Whenever I see sci-fi movies, one thing strikes me the most about imagined post-petroleum societies: the large-headed ugly being (alien or human). It is an indication of our belief that the brain evolves faster (simply because we use it 24X7) and will eventually become most of the body.
I wonder what makes us conceive of a future where there will be ugly ET-like people. Maybe, my descendant in the year 10,000 would call me a cretin for missing the aesthetic point of a large-headed woman, the Mega Mind Girl. But what I know is that, our generally ugly image of the advanced man is probably a reflection of the way we look at ourselves now.
This imagined reality is based on a theory of evolution propounded by Lamarck, before Charles Darwin, which is based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics. For example, we Indians inherit indiscipline, which is an acquired characteristic (ok ok that’s a joke). Anyway, Lamarck’s conclusion is known as the theory of use and disuse of organs.
It states that organs we use the most become stronger, while those we don’t become vestigial, like the appendix. The future human will be more of a head species than a heart one, which is why we generally imagine futures that will be populated by a bright race of Humpty Dumpties — chicken limbs attached to an egghead, with long digits evolved to use a touch-screen.
In fact, what we imagine tends to freeze into actuality, because theories determine reality as much as reality determines theories. A day will come when we’ll be getting Diwali discounts on Tata Time Machines.
The downside to this view is that we won’t have leggy beauties anymore. Or, keeping in mind the cretin argument, the advanced human might find heads sexier — bigger the better. But I’m glad I’ll die before that happens. I’m a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, and would like to go to my grave with Monica Belluci in my heart.
Overall, the ‘big-headed micro-gadget’ future is not off the mark. Recently, scientists found a very close cousin of the Homo Sapien in the Denisova Cave in Russia, who they call the Denisovan. The Denisovans were three-feet tall and lived 40,000 years back.
They found a little finger of a seven-year-old female Denisovan, who they have christened X-Woman. It’s not known if the name was inspired by the Hollywood film. I had some shallow fun talking about this small-headed woman with my unevolved male friends, and I can tell you lack of refinement is funnier than we think. Anyway, our collective family tree just got more complicated with the Neanderthals on one branch and the Denisovans on the other, and the chimps, Slow Loris’ et al on the rest of the branches.
The Denisovans were an intelligent lot, like the Neanderthals. They made tools, jewellery and drawings. In fact, the X-Woman’s finger was found close to a pile of junk jewellery, proving vanity is in our genes.
The educated guess now is that, of all the possible ancestors of the Homo Sapien, the Alpha Man was somebody who used his brain efficiently and survived the Ice Age, slowly turning it into a 1.4-kg lump of mystery. The first centuries of evolution, obviously, required man to use both his brawn and brain, hence he was programmed to become taller, stronger and brighter.
Today, the likes of Stephen Hawking have proved that just the brain is good enough, everything else will soon be made in the lab. When I look at him, I actually see a big head. Today head-people like Bill Gates employ better physical specimens as office boys. Yes, the brain is waiting to conquer the body, the Greeks be damned.
While we talk about Maharashtra being power deficit, the situation in the lesser known corners of the country is unthinkable. I went to this sleepy hamlet in the North East to meet some of my near forgotten cousins. Since I was the flashy big city cousin, they drew me in a little room of their concrete-thatched hybrid house. We sat in the dark, discussing ‘back then’.
The dark drawing room had that idyllic dusty smell. We sat for an hour, but the lights were still out. I asked a cousin when we would have lights, and he said why did I need lights at night, since it would be bedtime soon. On my drive back to my town, my friend told me a little story: Just when a baby was being born in a local civil hospital, the lights failed. As soon as the baby’s head was out, it exclaimed, “Damn, why did I have to take rebirth in the North East!”
I guess, our city’s fathers should take the story seriously. We don’t want a Puneri baby saying that if it’s reborn in Pune. Let’s talk about alternative energy with greater commitment.
• From the North East to finding the mainstream in Pune, it has been a long journey for Mirror scribe Santanu Borah. But, he has finally made his home here and given the alertness of a deskie, his observations on the city are truly glocal