Hunter Gatherers at Heart

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We have a tiny lemon tree in our garden – so tiny that it fits in a pot. Twelve lemons have been slowly growing on it for a very long time, turning a slightly yellower shade of green each day, and today I harvested the first one. On my way back to the house I found myself singing an old song under my breath:

To reap and sow
And plough and mow
To be a farmer’s bo-o-o-oy,
To be a farmer’s boy!

My family left the land five generations ago, but deep down I’m still a peasant. I think we all are. In Australia the atavistic memory has more to do with cattle-droving or sheep-shearing, among the white population anyway, but the difference is superficial.

Even deeper down we are hunter-gatherers still. Why else do we experience a thrill when we enter a supermarket? Why else do we stalk special offers through the undergrowth of overpriced junk food and boring staples? Why else do we mutter thanks to forgotten gods as we take the last “reduced” packet from the shelf? Why else do our eyes dart to the bottom of the receipt to see how much we’ve “saved”?

For two million years we’ve been honing skills that have served us so well that… well, we have survived. From ocean to savannah to jungle to supermarket aisle. Go, Humanity!

Sapiens

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It shows great generosity of spirit when one author recommends the work of another. This I now do.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, and I urge you to read it too. And give it to your friends and relatives, or at least recommend it to them. It’s subtitled ‘A Brief History of Humankind’, and although there may not be much there that you don’t already know, he puts it together in a way that makes one think about it differently. At least, that’s how I felt.

Best of all, Dr Harari ends by speculating about what will happen next in Homo sapiens’ journey, when our powers to create and control will truly make us godlike and the next step in our evolution will be of our own making.

It put me in mind of my own modest work: The Eeks Trilogy, available from all good e-book retailers in a single volume entitled ‘Goldiloxians’, which speculates about our future dealings with intelligent robots. But do read ‘Sapiens’ too.

Intelligent Design

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I am a writer of science fiction – or social science fiction, as I have redefined my chosen genre in an as-yet unsuccessful attempt to create a new market in which I am the sole supplier. Apart from pitifully low sales figures, my main concern is that science fact will overtake me, leaving my speculative, imaginative, provocative stories looking like ho-hum period pieces.

This concern of mine was reinforced today by two stories at the BBC’s admirable website. One is about a self-contained robotic octopus made of jelly-like materials, intended as a prototype of something that will one day perform autonomously and slither into spaces that robots with rigid components cannot. It’s a good read.

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The other story is about the future evolution of our species. The idea is that we have evolved as far as we can by means of natural selection, which is in any case too slow for our immediate needs. We now have to design and make our own evolutionary adaptations, which will almost certainly entail combining organic and inorganic elements. This story is very short and told audio-visually.

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If those stories pique your interest in what I’ve been writing, and if you’re willing to buy and read e-books, you can get my trilogy of books in an omnibus edition called ‘Goldiloxians’ at all the major e-book retail platforms. Here are two links:

Goldiloxians’ at Amazon/Kindle

Goldiloxians’ at Smashwords