Science and technology is advancing so rapidly that if you’re as old as I am, a lot of what you learned in school is now outdated. Early on, the book points out that the vast majority of evolution and genetic diversity exists in the world of microbes not animals or plants. In fact, animals and plants, make up a small portion of the genetic universe. It’s a common theme that the more you learn, the smaller and smaller humanity becomes, from the center of the universe and its core constituent to a very tiny piece of it, the dirt under its fingernails. Of course, our consciousness and intelligence is unprecedented and groundbreaking, but in the whole scheme of things, it could wind up being just a tiny blip in the history of the universe. Actually, it is our genes that make us think we are important and central to our universe.
I also read a book where they said, human mutation is not so much about creating better hunters and gatherers. Our genetic diversity is often an impediment in the macro-world. The reason we mutate so much is rather our response to microbes and diseases which mutate much more rapidly. A few astonishing facts that most people don’t know. Parasitism and symbiotic relationships dominate nature, and our own cells harbor archaebacteria once foreign to us with its own DNA called mitochondria. There are about ten times more bacterial cells on and in us than our own human cells. In other words, we’re mostly bacteria and would die without them. But there are actually ten times more viruses or phages in nature than bacteria. In fact, without phages, we would all succumb to a bacterial population explosion much like killing all snakes and hawks would lead to rat overpopulation. A lot of bacterial infections are caused by bacteria that have been infected with phages, and it’s not the bacteria themselves that make us sick but the toxins that they release. Bacteria don’t just eat things and die. They also form parasitic and symbiotic relationships with other microbes. Both bacteria and phages do not exchange DNA through sexual reproduction but rather their DNA gets mixed up with each other’s.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, because it’s just a collection of random science essays about microbes celebrating the 150-year anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species. While the book’s compiler wanted essays to be written for laypeople, many essays fail and get too deep in the woods of tech talk. Early on, you learn how reckless we are being with antibiotics, how we are exponentially advancing the evolution of bacteria, ever more resistant to antibiotics, that will one day blow up in our faces. Fortunately, we are also making progress in non-antibiotic treatment of pathogens. There are many weapons in that arsenal, because only a few small things can turn a benign microbe into a pathogen, so likewise, a few small things can also turn a pathogen into a benign microbe. It turns out that microbes don’t mutate that much, they are rather good at simply replicating their own DNA, however, since they replicate so quickly, in terms of real time, they do mutate faster than humans, but their rate of mutation is slower. Phages however mutate a lot as they are constantly mixing and matching DNA bits and pieces. Animals and plants must mutate via reproduction as our cell walls keep our DNA relatively isolated. As human knowledge advances, it becomes clear that there is way too much information out there, however, I firmly believe, we can grasp a lot of basic information if we have the right writer interpreting all the complex information from countless fields. The key to the future of information is not the accumulation of new information but rather the explanation of information and organizing of it into a useful form that allows us to improve our lives. In this case, the most important take away is that we are reckless idiots playing god with bacteria and antibiotics and just about like everything else from hydrogenated oils to carbon pollution to radiation it will all blow up in our faces. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, humans are recklessly greedy and dangerous and if there is in fact some greater, more powerful being than us, they are doing a pretty shitty job containing and controlling us. Is this our growing pains stage, the necessary evil that will eventually lead to us being more humane, kind, and caring of each other and our environment. I’m usually an optimist, but in this case, in light of all the existing evidence, I just can’t imagine everyone just collectively waking the fuck up and realizing what a shitty job we are doing running our lives and this planet. It has never before happened in human history, where we realize our wrong ways and make amends. What makes you think it will happen any time soon? Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Even when it seemed humanity was going in the right direction at the end of the 19th century withb the expansion of classical liberalism and democracy, all the sudden, we got tired of freedom and converted into statism and what would be the worst century of carnage and state mass murder in human history. Even when you give humans freedom and liberty and wealth, they just have to ruin it all, so what’s the point? Either genetically alter humans and/or implant chips to make them smarter or throw them into the dust bin of genetic dead ends and failures, that’s what I say.