“How do we democratize creation without killing everyone is basically the question.”
– Austen Heinz, Cambrian Genomics
“…It ALSO is the question that you should have an answer to before you start asking for millions of dollars to create tiny dinosaurs!”
– John Iadarola, ThinkTank
When you discover you are capable of anything, it’s time to check your motivations.
High technology requires sophisticated ethics, probing inquiry, deep insight…and this lesson grows in its significance and urgency as our society accelerates into an age of godlike power. Even though we’d like to think that science is the pure and noble search for knowledge, no science ever happens independently of funding, and the trend of late is that most magical new tools emerge into our world serving someone’s bottom line. When profit is the motive, and that profit’s measured by a quarterly report, there isn’t time enough for wisdom.
Complex systems thinking gave us biotech, but isn’t granted any say in how our corporations breed synthetic life that will, inevitably, turn our last wild places into artificial landscapes. Innovating hastily, our haste will be imprinted in the story of Promethean technologies that alter evolution’s course on Earth.
It’s not that GMOs are evil, or that we are “trespassing on God’s domain.” It’s that when we declare necessity the mother of invention, what we think we need determines how the tools we make are used. And when the consciousness that wields these tools is acting from “the optical illusion” of its separateness from nature, trying to control the universe to guarantee its own impossible security against the threat of death, we get Jurassic Park and Frankenstein, Moreau, Monsanto, Fukushima, Faust. The genie just reflects the wishes of its master – and there is always going to be a blind spot when we don’t create from wholeness, as a celebration of our true identity as Origin.
We can, and must, proceed as sparks of that-which-always-was and still explodes in novelty each moment. What would life-as-art look like if we made organisms from the living truth of our non-separation? How would full acceptance of our daunting new responsibility as this planet’s keystone species – embracing all the vast, far-reaching consequences of our every gesture – change the kinds of forms we bring into the world? Loving what we make, acknowledging our art and engineering as the action of an ongoing creative process, and seeing our techniques as how the universe explores itself, we have the opportunity to be good parents for whatever we bring through to take our place.
To orient ourselves in this mature and sensible alternative to global suicide, we’d hold the question: What would spiritually awakened genetic engineers decide to synthesize? Or:
What Would Buddha Splice?
Michael Garfield is a paleontologist, live painter, electronic guitarist, and performance philosopher. He is a writer at Globalish, where this article originally appeared, and Editor and Chief of SolPurpose. Michael has previously written several articles for h+ Magazine including the noteworthy Psychedelic Transhumanists.
He currently resides in Austin Texas.