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a line in the sand

The first episode of the 1990s TV series The Outer Limits is entitled Sandkings. In it, a research scientist finds life in Martian soil samples. After being dismissed from his official role he experiments with alien material he has smuggled out of the military facility where he worked. Hatching sentient arthropod-like creatures in a glass sided sand box in his barn, he manipulates their environment by reducing available food. The creatures develop different colouration and opposing sides organise accordingly. This is a prelude to battles, after which the victors carry the fallen away to eat. The story suggests that when resources are scarce there is an instinct to form sides and fight. Will the population of the Earth reach the point where pressure on resources inclines people to be more intensely nationalistic or fanatical? Whether under the colours of Nazism, Imperialism, Communism, or BLM, are the tensions a reflection of an enhanced sense of relative deprivation, the imperative to survive, or territorial ambition? A colour might represent a country, or a political doctrine, but any distinctions may function like the colours of the fictional bugs in the story. Basal structures in the human brain activated by overpopulation could incrementally amplify contrasting behaviours like parsimony or plunder to the extent of creating factions. Conflict would then be inevitable, and human numbers are already astronomical; almost inconceivable. Civilisation begins to seem like a tenuous, even illusory concept. In Cronenberg's film The Fly, the character Seth Brundle is turning into an insect. He feels like he dreamt he was human, and loved it, before the insect woke up. As his character acts with selfish determination, he realises bugs are brutal. They have no capacity for diplomacy or dialogue. The increasing stress of population growth could flush rationality and conscience from the human nervous system. If you look at the headlines you might suspect it already has. The present is just vaguely Orwellian, but the future could be positively Kafkaesque.

Tue, 06 Oct 2020 10:23:32 GMT all posts


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