Macro-Engineers' Dreams, Richard Cathcart
Chapter 1


What will Earth be worth in the 21st century? Speculation about "future history" (by self-proclaimed "futurologists," who are members of a social movement, not of social science) has already been projected via electronic and print media since the end of World War II. Futurologists are "in;" they are now, like the court astrologers of old, an integral part of our culture." [1] However, a majority of present-day Earthlings simply accept our immediate habitat quite by custom. All of our superficial terrain, planetary air, the globe's ocean and all life – in sum, "global Nature" – has been drastically altered since Earth's geological time began. [2] Global Nature has been impacted by the Universe's laws and mankind's actions; humans have always changed Earth to suit their collective needs and wants. [3] Futurologists may be "in," but their books and articles of vividly phrased generalizations, pop jargon and sometimes entertaining anecdotes compare unfavorably to the "real stuff" as composed by scientists. Science is master of the future's functional vocabulary. "Science always relates to the outside world, and its success depends on how well its theories correspond with reality." [4]

With its 2 January 1989 issue, Time magazine pictured Earth, using a 40.64-centimeter-diameter Christo artwork ("Wrapped Globe 1988"), as an endangered "Planet of the Year." Tendentious teams of futurologists, cozily housed in think tanks [5], played some significant role influencing the national weekly's staff writers. Christo's artistic expression does not, as Time's esteemed hands-on publisher averred, symbolize Earth's ". . . vulnerability to man's reckless ways." While "hiding" a mass-produced schoolroom globe with commercial see-through plastic wrap, Christo has tried to make the magazine's cover perusers more strongly aware of the object contained. [6] A spherical Earth globe, even one that is wrapped Christo-style, offers its owner a God's-eye view of the planet at anytime. Christo-like virtuosos are planning objects of public art for circumplanetary space. [7]

After pre-Homo sapiens invented tools, Homo sapiens [8] became man during the Pleistocene, the second most recent geochronological stage (out of possibly +150) recognized by science. The Pleistocene was a period in Earth's development that extended from about 2.5 million years ago to 12,000 years ago when the Holocene commenced. Time claimed mankind had stolen the whole terrestrial scene in possibly the last act of an anti-global Nature playlet. The Pleistocene included the last Ice Age, while the Holocene is mostly post-glacial and may, according to Time terminate with a too-warm Water Age (excess seawater overflowing the land and precipitation redistributions) caused by our civilization's stimulation of an enhanced greenhouse effect. [9] In addition to changes wrought by people, our home planet has naturally and continuously remade itself; climates of all the lands, and the global sea-level, have varied from those presently extant. [10] Earth merely seems to be a familiar place to its current human inhabitants; however, many Earth facts are still to be unearthed by scientists! [11]

"Life" remains even today a scientifically indefinable term even though mystery-hating biotechnologists and nanotechnologists are strenuously trying to formulate a comprehensive definition. [12] As the division between basic and applied scientific research becomes indistinct (as, for example, because of the progress of nanotechnology [13]), then "... patent protection increasingly threatens to encroach on the domain of research science, making it necessary to work out an accommodation between the two perspectives." [14] If the logic of life's processes could be abstracted in computers, then mankind's culture would, for the first time, be made inherent in artifacts. A computer that relied on organics instead of inorganics to manipulate complex calculations would be energy efficient and quite tiny. [15] The near-term future symbiosis of humans and computers is avid Channell's "vital machine." A perfected nanotechnology will produce the ultimate "vital machine," totally integrated organisms and intelligent machines the size of individual molecules. [16] Although almost 40% of the contents of current American college-level dictionaries are scientific and technical words, only in AD 1802 did the term "biology" make its first appearance in life science's literature. "Biology" was more or less coined by a French naturalist, Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), to mark the inception of a study of global nature's living matter. Lamarck, in his Hydrogeologie, defined "biology" as the division of "terrestrial physics" that included "... all which pertains to living bodies..." [17] Biologists have concluded-primarily from fossils laboriously gathered from Earth's crust-that life forms were once non-existent. Indeed, the planet itself formed about 4.55 billion years ago. Since life's "spontaneous" origination +3.5 billion years ago, organisms have, through organic evolution, filled a significant part of the global system which some old-fashioned geographers called "the surface of the Earth." [18] Earth's many cultural diverse peoples share the Earth-biosphere with approximately 3 x 1033 other currently-living things. [19]