A few weeks ago Wired Magazine launched a 48-hour, crowd-sourced magazine initiative called where they invited anyone to submit work focused on its central theme. For this issue of “The Connective” the theme was Mass Transmission, imagining a world with the internet of everything. While I totally didn’t make the cut with my submission, whoa is me, the brilliance of contributing to this site is I get to share it here. So without further ado here it is in all it’s obtuse glory:
Life as Transmission
A short essay on the meaning of Life in a world of mass transmission
In a world of mass transmission the constitutions we collectively use to define what is Life must be challenged. Call it the evisceration of the Turing test. Our organic origins, the inhalation of oxygen, the photosynthesis of light all seem so basic in comparison to what it means to transmit. As our airwaves pulsate with information, the electromagnetic spectrum is enriched with a density of living stuffs that does more for the world than any oxygen molecule ever could. Our transmissions establish bearings, distance, time and controls. Our transmissions establish relations, benchmarks, status, transactions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes. Our transmissions actually embody the outcomes of our unconscious processes while all the while endowing life to toasters, fridges, cars, trucks and an assortment of other dead objects. Beyond all that our transmissions use their simple 1’s and 0’s to endow us, collectively, with a single, representative language of all things, at all times. While the translation from dolphin to code has yet to be cracked it can be cracked and it will.
If one were to believe in establishment of Life as the ability to transmit it would immediately beg the question of what kind of morality would suit such a world. In a single voice we would need to start to sing, in harmony, the songs of a moral code taking into account the status of cars, toasters, dolphins and people, building just relations between them all. Further to these just relations this new categorization of life will beg of us much more fundamental questions we often avoid. Questions of love, equity, belief and meaning. All these notions need to be confronted in a world that sees life as the ability to transmit. And what of death? Does the ceasing of transmission establish time of death? Or do we seek a new category of life – an undead class of people and things that exist but can no longer transmit? The answers to these questions will have outcomes that could easily thwart or accelerate our collective progress as a collection of transmitting species.
To transmit as a categorization of life can be easily validated if one were to look back at our origins as a species. The fledgling cellular duplication that occurred in a primordial pool billions of years ago is a kind of transmission our world gave us in the beginning. From such humble beginnings emerged a voice and a means to communicate with our outside world, giving rise to the complexes of humanity that we see today. In our age of mass transmission we are at the precipice of endowing the world with a similar voice. If life begins at transmission the code of what we transmit need original rules by design. Rules that take into account all that we know to be true, with the ability to change as new complexes emerge out of our collective transmissions. The wonderfulness and the horrors we’ve seen need an objective voice to help manage the potential outcomes that lie within the vaults of “big data.” The ask is not small but the potential outcomes warrant the work.
Transmission as life is a gift as much as it is a responsibility. It is us, at this point in our history, that need to take stock of what we’ve done, what we value and what we want for all that transmits. Like a newborn in a crib we nurture life into being both worldly and connected. Our ‘things’ that we see as transmissions are just as subjected to our actions as the trees, the animals, the soils and the atmosphere are to our harm to the environment. In fact, life as transmission actually gives voice to those things that once never had it. The real questions we need to collectively ask ourselves are not “is it us?” or “are we ready to bestow life as transmission to all that we choose to transmit?” That truth is already upon us. The real questions we must ask ourselves is “what do we think they’ll say?” and “will we choose to listen?”
Image sourced from here: http://www.jhunewsletter.com/2013/02/28/scientists-find-novel-way-to-store-data-in-dna-16160/