Somatic Angst

When I was a child, I began to consider suicide as an alternative to a prolonged and painful death. To explain, my friends were elderly with various infirmities often leading to a painful and demeaning end. It seemed a reasonable response. Such a final act of defiance was appealing to the mind of a child. It still is.

But we often linger. Determined to perceive each ignominy as just another insult to be overcome. Until compensation fills our waking moments.

Evolution made us temporary objects, experimentally inserted between the genome and the environment. Each generation, winners are declared (simply, crudely) as those reproduced most frequently. We temps are left to expire. Life is a terminal illness: we do not wear out but are obeying a simple engineering directive determined by evolution.

In multicellular creatures only a few lucky cells get to contribute genetically to the next generation: the germ cells. The remainder are somatic. Somatic cells constitute the body that maximizes spread of their germ cell brethren. We are soma. But our big brains have begun to realize the situation …and investigating possibilities for avoiding it. The time allotment evolution has granted we soma is finite …and our consciousness has grown sophisticated enough to know it.

Plant and animal breeders may have inadvertently launched the opening salvo in the looming somatic (transhumanist inspired) war with Darwinian evolution. And gene editing will accelerate this process by orders of magnitude. Will we simply usurp our future developmental direction or freeze it in place so that the wealthy and powerful can become nearly immortal overlords?

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