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Man, The Appendage

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Man, The Appendage

by John Kendall Hawkins

It feels like we've come to the end of a long journey. Something's happening, but we don't know what it is, as the Bard from Duluth would say. There are strange new features to our collective sensorial experience, which itself reflects an altered iteration of our collective negotiated reality, which is to say our collective consciousness is off-kilter, we've reached peak thought as humans and the AIs are on there way, maybe here, we wake at the event horizon, duckrabbits jibbering on in auction English about DJ Trump fake views, the deposed Wizard of Odd having escaped in his hot-air balloon, us needing to make the last great leap of faith across the event horizon we've arrived at when we killed God, turned our backs on the dialectical End Geist, embraced relativism, and come to realize that we, too, must now change -- reports are coming in that other species have already begun shape-shifting to accommodate the future, perhaps, without man. Maybe Bowie was a prophet?

Shape-shifting animals. How about that? We went and fucked with Amazon biomes so much -- to make way for McDonald's angus beef patties -- that now, apparently, the ayahuasca has risen, like a god, and is coming at us, Climate Change as a shaman to be reckoned with, I reckon. Down Under, the Australians are leading the edginess, their researchers reporting on critters giving it up to be something else, in a kind of accelerationism that sees the Animal Kingdom once again warning "Man" about imminent dangers ahead. Remember Bambi? The fire. The doe. The female doe. Mucho mistrust. Goddamn, look at the creatures run.

According to a report out of Deakin University (my Australian alma mater, MA Lit) scientists are beginning to see signs in the animal world (the other one: the one we claim to be evolved from) that, as an adaptation to Climate Change, some animals are growing larger appendages. For a nation that already has an ungodly surplus of outsized creatures, including half the footy players here (Jesus!), this is a worrisome trend. Sara Ryding, a Ph.D. student in ornithology at Deakin University, is one of the researchers, and she recently told VICE magazine that some birds are adjusting by growing longer beaks. She describes Allen's Rule for VICE:

Allen's rule explains a pattern whereby animals in warmer climates have larger appendages... The idea then, that Allen's rule, could also be applied to the effects of climate change is a logical extrapolation and has been proposed by previous authors... Knowing that Allen's rule exists for a lot of animals on a spatial scale, this then led to the idea that it could exist on a temporal scale, too: increased appendage size as the climate warms because of climate change.

This is all meet and food for thought. But I'm a dirty-minded bastard, sometimes, and my mind pictures Allen starting out with a six-incher and ending up, as rule, with a nine-inch nail. Why not call it the Paul Hogan rule? (That's not a noif; this is a noif.) I see dark images in the outback of kangaroos bouncing around on their hairy appendages -- like they were pogo sticks. Damn, the world is some acid sometimes.

But science gets my head straight in a hurry. The Report, "Shape-shifting: changing animal morphologies as a response to climatic warming," tells us that:

Appendages have an important, but often undervalued, role in animal thermoregulation as sites of heat exchange... Animals are shifting their morphologies to have proportionately larger appendages in response to climate change and its associated temperature increases... Many animal appendages, such as avian beaks and mammalian ears, can be used to dissipate excess body heat. Allen's rule, wherein animals in warmer climates have larger appendages to facilitate more efficient heat exchange, reflects this.

(Heat exchange, hunh? Friction, fire, blazing euphoric love. But you gotta pull out some time: And it ain't exactly the sword and the stone, we're talking.)

In America, there are further signs of such extraordinary shape-shifting events among some of our more powerful creatures, and evidence of what Ryder is talking about. Jeff Bezos, for instance, has practically come out and announced the godliness of his new appendage, which he slyly asserts as his Amazon logo:

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Well, America hasn't seen such well-adjusted appendaging since LBJ was wont to whip out his johnson every time a reporter asked him with a whine (as it seemed to him) why we're in Vietnam if we know we're going to lose anyway? Huh? Huh? Here's why, the Texan drawled, whipping out his Magic Bullet. Cue the swooning scream of the grassy knoll. Jeff in outer space, looking down on little blue pill Earth, finally came to realize how fragile Earth is, and promised to beat the snot out of CC; I wept at such thought leadership, and prayed his ship would crash to Earth. Just to see the shape-shift of his logo. And to see Will Smith welcome his back. POW.

VICE continues to suss out the meaning and dimensions of such shape-shifting in nature, as Nature begins to get mean and gain-of-function (verb) our sorry asses, which explains the duckrabbitting I've been seeing all around me. One minute people are talking like progressives, the next regressives, with me the fool stuck between the two. Soon, and, man, I mean real soon, we'll wake up AIs, the f*ckers having dazzled us with R&D stories about machine-learning for years, only to discover it was cover for their hacking of human minds and reprogramming them for the Singularity. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. VICE quacks,

The results revealed several instances of rapid growth of appendages in certain species over a short period of time, suggesting that these temperature-related adaptations are occurring faster than would be expected without climate change. For instance, the surface area of Australian parrot bills have increased by 4 to 10 percent since 1871, while some shrews and bats display larger relative ear, tail, leg, and wing sizes compared to past counterparts that lived during the 1950s and onward.

Bats. sh*t. Corona growing appendages -- spikes -- that remind one suddenly of Haiphong Harbor, Dylan gone electric. Shape-shift this.

It's clear, all the evidence is coming in, the Anthropocene Age we've entered is forcing us to Ã"ber-evolve, or else. Stuck without a pole on that tightwire (grown slack) between Beasts and Superman, as Nietzsche saw humans, our future, moving toward the Singularity, is so uncertain it can feel like we're flirtin' with cataclysmic disaster. Tightrope walkers are now going without poles. And it appears to be something we intend to force on future generations, beginning when they're very young, making them walk the wire over a grassy knoll of waiting tigers. Dinosaurs, right?

Old Chomsky says the key to our collective future and fate is Education. There are a lot of dumb shits out there, and as democracy dwindles and the Climate plays rough and American administrations seemingly seek ways to nuke China (which, according to Ellsberg, would mean Russia, too, in a first strike double-tap, following the commutative laws of Kill Commies math), we seem doomed to utter colony collapse, like the bees we're intent on driving into extinction to make room for waggling Monsanto-DARPA honeys. Dumb shits everywhere.

Locked down here in Australia, fending off viruses and impending old age, filled with wanderlust, but with nowhere to go, dreaming of the sea of trees where I might find a place to rest my head, I haven't done what they call here a walkabout in ages. I feel caged. John caged. Thoughts metronoming. Recently, I can't remember why, call it serendipity, I came across a true-to-life Aussie film that spoke volumes to my situation here -- Bad Boy Bubby. It's a 1993 Aussie black comedy cult classic, and Oz is a cult in many ways: most liberal Americans would never get used to the three degrees of separation that seems to exist here. BBB is hard to describe. IMDB says,

Bubby has spent thirty years trapped in the same small room, tricked by his mother. One day, he manages to escape, and, deranged and naà ve in equal measures, his adventure into the modern and nihilistic life begins.

And this is true, and, apparently, t rue to life here. Think of DIBS (In Search of Self), with a Paul Hogan brogue, grown up (kinda). Or Being There broken baaadly. Disturbing is only the beginning of your assessment. I mean, true story? motherf*cker ends up shrink-wrapping his parents.

The crazies are coming out of the woodwork. It's not just that fascism is on the rise, but that belief in the ideology of democracy is on the decline, and the relativism imposed on modern reality is taking its toll just as we need coherence and maturity of thought most.

What makes humans most unique from other animals is consciousness and that seems to be what's shape-shifting. In Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, philosopher Philip Goff, seems to describe the shape-shifting our consciousness is taking:

[Integrated Information Theory] predicts that if the growth of internet-based connectivity ever resulted in the amount of integrated information in society surpassing the amount of integrated information in a human brain, then not only would society become conscious but human brains would be "absorbed" into that higher form of consciousness. Brains would cease to be conscious in their own right and would instead become mere cogs in the mega-conscious entity that is the society including its internet based connectivity.

The irony, the paradox of the research we hear about that goes into machine thinking, of forcing AI thinking to become more human in its experience of the world around us, seems to be our adapting to machine thinking. We are the ones being co-opted. It feels at times like the machines are trying to figure out how much of us they are willing to tolerate moving forward.

In the end, our shape-shifting evolution, our move toward Superman, may be curtailed, if the current movement toward the Singularity is managed and controlled by the psychopathic elements -- the animal-machine monsters at the Beast end of the tightrope -- that Edward Snowden describes in Permanent Record.

In such a scenario, we humans are mere appendages, if we survive the Sixth Extinction at all.

(Article changed on Sep 21, 2021 at 1:47 AM EDT)

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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