Monday, October 15, 2007

Evolution Redux or Alternative History

This is a continuation of my post Revolution vs Evolution and is written as my extended response to some of the more pessimistic entries being posted on the Sellaband forum.

Scene I:

It is a warm and balmy day as three small ships bob aimlessly in the still, windless expanse of the uncharted sea. There is a meeting in the captain's quarters and three of the crewmen express that, being lost, hungry and nearly out of water, the crew would respectfully request the captain to consider turning around so they could be home in time for the opening of the bullfight season.

"You see Chris," the first mate says, " it's like this, it was great getting out of prison to go on this cruise and everything, but the guys are saying, and we think you'll agree, that it's starting to get a bit boring out here. And we really don't know what we're looking for anyway, do we?"

"You know what?" Christopher Columbus answers, " You're right! And for all we know those islands over there may be loaded with savages. Screw it. Let's beat it back to Spain!"

Scene II:

A reptile finds himself at the edge of a swamp. He has never been here before, but the surroundings seem strangely familiar. As he nears the water, he sees what he takes to be his own reflection but recoils in surprise as the face in the water rises out of the surface and speaks to him. "Jesus Ralph! What are you doing out of the water? And what the hell happened to your damn dorsal fin?" the face booms out at him.

"Who's Ralph? and what the hell is a dorsal fin?" the reptile answers.

"Oh, sorry man, I thought you were my pal Ralph...damn, except for those fucked-up fins and no dorsal fin, you're a dead ringer. What's a dorsal fin?" The fish spun out of the water to show off his fin, "This thing...on my back...I use it to swim straight. Where's yours?"

"These aren't fins you dumb-ass fish. They're claws. I use them to dig up turtle eggs and to crawl around with. And I don't need a dorsal fin, I don't swim that much anyway." And the reptile went on his way, wondering why the face in the water should ring such a familiar bell.

Christopher Columbus didn't set out to discover America, but America was discovered and colonized just the same. His voyage had an immense impact on history. But the truth is that, at the time the events transpired, he was completely ignorant of where he was. He only hoped to find enough good stuff to bring back to Spain so Isabella would let him keep his head.

The Swamp lizard had no way of knowing that he had met his cousin 37 times removed, just as he couldn't possibly know that millions of years later, his egg-digging claws would develop the skills needed to type entries on the Sellaband Forum.

There are two characteristics of the evolutionary process which are difficult for us to accept. First, evolution, being relentless and inexorable, is not a speedy proposition. It takes time. We can see the evidence of evolutionary changes only in the rear-view mirror. Second, because of the time element, those beings closest to evolutionary adaptations...the evolving, let's call them, have the least advantageous viewpoint from which to judge or control the nature of the process. Evolution exists with or without our approval or emotional involvement.

Evolution happens as a result of changing conditions. Let's consider the music industry for example. The industry is experiencing a massive upheaval in how musical products are created as well as how these products are distributed and marketed. Even sacrosanct concepts such as ownership and rights of usage are fighting to survive in the ever-changing technology-driven environment. It is especially interesting to note that these technological advances were not instigated by the needs of the music industry at all but are the fallout, leftovers and byproducts of a human race busily inventing more efficient methods of "thinning the herd." Such are the mysteries of evolution.

What reasonably logical mind could have foreseen wireless communication across the globe from the vantage point of fifty short years ago? Neither the changes in our environment, nor the adaptations accomplished for continued survival are the fruits of careful consideration. George Crum did not set out to invent potato chips. He intentionally overcooked an order of potatoes to make a point to a complaining diner. The greasy fingers of his injured pride now span the globe.

As to the evolution of the music industry, I choose to be optimistic although I realize that my optimism is not a driving force. Environmental changes are not driven by emotion. Who can say what the future will bring. Sellaband is a means, not an end. In a hundred years, a ten dollar part in Sellaband may buy something totally different. Compact discs and downloads will be a thing of the past. Perhaps we will be investing in suppositories that, upon insertion, will secrete a consciousness expanding substance that turns us into the very artist we are supporting. Who knows...but I am optimistic.

Had Columbus indeed turned around before landing on the shores of the West Indies, the new world would not have remained unexplored much longer. Just as we don't know how many skeletal astronauts are piloting failed missions, who can know the names of those who preceeded Columbus and failed? Who knows how many species of swamp lizard starved to death because the operations manual for their egg-digging claws was yet to be printed? But if I were a swamp lizard using my claws to dig up breakfast, I would hope to be optimistically looking forward to a time when my progeny would wield the power of a laptop to make their opinions known.

I'm glad that Columbus, confused as he was, didn't turn around. I'm glad that George Crum got pissed off and sent a plate of overcooked potatoes to the table. I'm glad that the military-driven technology of mass-murder gave birth to the way we now listen to music. And I'm glad that Sellaband exists as an element in the evolution of the music industry.

But what I'm really gladdest about that I don't have a dorsal fin!


Netvalar said...

I want my dorsal fin back! It my cure me of my hydrophobia and if it didn't then it sure would be a conversation piece now wouldn't it.

Gary said...

Brilliant stuff Pete! Not so sure about sticking something up my arse to get me closer to the artist though.... although I`m sure it's been done before.

Dreb of Sheet Metal said...

Blimey Pete! You should get this stuff published. I told myself I wouldn't comment on every one I'm reading, but this is so good I can't help myself.

Well put points, delivered with wicked humour.