When they started modifying humans – and I mean really modifying – they started with shrimp. Stomatopoda, of sub-order Hoplocarida and class Malacostraca, common name: Mantis Shrimp. They wanted more colours, more sight, more depth. This was followed with animalistic strength, aquatic gills, bovine digestive systems. It all started out ‘practically,’ ways to survive in amongst this climate breakdown.
We are surrounded by technology more than anything else: water, food, or land. Technology and disaster go hand-in-hand, warned the texts of old. Stories of science fiction; truths waiting to unfold. I guess they were right, just not in the ways they may have expected to be. Predictions of killer Artificial Intelligence systems, morally corrupt mad scientists, apocalyptic biological weapons.
Nothing so grand happened in this timeline, but we did have disasters. Plenty of them. Natural disasters caused by nothing more than the complete human disregard for the uninteresting. Climate degradation patterns went ignored as we systematically funded the insane body modifications of a new species to grace the Homo genus.
We used CRISPR-Cas9 machines to splice and dice until our newest cousins were practically prepared to live in this hellscape created by inaction. Then they moved on to the cosmetic: jellyfish genes to glow in the dark, anteater alleles for a party-trick tongue. We wanted fun, beauty, excitement. We wanted distraction.
All of these animals, all of these species, all of these living organisms to draw inspiration from, and yet, never butterflies. They had died out soon after the bees and the flowers which couldn’t be artificially pollinated. Rhopalocera, of order Lepidoptera, class Insecta, phylum Arthropoda and kingdom Animalia. Common name: butterfly, known by the ancient Greeks as ψυχή (psȳchē), referring to the soul and the mind. Abstract concepts like these seem to have been lost in an obsessive search to evolve beyond human.
We could have chosen to exaggerate traits that us H.sapiens are famous for: our brains, our empathy, our social skills. Primates are set apart by these traits too, and yet, there is something different that we possess as humans. Egocentricity aside, humanity centres around storytelling, passion, deep thought. The word on the tip of all of our tongues, an indescribable quality, a soul, a spirit. These traits that may have seen us bind together instead of drift further apart, passively directed by the tides and washing up like flotsam.
If we had focused on that which makes us human, we would have not needed the Mantis Shrimp’s 16 photoreceptors in order to see the real destruction humanity had unleashed onto itself. Perhaps, we needed only to look closer, interrogate our own essence before drawing on that of other species. Perhaps, complete human annihilation may have been prevented.