Sunday, December 25, 2016

Alchemy, Akira, and our Evolutionary Destiny.

What could Alchemy and the anime Akira tell us about our evolution future? Let’s look at each and find the threads of commonality between them, illuminating our evolutionary journey.

Alchemy is an ancient activity which consisted of turning the lead of the everyday mind, with its anxieties and insignificance, into the gold of an elevated mind, which is godlike in its attitude. The main premise within this system of thought is that the processes of evolution which we witness, has an underlying force to it. This force is what directs the branching out of species, culminating in human beings with our advanced technology. Alchemists believe that the energy or force driving this change could be extracted and harnessed. In doing so, the alchemist would aim to isolate and speed up this processes on a specific object. This object is known as the philosopher’s stone. It is the end product of the evolutionary process. In this sense, it is perfect and can grant whoever wields it vast amounts of power. In essence, the stone could be used for anything and everything. If you’re hungry, then it will feed you. If you’re poor, then it will grant you wealth. If you’re impotent, it will grant you incredible powers. Therefore, alchemy was a way of harnessing the force behind evolution for the benefit of the alchemist.

Moving on, Akira was an anime movie from 1988. It is regarded as one of the best in the genre, gaining a significant cult following. The setting is Tokyo after a nuclear war. There’s a motorcycle gang which has one of its members come into contact with a mysterious boy with wrinkled skin, as if he’s of advanced of age. The biker suffers a horrible bike accident as a result, and is then experimented on during the ostensible hospital treatment. Later on, we find out that the mysterious boy is a part of a secret government program which aims to harness the same force behind evolution identified by alchemy, in order to utilize the power for defense capabilities. In essence, the government wanted to turn the force which drives evolution into a weapon (not surprising).

Evolution is considered to be a blind process which has no aims or intent beyond immediate survival. This may be the case, but only up until recently. Since humans are reflective rather than reflexive, they can contemplate the situation they’re in, and plan for the far future. Such a condition entails the foundation of a self-regulated evolutionary process. Humans’ cognitive capabilities allow us to guide our destinies and evolution like no other organism. Considering this fact, we can imagine how, presently, we are like alchemists or the government in Akira. By manipulating our environments and bodies, we are harnessing the same power which drives the evolutionary change: behavior and genes. Teleology, then, becomes an important factor in our continued evolution. Because we can think abstractly, we can design possible evolutionary outcomes which are guided by a mind with intention and goals, ours. This puts us in the same position as those alchemists and others harnessing the power behind evolution.       

Therefore, given this fact that humans can control their evolution, which humans are entrusted with such an important activity? Is it each one of us deciding for ourselves, or is it some group of elites which decide for us? The former is liberty, the latter is tyranny. Never accept that someone else knows more about where your evolutionary outcomes should end up (or what’s ultimately best for you).

We are in control of evolution now. Both alchemy and the movie Akira highlight the ways in which humans direct their own evolutionary destiny. Let us hope that with this profound power comes a respect for the liberty of individuals.