Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Skinny Wombs

Among the many minor, secret tragedies for Terrans will be the development of aesthetic technologies that make people skinny, fit, beautiful, et cetera, without need for any thoughtful care of the body. Once people can eat a cheesecake and a half every evening and still look sexy without a visit to the vomitorium, the learning opportunities resulting from the feedback between material-body/material-desire will be lost. Among the many results will be stunting of development similar to that experienced by people whose cultures have passed through forms of non-active ownership, like feudalism, where the landlord no longer really understands, appreciates, or knows his own land. The landlord sorta knows, but it's no longer really his. Without being the one who trims the hedges, walks every grain of every acre, scrubs hoarfrost off the back servants' stair early every spring--without that, the landlord loses the connection. He's been robbed; disempowered; neutered. And he starts acting like it, and the effects upon the things he "owns," and upon his own detached mental state, are predictable.

More advanced minds can handle this, but that's because they've already learned those lessons--already been their own gardener for long enough.

Sex, too, while we're at it. Any form of establishing a disconnect between sex and its results breaks weaker minds, causing them to lose the benefits gained by associating sowing with reaping, gardening and silver-polishing with the pleasures of being the lord of the manor, sipping brandy at the east sitting room fireplace. A mind at a certain stage of development who suddenly "owns" that forty thousand acres can only imitate, but never learn, the real meaning of kinship, no matter how many nature walks or token acts of landscaping she engages in. So too the lord of condoms and hormone pills, facing the consequence-free facsimile of lessons stolen. Those are all wonderful things most deserved by those who've already had the opportunity to learn the lessons, but when that opportunity is burgled out of the curricula of those who need it, they lose something. If you haven't mastered the Law of Contrasts, you need those contrasts; those consequences--not as punishments, but because they're not bad things so much as good things, teaching you to develop a greater independent understanding of versal relationships. On the world where you're born able to eat a cheesecake every day, you're never able to learn the appreciation of that cheesecake which may be enjoyed by those who have already had to face, and duly conquered, the temptation of eating just one more piece balanced against adding 0.3 lbs the next week.

Stealing this opportunity from the developing is pretty mean, as well as occasionally dangerous. The farther along people go without understanding what they've skipped over, the less they appreciate each new thing. They don't really understand the meaning, the implications, of cheesecake, floating chaise lounges, anal sex, et cetera.

Artificial Wombs

So, artificial wombs. There's a whole lot of annoying stuff involved in reproducing successfully, like having to put up with someone else for a while, and then having to have the thing attached for a while, and getting it out, and then it cries and poops, and then it has to learn to emit the right guttural sounds, and then grammar, and so forth. Artificial wombs (here's the same link to the demented engineers we looked at before) bypass all of the necessities of human interaction, just like owning a mutual fund that holds shares in another fund that owns part of a different fund that owns a company that holds factories bypasses the need to understand how to build the product produced by one of said factories. In the latter situation, the dividends come in, and all the owner cares about is the size of the dividends, not the brutalization of the laborers or the proper way to oil the partitioning machines or the gunk that runs into the groundwater of the locality far away.

People handed these tools, without having learned how and why they were built through hands-on living, miss the chance to learn all that stuff. Many of the heirs of internal plumbing treat water differently than they would if it had been carried by bucket, purified by boil. Many of the heirs of antibiotics treat cleanliness differently than they would if those weren't available. The congenitally well-connected tend to treat their own characters, and other people, the same way.

It isn't the end of the world; it's just a new form of the same challenge. Presented with so many grand inheritances, we face a more refined opportunity: the opportunity to intellectually, imaginatively confront the horrid effects--internal, this time, taking on subtle forms of character rather than external, taking on, say, muffin tops--of those who wallow unappreciatively in easy excess. Watching, e.g., Prince Harry or Lady Chelsea confront the world there for their taking, we see far deeper, darker consequences than the mere obesity or exile that might have served as instructors in other times. Generationally-latent clone problems, detectable only long after the tubes reach replacement levels, will not be citeable evidence for many of us for a long stretch of time, but that doesn't mean we can't still learn everything we need to learn. We just need to think a little harder about it; to understand that absence of fat rolls in times of plenty doesn't any longer mean that someone possesses certain levels of foresight or discipline.

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