Post Humans in Science Fiction





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Post Humans in Science Fiction

by Dr Alex Tang

Last Christmas (2005), I have the luxury of reading two large tomes of science fiction by Dan Simmons. Illium (2003) and its sequel Olympos (2005) offer more than 1000 pages of interesting reading. [Warning: The following commentary contains spoilers so if you want to read the story for yourself, please do not read on.] 

Dan Simmons started the story on the plain of Illium where a six years old war has been fought before the fortified city of Troy. It was the real life action of the Iliad as told by Homer, completed with heroes like Achilles and Hector and the gods like Zeus and Hera. The story is told from the perspective of a twentieth century Iliad scholar, Dr. Thomas Hockenberry who slowly discovered himself to be a bioengineered being made from his own DNA but with incomplete memories of his former self. He then discovered that this ‘Illium’ is on Mars, not on earth and he is in the distant future where post-humans have improved themselves to such a high degree that they amused themselves in enacting themselves as Greek gods of Greek mythology and hence their involvement in the Trojan war. Their advanced technology makes them ‘gods’ to the proto-Greeks. It also turned out that the post human maintained a small population of 1000 ‘original’ humans on earth as a sort of museum.

As the story unfolds, it was discovered that the post-humans were not satisfied to play out their little games with bioengineered human beings but also they tried to explore other universes. One of these universes they connected to were the universe of our literary imagination. Apparently our literary imagination did come to life in this other universe and creatures like Caliban from Shakespeare’s Tempest and the ‘gods with thousands of hands’ from the poet Keats crossed over to the future earth. A war arose and that drove the post humans to live in satellite colonies in space. Hence their venture to Mars and establishing a colony of ‘original’ humans on earth (well protected of course) who did not know anything about the post humans. These ‘original’ humans were well provided for and were only interested in a hedonese lifestyle. Reminds me of the Elois in H. G. Wells’ classic story, The Time Machine. The story is further complicated by the fact that the post human manipulation of space has created a distortion which could endanger the universe. These caught the attention of sentient human-machines which were created by humans and sent to the moons of Jupiter and the asteroids to mine for precious minerals. Over the years, these human-machines have forgotten their origins with earth and evolved into distinct cultures of their own. Now they sent out an expeditionary force to find out about the threat to the universe.

It was a long and complex story that Dan Simmons told. He has always being fond of telling science fiction epics. There were not much of science in his science fiction but he has always being able to mix science with metaphysical science in his novels.

Post humans are human beings who have improved themselves beyond what we would consider a human being today. In the past, science fiction authors like Arthur C. Clarke would write of human beings evolving into non corporeal beings with ‘God’ like powers. Nowadays we speak about post humans instead. Have we been improving or ‘upgrading’ our human body? Yes, we have. We are operating and doing hip replacement for the elderly and those with hip fracture, knee replacement for those with knee injuries from age, too much jogging and badminton. We strengthened weak spine with titanium rods. In gene therapy, we are replacing defective gene with normal functioning gene in cystic fibrosis. In the areas of aging, we are forcing back the ravages of time on our faces with face lifts and bitox. injections. Face transplant for damaged distorted faces. Embryonic stem cell research offers the potential of growing new organs and cloning offers the potential of a form of immortality. With the present rate of biomedical sciences and technological advances, it is not inconceivable that in the future, if the Lord does not come soon, we may ‘technology’ ourselves out of our present ‘original’ shape. As Christians do we have any opinions on this? Does the Lord allow us to mess around with His original blueprint of the human body? Are we, human beings to be ‘co-creator’ or just ‘steward’ of His creation?

When I use the term ‘co-creator’, I do not mean to create as God creates, ex hilio (out of nothing). We are creators too in the sense that we make use of God created matter to make something that never existed before. Therefore, we can say we ‘create’ works of art, a novel or a specially designed cathedral. The word steward implies more of a caretaker. I believe we are to be both. I believe that we are to be ‘co-creator’ with God in the care of His creation. I also believe that there is a caveat: that we are to be responsible co-creators and stewards. Dan Simmon’s two books tell a story of what could go wrong if we are not responsible co-creators and stewards.



                                                                                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria


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