February: Crawled out of my cave, looked around and crawled right back in.
April: Still nope.
May: Fingers itching, must be vaccine side-effects.
June: Fuck me. Alright, alright, just quit squeezing my frontal lobe.
[Back cover blurb]
A-Nihilists: Tribe of Annihil-Nation
Members of a growing anti-society movement continue to expand their attacks against anyone and everyone. If you believe in anything, God, morals, society, human rights, animals rights, Save-the-Planet, free school lunches — you are a target. A-Nihilists are here to destroy you and everything you believe in. They live solely to convince you of the absurdity of existence.
Kamus joined at fifteen. His first act involved the explosive destruction of an I-15 bridge that spanned the Virgin River in St. George, Utah. It didn’t go well. He and his partners underestimated the concussive power of one-hundred pounds of ANFO (ammonium nitrate & fuel oil). But mostly, it was the too-short fuse Kam had used on the M-80 that detonated the makeshift dynamite.
Mistakes are often the best teachers. That is, if you can survive them.
Years later, that first lesson became a seed of doubt.
“If my purpose is showing you your purpose is bullshit…”
I’ve been on a Bulfinch’s Mythology bender lately.
Why? Maybe because I recently finished watching “The Good Place” and “Good Omens” on Netflix, both of which I recommend. But, I also had a desire to know more about a certain Roman/Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus. (Don’t the Romans seem like god thieves?)
Regardless, I got to thinking about WHO DREAMED ALL THIS SHIT UP? Think about it, there was somebody, at some moment in the past, who had the inkling to say something akin to, “Boy, that’s some hardcore white streaks shooting down from the stormy sky. Someone must be throwing them. Maybe, yeah, maybe his name is Zeus.”
SOMEBODY had to have that first thought. Sure, there may have been discussion or what have you. But there was an original human who had that very first notion.
And then I got to thinking about all the other gods. And all the other words. And all the other ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE.
“I sure am thirsty. I think I’ll drink some of that, um, trizzick. Uh, no. Bakabaka? Naw. Water. Yeah, I’ll call it water.”
Imagine, every word ever spoken was first spoken by one dude (or dudette). Every word. Somebody did it first.
And every thing created, every food eaten, everything. Somebody had to have done it first. Millions of unique names and objects.
And not just once, thousands of times for the same thing. How many languages have a word for “water”? All of them?
Individuals, millions of them, in their own time and minds, are responsible, at some point in the past, for every single word we utter, every thing we use, and every notion we understand.
Elon Musk wants to preserve the species. The ONLY way, he thinks, to do this is to make humanity a multi-planet race.
Ignoring the fact that the Universe is Absurd, that ultimately everyone and everything will dissolve into the void, let’s examine the factors that support or refute his hypothesis and come up with an alternative.
Let’s say we want to plan humanity’s continued existence out a billion years, out to when the Sun begins to bloat and heat Earth’s surface to the point of boiling off the oceans and roasting the biosphere to a crisp. What will we need to prepare for?
Super volcano eruption
Narrow beam gamma ray burst
There are other risks that don’t really rise, realistically, to the level of “end of days”: antagonistic AI, global warming, alien invasion, and those unknown unknowns. But I wager that humanity’s existence is not actually threatened by such things.
I’ll clarify here that we’re not talking about human civilization. Let’s start first with just persisting the species out into the future a few thousand to a few million years. Yes, we stated that a billion years is our target, but let’s start small and see how far we can get.
There are a few factors we’ll need to address. The first is timing, how quickly will humanity need this capability. Then there are resource requirements, sustainable independence, minimum viable population, and, if we want to retain or return to a technological civilization, the reemergence of industrial capability. We won’t get to all of these but we’ll skim over them for completeness.
Why are we bothering with this discussion?
Right. Here’s the gist: I posit that there’s an alternative means of human preservation that we should be pursuing right now, in lieu of and/or in addition to, spreading humanity’s legacy out among the planets.
What are we afraid of? We’re afraid of the surface of our planet becoming uninhabitable. Mitigating every one of the above listed risks involves sequestering an enclave of humanity *somewhere* safe, for years if not decades. We want to hide out in some protected, self-sufficient place until we can resume activities, hopefully Earth-top-side.
What if the surface of Earth never returns to a livable state? Bah! Five massive extinction events resulting in five returns from the brink of annihilation prove that, until the Sun swells to consume the inner planets, Earth will always return to a state of habitability.
Is space the only alternative? If not, then where, other than the surface of Mars or the Moon, can we squirrel away a self-sufficient, re-emergent pocket of humanity?
Queue the music…
Under the sea.
Under the sea.
Darlin’ it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me.
A city on Mars?
Bullshit. Build a city at the bottom of the sea. Or deep within the Earth.
Such a metropolis would be protected from cosmic radiation, volcanic winter, nuclear fallout, a ravaging plague of zombies, and all the toxins and trauma, malcontents and mayhem. We wouldn’t need to spend $billions blasting resources into space. Or traversing billions of miles of a very nasty inter-planetary void. We could leverage all the benefits of cheap labor, cheap materials and exhaustive know-how right here where we need them.
Within a few years we could build a vast network of cities, all self-sustainable, all independent. Such preserves could be supported by tourism yet isolated at the first signs of trouble.
Every disaster movie ever made makes provisions for such failsafe protections of humanity. And there’s a reason why — it make sense. Even if (or when) the worst of the worst calamity takes place, the buried and submerged cities would weather the situation far more easily than some half-baked outpost on Mars could survive the decades alone without support from Earth.
Eventually, if humanity can survive its own self-made ills, it might construct the means to disperse its seed into the cosmos. (Why we, here and now, should give a shit about that, is beyond me.) But, even if Elon wants to immortalize himself as some savoir of Humanity 2.0, then building a city on Mars shouldn’t be the first step. Establish a subterranean city for the Morlocks and Mermaids and then shoot for the stars.
Comparing a Martian colony to Nemo’s Atlantis we have the following factors:
Timing: How long will it take to get a viable habitat built, stocked and operational? Do we have 10 years before the next apocalypse? 50? We don’t really know, but surely sooner is better. With Nemo City we could start tomorrow.
Resource requirements: Besides air, water, nutrients and nearly everything else, what does Mars need to establish itself as a potential sanctuary for, not just humanity, but all of humanity’s dependencies? Think biosphere/ecosystem here. Again, for a earthly solution, all the stuff required for existence is right outside our front door. For Barsoom City? Oy! Maybe you won’t have to bring dirt for farming (provided you can wash the peroxide salts from the Martian soil).
Sustainable independence: Will a Martian colony EVER actually become independent? With technology, industry, agriculture and growth enough to blossom and return the favor back to Earth? Sure science fiction thinks so. But reality?
Minimum viable population: We know humanity prospers in the gravity well, with the oxygen levels and sunlight saturation of Earth. On Mars? What strange illnesses will reveal themselves, both on the red planet and along the months long trip to get there? Will human births suffer? Human fertility? What of restocking Earth with surplus Martians and surplus supporting biota (animals, plants, bacteria and fungi)?
A technological civilization and the reemergence of industrial capability: It took humanity thousands of years, and terrajoules of energy to lift itself up to a technological society. Will Mars be able to repeat this?
Elon, do you really want to preserve humanity? If so, maybe you could turn your sights down from the heavens to the ground beneath your feet. Use your Boring company to tunnel into the earth and there build an actual salvation city.
The malaise of disenchantment may be finally lifting, or not. No promises.
I was thinking about the dynamic range of dog sizes; teacup poodles to 200+ pound mastiffs. Yet, all these dogs seem to be manageable by their owners. We may not be entirely comfortable around a massive Irish wolfhound, but as long as the owner is near, or the dog wags its tail and stays calm — we’re good.
Imagine a house cat the size of a Bernese Mountain dog? Or, in other words, imagine a cougar or leopard living in your home.
I suppose it’s obvious why humanity hasn’t bred larger and larger house cats. We can barely trust the 12lb’ers we already share a couch with. Consider shooing a forty pound cat-like-a-lynx off your favorite chair. “No, that’s fine. You can keep it.”
The possibility of developing larger breeds of cats is no doubt an option. Cats of every size, from five pound Lil Bubs to five-hundred pound Burmese tigers exist in the wild so their body types can handle the size and weight increases. I think the bottom line is, we just don’t trust them.
With dogs, we’re the alpha-masters (or should be). With cats, their brains just never accept their natural place in a domestic hierarchy — at the bottom.
It’s true that dog breeds exist due to specific needs or work venues. But many strut the dog shows, well, just for show. And we know that breeds like Coon cats exist that push the limits of the house-cat size range.
Tiger King notwithstanding, living with a Labrador-sized cat would be terrifying.
I officially “moved in” to my new place on March 28. At the time, I figured that at worst, I had about 3 days of being beholden to my antiquated DVD collection before the DirecTV installer showed up on the first of April.
He never showed up. As soon as the 9 to 5 window had expired, I called DirecTV and was informed that the driver “couldn’t find” my place but apparently hadn’t bothered to call me for directions. So I heard myself do something of which I didn’t think myself capable: I told them to go fuck themselves.
I spent the next 3 weeks essentially TV-free. Sure, once in a while I would throw on an episode of the Trailer Park Boys or Bob’s Burgers to watch while I ate dinner, but I was pretty much left to my own devices when it came to entertaining myself.
Last weekend, I picked up a Roku TV and now I have Hulu and Amazon Prime and all sorts of shit I never had before. Problem solved.
But was it really a problem that deserved a solution?
My point is that despite what I would have predicted, the psychological effect of a sudden pulling of the TV plug after years of constant consumption really wasn’t all that significant. My brain simply looked elsewhere for occupation. There’s plenty of wildlife up here, not to mention foliage the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Oh, and one hell of a great local cannabis dispensary within half a mile of my home.
We feel beholden to media consumption because we’re told that we are by the very media that we consume.
Old movies have something of the taste of the familiarity of an old friend. We know the dialogue inside and out and there’s no chance of being unpleasantly surprised by the outcome. But of course, old friends are better than old movies for the simple fact that they’re not static. Surprises are assured. And even when those surprises are unpleasant or contrary to the image of that friend we’d cultivated in our minds, they still contribute to the vitality of life while re-watching old films does quite the opposite. That’s not to say that I won’t re-watch my favorites many more times before I slip off this mortal coil — it’s just to say that when I’m engaged in such an activity, it has about the same effect on my life as a good nap.
But one good thing came of my 3 weeks of nothing but DVD fare on my TV: Letterkenny introduced me to yet another kick-ass band called The Tune-Yards. Check ’em out:
Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet watched The Goldbergs, do so immediately. Thanks, Hulu!