Yesterday I suggested that the emergence of memetic replication transforms genetics into one species of meme among others. Genes are naturally limited in their replication strategy, in that they depend on the continuity of transmission. In other words, they must remain a living population in order to propagate, as their replication function depends on biological reproduction. Extinct animals cannot rise from the dead, at least not so long as genetic replication is limited to its biological conditions. Well, here’s proof that genes, once liberated from that condition, reveal themselves as just another meme:
Whereas biological reproduction is limited to the continuous dissemination of replicators, technological reproduction – as the more general and unlimited class to which the biological belongs – has ready access to the machenome or resevoir of replicating morphisms, able to reach back into the machinic fossil record and ressurrect or exapt traits for renewed dissemination. See Kevin Kelly’s talk here for more on the discontinous evolution of the machinic phylum.
This loosening of the dependence of genes on biological reproduction will eventually make the notion of ‘endangered species’ irrelevant, for better or worse. It will no longer be species which disappear, as they can be ‘reborn’ whenever necessary, but the ecosystems that first mobilized and sustained them. This could have dangerous implications: capital could take this technology as a license to further externalize costs in the form of enviromental negligence, pollution, and exploitation, given that these consequences are no longer irreversible tragedies. Enviromental damage would even become a new site for investment in the coming enviromental reconstruction industry, creating a monstrous cycle in which one set of industries recklessly ruin their environment, while another rushes in to build a shiny-new private nature in its place.
Nonetheless, I think we need to keep Zizek’s point in mind – we can’t buy in to the dogma that ready-made nature or Nature 1.0 is inherently desireable or valuable, as compared to potential artificial natures. Take permaculture for example – it is possible to engineer ecosystems that can do better than traditional agriculture, and that are better suited to interacting with cultural and technological ecosystems. For more on this, check out this great lecture by Michael Pollan.