Post-Synthetic Morphology


Brief Explanation

First some explanation of the title is needed. “Post” refers to our current time in history, and “synthetic,” refers to something that is artificially created, and “morphology” refers to the form and relationship between structures of living beings. This title and its contemplation of subjects is in the context of the event known as the technological singularity, which is basically the point where technology becomes so advanced we don’t know what will happen.

The paintings in this series explore some possibilities of what the visual consequences of this event can be. We know what our organs look like and what their purpose and structure is, but what about the same question if humanity can create objects superior to nature?

This series investigates the visuals and potentialities of the world after the technological singularity. The assumption is that many objects will look relatively organic and that the environment itself it something that has merged with the human body. There are some vaguely familiar shapes that resemble organs along with some geometric shapes. There is a feeling of life and motion with a sense of rawness and aberrance. There are similarities to organs systems with many features and objects that vaguely represent something in our reality.

Sometimes, to an untrained person looking inside unfamiliar objects, all the logic and purpose of the inside structures and forms is invisible, and might look no different than seeing random shapes and objects. If you look at the inside of a human body without being a doctor, or the inside of a complex machine without being an engineer, the forms and structures might look completely unknowable, even nonsensical. Even with this fact, there still may be some recognizable elements and some guess of purpose may be made.

When you look at the paintings in this series consider that these shapes represent a purpose, but it is a purpose that is slightly beyond our familiarity. It is far enough away from our familiarity that it seems nonsensical, but we can still perceive somewhere near the elements and guess at their purpose, just as it can happen viewing other unfamiliar objects.



Detailed Explanation


The series is an exploration of organic and geometric form and how the two might interact in the unknowable setting of infinitely increased technology. In our own age, there are limitations to what we can achieve, and many age-old problems still remain. But it is certainly at least within the periphery of our technological capability to increase the functioning and capability of our body. In many ways improvements to nature already exist, but not in an internally integrated way. For example, we have night vision goggles to see in the dark, and use computers to increase our computational ability. What is the logical progression from this state to limitless technology? What is the meaning of what is natural and artificial?

An object that serves a purpose, like a machine, is distinct in its appearance from organic structures. It is probably safe to say that for most objects, biology is a higher level of effective expression than human engineering; however, at a certain point, the two might match each other and then eventually the synthetic will overtake the biological. But it is a valid guess that the synthetic might still resemble the organic. The organic form might have met the highest possible level of efficiency for certain functions with possible resources. So the highest level of human technological structure may start to look more and more like the original biological structures.

When one considers objects that assist humanity, these objects are usually geometric, like: computer screens, tablets, buildings, tables, chairs, machines and so forth. So we are looking at variations of rectangles and squares. Objects that are created by nature are usually some variation of circular or cylindrical and dendritic. Which one will be best of these two is unpredictable because it depends entirely on function. Structural purpose might be more geometric. But there are many times where an increased surface area allows better exposure to the surrounding environment, so a natural shape might work best. In the distant future, objects that assist humanity might look more like organs or natural objects than simple geometric shapes.



What is a body?

With unlimited technology, efficiency increases and that will change what is necessary biologically. Biological structures that are analogous to our organs might not exist, or if they do they no longer exist within one individual organ system. An example: intestines become vestigial because there is a more effective way to gather resources from the environment. The biological necessity of other organ systems is also in question. If the quantity and location of organ systems is subjective, the question becomes what defines the body.
The organ systems of the human body are located inside the protective coating of skin and have bones for support and motion. This is necessary because the outside world contains particles and organisms that are harmful to our bodies. But at a point of complete understanding and control of the environment and unlimited technology, if there are no harmful substances present, our bodies might not exist in a form that is enclosed from the surrounding environment. If there’s no need to gather resources, there might be no need to have all the systems that allow motion. So, there may not be a need for bones and skin for support and to provide for movement.
The organization of cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, might extend outside the physical body or exist concurrent with the nearby location. Accessories or improvements might function alongside a main body, and it is possible that the entire definition of what is a body changes. It could be that a physical body does not define what is human. But what would the structures look like that either replace or improve the human body? I call the biological structures at the terminal level of technology the end-point biological entity. The paintings of this series explore the appearance of these entities.


The end-point biological entity.

The paintings could represent a microcosm of some different possibilities of what the end point biological entity could exist as with infinite technological development. One possibility: it will be a small lake, or even an ocean, filled with unimaginable forms and organ systems that are analogous to the old body. It would contain huge piles of floating visceral-like structures and spherical organs floating amongst each other and connected by a liquid substance. It would use the boundary of liquid and air for gas exchange, and the liquid itself would serve as the plasma. To our unknowing eyes, it would be like looking at a lake of thick and murky red water with strange clusters of colorful algae and thick moss floating on the surface. Clouds of awful odors and gentle churning noises would insult our senses. To us, it would look like a butcher filled an entire lake with unwanted entrails and combined them into enormous floating structures with distinct levels of buoyancy.

Another way it could be expressed is as a huge viscous blob of substances in a sterile location without any particulate matter, where massive tubes connect different blobs and other items of infrastructure. To modern day people it would look like building sized amoebas joined together with tree trunk sized tubes in an infinite clean and calm warehouse.

Another possibility is a skyscraper size building filled tight with compressed organic structures just like our compressed organs stored within our bodies. Each building in an endless city continuously covering the surface of the planet. The reinforced concrete structure analogous to bones and cartilage, and each huge room in the skyscraper containing organ systems of burgeoning tubes, spheres, and cylinders. It is valid to interpret the paintings in this series as depicting the visceral congestions of any of these possibilities.

Each location of organic structures could contain one distinct entity or there could be several individual entities within a location. The area where individual or many entities exist is not like a room in a building now with chairs, walls, and other geometric objects occupying empty space. The location would consist of organic tissue structures tightly compacted continuously for use by each entity or group of entities. Each organic tissue structure would serve a function. These structures would allow perception and function beyond what is predictable now. How would the end-point biological entity perceive reality?



Perception of reality

We can already put a camera on a robot and control it with virtual reality. What is the end point of a continued progression from this? If complete perception can exist at a distance, the logical progression is for the mind to occupy a separate physical structure from the sense organs. At this level of progression, the fundamental nature of mind and body as a singular entity associated with a singular biological unit might no longer make sense. The mind will perceive and interact with locations while the sense organs are located separate from the mind. It is likely the mind will exist in a safe location with other minds. That way if any harm occurs it only affects the structures of sensory perception and not the actual machinery of the mind itself. The mind can move and occupy different sets of sense organs to experience whatever is desired.

The physical organic structures that allow the sense organs to perceive nature can be created to serve any purpose. Direct appendages, like we have now, to interact with the outside world might be unnecessary, because the mind perceives at a distance or because the perceptive world is artificial. Each set of sense organs can possess appropriate appendages for interaction with the surrounding environment. Because external reality is variable, the word artificial might cease to have meaning.

The mind might not occupy a singular biological space like it does today. It could be spread out amongst several structures. Consciousness would be spread out across different structures and accessed as needed just like data is stored in the cloud today. What would the biological space that the mind occupies look like? Would it be a rectangular object or a spherical or cylindrical object?

The mind itself would use the hardware of separate biological units so that it would not eventually die as a result of being inseparable with one unit as it decays. There is no need to stay within the limitations of the brain itself when technology can increase its function as much as desired. If there is an increase in efficiency, there might not be a need for folds in the surface. Perhaps it will become a perfect sphere, so the actual physical existence of a person is a series of spheres, or could it be a collection of smooth tubes?

Perception of this area where the mind is stored, whether it is a series of spheres or smooth tubes, does not occur. Even now we are not naturally cognizant of our own brain structure. Even now you can only look outwards to perceive the world not inward to see the mechanical structure of your brain.

At this point in the future, reality can be whatever is desired. It seems like there would be two different methods of how reality could be created. One, the perception goes out to separate locations. The awareness, or mind, occupies structures within the locations and experiences them within whatever context is desired. Two, it is synthetically created before it is experienced. Even in our own time, hallucinogenic substances can create experiences that are indistinguishable from reality to the viewer. If there is a total understanding of pharmacology and brain chemistry, then experiences can be manufactured and then given to a person, just like drugs are intravenously given in the hospital. 

With the first method, sending the perception out to new locations, there might be a natural limit to the distance that perception can occur from the safe place of the mind to the location of perception because at a great distance the time it will take for any signal to travel will be limited by the speed of light. It seems like synthetically created experiences would not have this limitation. With an infinite increase of technology, we might find that the way that we understand and define these two methods is not accurate and the two methods might somehow overlap each other. At this point of development, there will be an answer to how these two methods are different, or where they overlap.


Levels of perception

Another interesting question is that levels of perception can increase for humanity. Once all biological mechanisms for perception are completed understood, they can be integrated for use by humanity. For example, animals that are blind use different methods than sight to perceive and interact with the world. In our contemplation of the future, we can assume that we will be able to use these methods. Once we understand all the variations developed by the animal and plant kingdom, we will increase them for whatever level of perception we want.

In our current time, it is impossible to describe what perception will be. But we can assume that the technological organ systems to allow increased perception will occupy additional space and at times increases in space might increase the perceptive ability. Because human awareness is separate from the original human body, necessary hardware or organs are integrated into the location or at another location to allow access remotely by human awareness.

Future levels of perception might not have any names in our current world. For example, instead of using a single eyeball to gather light and find meaning for perception, there could be planetary sized satellites analogous to the eye, to gather radiation information on a scale much larger than just the visible electromagnetic spectrum that a normal eye can detect. There would be mechanical hardware to receive the physical information and hardware to process it in a way where meaning can be found. Would the system infrastructure for this planetary eye consist of gears, motors, shafts, and wires? At the highest expression, it may instead have rivers and oceans of nerves, and mountains of bulbous organic structures.
There must be a physical location for creation of perceptions. Just like in a movie theater, there is a projector which is a mechanical object that is creating the illusion that viewers are engaging in. So even at the highest levels of technological advancement with variable perception, there must be an object or objects that are allowing that to happen. This painting series is focusing on the appearance of those objects. The paintings do not attempt to express the potentialities of infinite, and variable, perception.



What is the meaning of individuality in this context? Will there still be a need for it and will it still exist, if consciousness and the mind can be stored and quantified? It might be easier to manage society with less individuality. Also, if the mind itself is replicable there is no sanctity in individuality or uniqueness. The very existence of individuality might have a different meaning.

If individuality still exists, will individuals interact with each other? Up until this point our species naturally interacts with each other. This interaction is a biological necessity to facilitate reproduction, gathering of resources, and other acts of self-preservation. Increased technology would remove the necessity of interaction for survival. It is impossible to predict what level of interaction would exist with infinite technological development; however, it seems that we would not want to remove it entirely because that would go against our nature.

What will the organization of individuals be in the future state? We might be able to compare societal organization in our present day to make predictions about what could occur. One end-point biological entity could store several units of self-awareness and function as a social unit like a family or tribe. It could be that all the organizations and strata of society do not have any meaning in the context of the infinite technological development. All the levels of organization could become vestigial without the need to organize for production of resources or propagate organized violence.




In any case, we can never really say what will happen in the future. We can make valid guesses with well-ordered thoughts based on assumptions about our present time. The possibilities are both fantastic and abhorrent, but there will always be uncertainty about the truth of our claims. Our initial assumptions can be incorrect and lead all our derivative ideas to be false. Or our assumptions can be completely correct but some outside factor causes them to be untrue. If a plague or other extinction event wipes out humanity, there is no progression to a technological singularity.

Regardless, it is meaningful and rewarding to carry out such thought experiments because it does bring about some truths and realizations about what it means to exist at our present time. The expressions within the paintings assist in contemplation. The paintings have the potential to create unique aesthetic experiences by visually conveying these expressions.

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