearance of their partner, their line of work or the interests they may have developed? Would you be concerned for their mental and physical welfare as you are your own?
For the religiously inclined, consider the soul. In Delta Function, the citizens of a city are asked to donate their DNA. The biological samples are used to create an army of physically enhanced clones to locate and destroy Ares, the robot overlord of Earth. The people of Enképhalos are afraid to fight and so allow clones to be manufactured to fight in their stead. Have they doomed their own souls by sending their clones to war? Could the clones’ actions on the battlefield prevent the Enképhalonians from passing through the pearly gates?
I am not religious myself, but there is something unique, mystical and unknowable about the phenomenon of consciousness. If our minds and bodies could be replicated and upgraded, would our great cult of personality be diluted to a list of options on the screen of a cloning booth?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief discourse on cloning and genetic engineering, next time I’ll be ruminating on a future dominated by infallible, untiring work-droids, and the ramifications for the global job-market. As ever, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Delta Influences – Biophotonics

My forthcoming novel, Delta Function, deals with a distant future where humanity exists in scattered pockets throughout the galaxy, each exiled community totally different from the last. As a science fiction author a major part of my writing process is the extrapolation of existing scientific theories. In this series of articles I will examine some of the ideas central to Delta Function’s narrative, starting here with biophotonics, a term of my own invention.

In order to explain biophotonics, I must first familiarise you with the concept that DNA emits electromagnetic radiation; it has an ‘ultra-weak’ photonic output. Visible and invisible light is made up of photons – light particles. For us to see anything, the light that our eyes and minds process must contain energy and information, if all light contains information, then the ‘ultra-weak’ photonic output of our own DNA must contain information too.
If we wish to ‘see’ ultraviolet or infrared light, we employ technological processes to achieve our desires. Therefore, if it is the invisible information contained within the cells of organic organisms that we wish to observe, then an idiosyncratic technique must be employed to achieve that end.
A great deal of research has been conducted into the sophisticated pharmaceutical knowledge base found in geographically remote tribal peoples. Take, for example, the shamanic practitioners of Western Amazonian. When questioned as to the source of their medicinal plant knowledge, they explained that, whilst under the hallucinogenic influence of ayahuasca, the medicinal uses of the jungle flora were revealed to them.
A combination of the two ideas – cellular photonic output, and the psychoactively enabled ability to interpret that output’s information, creates, for me, a story-vehicle with great potential. The idea that every living organism is projecting its chemical, and perhaps even its historical journey for the properly attuned to discover, is a wonderful thought to toy with.
The photonic output of DNA is an established, documented scientific fact, the ability to see it under the influence of dimethyltryptamine is not. But given the complexity of tribal medicinal knowledge, and the unlikely combination of geographically and genetically disparate plants into chemically beneficial compounds, what other explanation could there be for the astonishingly effective results of the shamans’ pharmaceutical concoctions? The ‘trial and error’ explanation holds no water with me.
When I thought to include a fictionalised version of these two convergent ideas in my novel, I applied the concept to human beings. What if, given the correct chemicals and technology, we could ‘read’ a person’s biological story? Perhaps, using a process of amplification, a suitably prepared observer might be able to see into the genetic past of our race. We might be able to trace our exact evolutionary lineage all the way back to the Precambrian, and, if we take the idea to an extreme conclusion, perhaps we might be able to divine the origins of life on this planet, verify panspermia or disprove the existence of God.
Biophotonics is a product of my imagination, but I find the science behind the fiction utterly fascinating. Could some of the fundamental questions of existence be answered by imbibing hallucinogenic compounds? Could those making regular recreational use of DMT, ketamine, LSD and mescaline really be connecting with a fountain of knowledge unknown to the uninitiated? I hope so.

In my next post, I’ll be looking at human cloning and some of the puzzling identity paradoxes that it might engender, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.
© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Delta Function Exordiums – Available Now

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