Ways of Apocalypse

There are numerous ways of how our civilization might end. I said plenty in the past about real threats, either from heavens or from within the Earth or ourselves. It was the main theme in the second half of 2012, around the Mayan's doomsday date and I contributed with several posts related to this, including Doomsday, Biodiversity and The Apocalypse Aftermath and in all those stories I was mainly focusing on the mother nature and catastrophes we can do little or nothing about. It was either some wrath from the distant universe in form of deadly gamma rays and supernovae implosions or some judgment day originated from our own Sun or asteroid impacts or even the ultimate rage from our planet by some super volcanic or tectonic disaster. But I only timidly mentioned all those man made events I referred as 'other human stupidities', including nuclear holocaust and biological hazards. So perhaps now is the time to continue the thread and glimpse into two great stories behind 'artificial' ways of global apocalypse.

Artistic view of post-apocalyptic Niš, Serbia*

First one is actually a script behind amazing web series produced by Bryan Singer and Warner Brothers Digital Distribution and 'aired' by YouTube couple of years ago by the name 'H+ The Digital Series'. For some reason I missed it when it was actual but, in a way, I was glad about it as I had privilege to watch it continuously last weekend - to be honest, I am not entirely sure how would I feel about watching extremely short episodes on weekly basis. Anyways, H+ is all about one potential outcome of fictitious transhumanism that might come in the future. Like in many other science fiction piece, to fully understand the premise, it is really necessary to understand the core of the script and in this case, just a little imagination of what would be possible in the future if we start mastering nanotechnology. Indeed, this would be one of seven wonders of the modern world. The way to really take another step and augment humanity. Just like in H+, implanting nanotech into human body has a potential to effectively improve the health by preventing all molecular hazards by monitoring cell functions and fighting diseases on the molecular level. Think just about one case - if you are attacked by cancerous cells in your pancreas for example, futuristic nanotech would be able to deliver the cure or radiation treatment only to this affected part of the body.

Of course, nanotechnology would also represent new level of computation wiring. Using nanotubes made only from dozens of carbon atoms would drastically decrease the size of already small computers today. Think of the endless possibility to wire CPU units with nano-wires that will never overheat and that will need just a fraction of power to operate comparing to your PC today. The motherboard beneath your laptop keyboard, or inside of your smartphone would be easily adapted for implantation into human beings and be no larger than the tip of your fingernail. If you think this is science fiction, well, think again. Just as a comparison - the silicon transistor size reduction went over the years from 1000nm (1 micron) in 80386 CPUs, thirty years ago, while the state of the art processors today use transistors as small as 22-32 nanometers in diameter. The atoms used in silicon chip fabrication are about 0.2nm, and the smallest possible size for manufacturing transistor pipes with the latest atomic layer deposition technology, as it seems, is about 14nm, So soon, the limit in reducing the size of silicon chips will be reached. Well, we cannot get silicon atom to be smaller just for our convenience, so the next step is to try and use something even smaller in nature. The size of carbon atom is about 0.07nm and so far, laboratory nanotubes were built with diameter of only 10nm and with no obstacles to reduce it even more with technology perfection. For all of you that cannot put nano into perspective - it is around 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

Well, and to get back to science fiction, transistors from half a century ago motion pictures or novels are reality today. For further reduction in electronic circuits in size, as far as I can see, no big breakthrough is needed and what is science fiction in 'H+ The Digital Series' within next 50 years could be very much real. At least the part with nanotech implants. In simple words I can safely say that one version of future operating system, say Windows 20 or iOS 20 could be installed into these implants. I guess we all will have to wear stickers on our skin saying something like 'Nano-είκοσι-core Intel inside' or 'Powered by Nano-Windows XX'.

But, what about the second part of H+ plot? Will it be possible to hack into implant network and spread viral infection to the point of endangering entire human species? To answer this question another clarification of Sci-fi terms is needed and those are Transhumanism, Posthumans or Technological singularity, widely used in the series? The premise is that nano-implants will have potential to start transforming humans into another species and eventually creating posthumans, or something we cannot comprehend from this point in time and if there will be one point in the future where technology and its artificial intelligence will become self-aware and start reproducing and creating even enhanced technologies by itself, that would definitely be the end of us, at least in the form we are familiar today. It would be comparable to the evolution of mammoths into elephants or dinosaurs into birds. Humans will cease to exist and many would just parish while only selected few will survive and evolve into new superior technocracy. Of course, this is just one grim glimpse into the world of tomorrow and not-entirely-impossible way of how it will play out. One thing is for sure though - technology will not stop advancing.

Well, whatever you think about it and if we get back to the 'H+ The Digital Series' again, I have to conclude this part of the post with my big admiration of how fantastic this series is made. I admire entire crew for creating perhaps one of the best web series so far with courage to avoid mainstream channels and posting it for free on YouTube. I am sure this decision cost them big and probably due to the fact that this format is still very young and not suitable for wider audience, it ended inevitably into shutting the project down way before this show really deserved the cancellation. As for me, I will definitely be waiting for another web show like this one, as entire last weekend H+ gave me endless entertainment when it was least expected. I am sure there is no need for me to say that I am highly recommending subscription to its YouTube channel.

Second piece of, I would say in this case, art of post-apocalypse world in written media, is short novella 'The Scattered and the Dead' by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus. Entire story is actually a journal written by Decker, the main character, whose life before and after the apocalypse is not too much different. I will continue my policy of not spoiling the content and to understand what actually happens in Decker's post-apocalyptic life please take the book and go into reading. Or listening - you can also grab Tim's narrative audible. The only thing I will say is that you should not expect the usual denouement in form of the heroic epilogue of solving the plague or saving the world. This is just the first book in a row and it is more an introduction of what will come later. Nevertheless, I found Decker's case very, and I mean it, very believable and impressive. And if you by any chance find yourself little disappointed with his ultimate transformation at the end, just wait 24 hours before concluding anything substantial and you might, like me, see that this was Decker's only outcome. Or probably anyone's, who by some (mis)fortune might be spared by apocalyptic sword. Or machete would be more appropriate in this case.

Little or nothing was said about the plague itself and the only valuable hints in the book are chapters names - they are actually countdowns before and after the event that appeared to be mass usage of EMP weapon. It surely hints a lot about what we might be reading in the sequel but also gives us sort of preview what might be added to any pandemic event, large enough to get out of control. There is scientific opinion that there is no known pandemic capable to wipe out or even decimate humanity for simple reason that some potential super-deadly viral infection that's spreading too fast and killing hosts rapidly will very soon be left with no new hosts to spread further and eventually die out before ultimate worldwide infection. On the other end, if disease evolves into spreading with low rate and killing hosts slower or just left them in heavy illness in order to prevent its own extinction, then it will give us more time to react and prevent it before it is too late. Not to mention that potential viral infection on the global scale is also subjected to random mutations that could not necessarily lead to acceleration of the original disease.

Artistic view of post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh**

However and as hinted in the 'The Scattered and the Dead' what we must not exclude from the equation is human factor that might act as an 'acceleration mutagen' of the pandemic and I am more than sure that many military facilities never stopped working on developing the ultimate biological weapon with selective influence. As it seems, this angle will be more described in the next book and of course the answer of how Decker survived the initial plague to begin with. I will be eagerly waiting for next novel(la).

I am not sure exactly why I am big fun of post-apocalyptic genre. Perhaps, it has something to do with very human core and endless desire to survive despite so many ways of destruction and maybe because of the simple fact that we are after all one fragile species. Nevertheless, I am glad to announce that with this post, Milan's Public Journal earned another thread and you can access all stories from this entrance page:

Apocalypse and Post-apocalyptic:

Image refs:
* http://www.boredpanda.com/post-apocalyptic-scenes-digital-art-nis-serbia/
** http://www.kerindesigns.com/V2-PghApoc.htm

Review refs:


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