This is a time of wild speculation. An increasing number of people sense that the human race is approaching a critical evolutionary juncture. It is not because humans as a whole are “more evolved” than before, nor is it taken for granted that we will survive the transition. It is as though our technology, our philosophy, our art and our religion are being drawn together towards some break point in the future. It will not be the result of any one idea or program or proposal. The change will emerge as a complex feedback loop, launching the species into a whole new epigenetic orbit.
All we have are metaphors. Consider, then, the image of a wall. We are walking along a wall. We’ve been walking along this wall for a long, long time, so that the road ahead has always seemed more or less the same. Sure, the texture of the wall changes, there are objects on the ground to discover, but the wall itself is a given. People who talk about an end to the wall are considered deluded, their views relegated to religion and crack science. What evidence is there that the wall will not always be there? It’s absurd to think of. Still others claim to have found cracks in the wall, or windows, through which they’ve seen incredible things. The wall is not just a wall, they say, it’s part of a larger structure — there is something going on here. They too are laughed at; most people peering through the cracks see only darkness. But the concept of an end to the wall persists.
Eventually, people begin to sense that there is something strange about the road ahead. The wall looks different, somehow, up in the distance. Speculation soars. If there is an end to the wall, then our ceaseless walking will inevitably bring us to it. Most people have always assumed that the end of the wall will be the end of everything; the wall is the only constant in their world — it IS their world. If it ends, what else is there? They can’t conceive of any movement except along the wall. But as the anomaly grows nearer, some people begin to think: what if the end of the wall is really a corner? What if the the mystics and the seers were right, and the wall was just the edge of a much larger space? A corner implies a new dimension, a radical new direction to in which to travel. A corner IS an end, in one sense, but only of the old direction of travel. After it is turned, the journey continues — into fundamentally new territory.
What some people are proposing is that time is like this wall. It is not just a line, but a structure. Time has a texture to it, and it is usually fairly small, not enough to distract us from the continuous forward flow. But the slightest amount of texture implies that there is a dimension of change which runs perpendicular to what we call time. This, in turn, implies the possibility of a corner. Mystical and psychedelic visions are glimpses of the larger structure, explorations of the SPACE in which what we call time is just a LINE. Hyperspace, Eternity: we live on a line, and can’t think of anything not on that line, even as it twists and shimmies through dimensions inconceivable to the human imagination.
Biocultural evolution seems more and more like an attempt to leave this line, to break free from the constraints of space and time. Developments in transportation and communication increasingly transcend issues of distance and delay. Recording technologies change the idea of time, of past and present. The planet is linking up: cyberspace is being terraformed. With enough connections in place, a new structure begins to emerge, as if we were playing some global game of connect-the-dots. The monkey wants to leave its tree.
This is not, however, a celebration of technology as something unquestionably good. We may destroy ourselves while still in the transition phase. Some of the most cherished aspects of the human may disappear into the transhuman condition. No one really knows what to expect; no one has the master plan, and new tools are not always used by skilled and responsible hands. We have unleashed processes that we do not know how to control, which will kill us if we can’t surf their waves. There is also the issue of preparedness. We must make our minds flexible. Without understanding, our minds may die of shock when we turn a corner we thought could never exist.