The Billion Year Old Man
Humanity: Idea in the making
He knew that place. That wasn’t saying much, because in a billion years, you do learn to find your way around. Memories like dust storms vaguely hinted what the place was.
The mountain range, he realized, was new. It had once been a sea, around which ancient civilizations had festered. These mountains were huge razorbacks, bigger than the long gone Everest of his childhood. They were the result of an entire continent raising its edge as its opposite side sank under a supercontinent. The mountain range stretched for 1000 kilometres.
A slight curiosity made him head towards an area where there’d been a large city several million years ago. A Super Ant, a metre long, itself a relic of an old human-created concept of life, skated past on its low friction limbs.
The Super Ants had been designed to colonize other worlds, and had done an excellent job of it. Their respiratory systems could be designed to breathe anything, and they’d terra formed worlds all the way out to Canopus.
The Ant looked at him in what passed for surprise, an involuntary flicker of antennae. Humans were a comparative rarity these days, and the collective memory of the Super Ants was probably the only way a human would even be recognized.
He nodded to the Ant, and continued through the foothills to the site of the old city. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find, but then, he never was. He’d once walked clear around the world, simply to see what happened.
The memories identified the old city: Great Med. A vast city of nearly 50 million people, with fantastic architecture. No two buildings looked even vaguely similar, by public vote. Forests were grown at all levels of the city. There was no pollution, no waste, and no government as such. A rotating committee of citizens “governed” for a year, and was replaced. Nobody could sit on the committee more than once in ten years. It was the nearest thing to a working democracy humanity had ever produced.
There’d been no poverty, no squalor, no crime, and no injustice. It was one of the few really good times in early human history.
Great Med’s population, freed from the sheer physical unnecessary waste of the past, turned their city into a world of itself. They adapted to a perfect environment, and their minds, not besieged by endless, tedious needs, changed drastically.
So did their bodies. Freedom from disease, achieved by generations living in a much healthier environment, produced an advanced immune system capable of destroying viruses. Human sweat became antiseptic. Saliva became an enzyme capable of destroying foreign organisms. Even the human body’s electromagnetic fields became repellents to the acids of diseases. Infections ceased, largely because they couldn’t even begin.
It was also where humanity first began to change into its current form. The Billion Year Old Man remembered that, vividly. The needs of the species changed. In a society where an IQ of 1000 was considered normal, even the word “need” had a different meaning. It now meant “hope potential”, a concept of events desired, but not necessarily defined.
Physical changes now meant that people didn’t become sexually mature until they were roughly 200 years old. They couldn’t actually reproduce until they were 300. Even that ordeal, thanks to superior physiology, was now a painless ten minute echo of the old form of childbirth. In Great Med, death at 1500 was considered young.
The human population remained stable at about 10 billion in this environment. Great Med became the model for Earth. The earlier forms of humanity were simply replaced as they died off. Interestingly, instead of stagnating, forming a single “race”, humanity did the opposite. There were new “races”, apparently created by better health. The distinctions were minor, skin colorations for the most part. Emerald and obsidian skins were fashionable, sky blue was considered minimalist.
It was discovered that even this sudden divergence was a mere transient stage of human evolution. The Billion Year Old Man, a child of 100 or so at the time, remembered the global surprise at the finding. A biologist had previously suggested, almost as a joke, that evolution was a sort of ongoing experiment, caused by humanity’s natural adaptive abilities.
The findings not only confirmed that theory, but also stated that historically, human evolution had been held back by its own clumsy efforts at creating a living environment for itself. That didn’t, of itself, surprise the citizens of Great Med, who’d had to clean up the unholy mess left by no less than 20 previous civilizations.
What surprised them was that the studies also indicated that the evolutionary process had restarted, with a vengeance. A single generation of Great Med citizens, in their perfect environment, had produced more human genetic diversity than in the whole of recorded history.
There were more surprises. The study group asked the citizens of the world to do some simple tests, to confirm another finding which the study group stated it didn’t believe, itself. The tests were conducted, every human participating, to get the best possible level of accuracy.
The average human IQ was now 2000, and rising. It had been measured at 1200 a decade earlier, and met with much humor about the declining levels of human intellect. The study group was now able to confirm its finding: Humanity was evolving into an unknown form of life.
The very next day, The Billion Year Old Man’s brother Jack was born. He had a fully formed vocabulary, and spent his first day in the world asking if they were going to build a new continent, as he’d heard his parents mention while in the womb. Jack thought it was a good idea, and wanted to help.
The Billion Year Old Man looked at the site of Great Med. So much had happened since. He felt a need….