Black Goo – Phase I: Engineering Life
OK, now that I have gotten my thoughts about Prometheus X Files connection posted, let us look into the black goo itself. As I had theorized in the Origins Section, I would assume that the first variant of the black goo used in engineering life on prehistoric Earth was a rapid reverse-evolution catalyst of some kind. This would aid the disintegration of the engineer into biological precursors that could re-evolve under the right conditions anywhere in any planetary system. But the crowning achievement of this reverse evolution is that the genetic makeup of the initiator in question is somehow preserved. This way, even under the threat of a natural extinction, their genetic template is intact and it could be used to re-engineer the entire race.
Now, taking into account the engineer’s intervention time period and adding an exaggerated estimate of say, another 100-200 million years for them to have reached a capability of engineering life in an alien world, it puts the age of the engineer race somewhere close to 4 billion years! Earth, at 4.6 billion years old is just a little more than half billion years older than that. It is very likely that the engineers are right on top of their natural evolutionary chain. Whether it maxed out when the engineers appeared or not is a question that is open. But, I am sure everyone would agree that for a race of beings to have survived that long it would have required an external intervention of sorts. There must have been a lot of bottlenecks on the way in their survival – Natural factors dictated by evolution, home planet conditions (depletion of natural resources, possibility of their Sun going Nova or becoming a red giant like our Sun would in about 5 billion years), threats of war (We do see in the film that the engineers are not that peaceful after all. Besides, they have a pretty sophisticated militaristic wing in their society. Based on all this one is led to think about the possibility of past wars that would have had the potential to wipe out the entire race), to name a few. But, obviously they did not perish. Instead, they had mastered space travel, established colonies in farthest of places and most fascinatingly, have figured out the secrets of life.
What would we do?
At the risk of sounding a bit like John Quinones, I would now like to contemplate on our own future. Could we attain the success of the engineers, not just from the survival front, but also from the technological standpoint. As I had mentioned earlier, my idea with this whole exercise is to discuss the happenings in the movie under the framework of our current scientific knowledge and speculate on what the future would be like for us. The modern human is just around 200 thousand years old. Many thinkers, philosophers, biologists and futurists have pondered over a long time about our fate in the evolutionary scheme of things. Most of them agree upon the fact that we are on the verge of reaching the apex of the evolutionary tree.
How we further evolve is directly connected to the future of intelligence – hence, the brain and the nervous system come into play. Our brain evolved from a chimpanzee like brain, which was three times smaller than ours. So, a natural question arises about the evolution of a larger brain. Michel Hofman had addressed this question and based on his extrapolation studies he concluded that our brain is pretty close to its potential to generate maximum intelligence. He reasoned that although a larger size marginally would improve the intelligence potential and cognitive functions, there would be problems with communication between various structures in the brain. A decrease in communication time would consequently result in the reduction of processing power. Unless, nature comes out with another way to increase/improve organic intelligence by some other means, it would be safe to assume that our brain has almost reached its maximum potential. For more, you should watch the fascinating program, “What We Still Don’t Know: Are We Real?”. It is a fantastic documentary, hosted by Sir Martin Rees and features, Max Tegmark (Mathematical Universe Hypothesis), Leonard Susskind (Co-founder of String Theory and The Holographic Principle), John Conway (Mathematician, Game of Life), Michel Hofman (Neurobiologist) and others. The discussion about the brain and intelligence starts at around 30 minutes, 50 seconds mark.
So, keeping in mind the evolution driven constraints and other biological bottlenecks, it is only by intervention that we could ensure that we survive billions of years as a race. It could be at the organic level and such an intervention would undoubtedly lead us into unlocking the secrets of emergence of life itself from the harmonious association between the organic molecules. This understanding would further pave the way to recreate life from its components. This could eventually even lead to immortality.
Another interesting avenue of intervention could happen at the cusp between human and machine evolution. Given how far we have come until now in the development of machine intelligence, I believe that such a scenario could be a real possibility. Development of autonomous AI, micro-machines, in the spirit of Ghost in the Shell would be not that far fetched. Essentially, it could lead to the creation of a carbon-silicon hybrid of sorts that could improve life and perhaps spawn the birth of a kind of superhuman both in terms of physical strength and intellect.
Black Goo – Phase II: Bioweapon
Now, let us talk about the second, more sinister incarnation of the black substance. I have no doubt in my mind that it is some kind of bioweapon. But, questions remain over the engineers’ intention developing the weapon. It is clear that this black goo is an engineered variant of the substance from the first scene, since it is intended to create a life form as well. I further believe that the engineers knew exactly what kind of life form they wanted to engineer. The reasoning behind this belief is the mural we saw in the tomb inside the ship. The mural is my main focus in my next post. From what we saw in the first exploration scene, it is clear something terrible happened that resulted in the deaths of many engineers. It could be that the engineers underestimated the potency of the substance or it is likely they experimented on some of their own (They certainly don’t shy away from sacrificing themselves for the cause of engineering life). But, more on this later. In the meantime there are a few questions that bother me.
1. From their survival standards alone, it is evident that the engineer race must have an organized society with a hierarchical structure – one that would involve a group of leaders who would be the main decision makers. The militaristic subculture also shows that they should have a proactive defence network that would include a few other key decision makers as well. But, they do answer to the aforementioned leaders. May be we will know more about this in the second film and it might even turn out to be an integral part in solving the many puzzles.
2. I talked about this earlier as well. Based on the star maps the engineers showed the early humans, it is obvious that the engineers invited us to a place that is not their home and on top of that what we now know is some kind of weapons facility. Why would they invite us to this place? Not to mention that one such invitation dates back to nearly 35,000 years ago. Such a special status for LV 223 is hence, most fascinating. Were they planning to let us know how it is done? I mean, the whole engineering life thing. Could it be that their intentions changed suddenly around 2000 years ago due to human development completely having gone against their expectations?
Questions, questions! Anyway, once we explore the mural angle in the next post, I am sure we can further our hypothesis that would provide a solution to some of our problems.