Adaptive Consequences – my theory of adaptation and evolution - Lucy L. Austin

Adaptive Consequences – my theory of adaptation and evolution

As Adaptive Consequences (AC) is set in the future, exploring adaptation and what the world could look like was a narrative necessity. In 15+ years from now, neuroscience and brain augmentation developments, I imagined, would be at a level relative to serve the early seedlings of my plot. The more I researched and hypothesised what the future could look like, the more I geeked out about it all. I didn’t start writing AC with a speculative fiction or a sci-fiction pedigree. I was, at that point, a Sci-Fi virgin – it wasn’t a genre that I actively read or wrote about – so the charm of discovering and writing a potential future-world was a shiny and glistening concept.

Our world constantly develops and changes, mostly to improve our quality of life. In AC, adaptation is essential for survival, evolution and growth. In plotting how it could manifest, I researched potential future innovations and evolutions (based on existing or highly probable theory) and combined them with macro dramatisations (I consider them also probable, just less convenient) and creative license. Hard S-F, some call it (my cherry has popped).

Taking stock of the world right now, there were three key areas of interest which influenced the narrative and characterisation of the ‘future life’ depicted in AC.

·         Climate change – Most of us acknowledge what’s happening and its cause. We have the knowledge and technology to reduce our impact on weather patterns, climate and natural environments, but we’re not adapting and responding quickly enough. Adaptive Consequences explores what our future could look like if we carry on as we are

·         The rise of global operations – ‘shadow’ ones as demonstrated in the alleged ‘dark voting’ around Brexit and the US Presidential election; social/digital platforms exploitative personalities as shown by the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and commercial companies/entities – most notably in e-commerce

·         Personal/individual morality – How we navigate our own humanity, whether on a macro scale e.g. Syrian war refugees, or micro everyday stuff like office bullies (which cumulatively can have macro implications).

What Adaptive Consequences looks like in the future was germinated with those three interest areas at the core, and the various environment, lifestyle and health & wellbeing adaptations were layered around them.

From an environmental point of view, the world in AC has changed considerably due to climate change – it’s shrunk, with much of the land uninhabitable due to flooding and excessive heat. Atmospheric and meteorological instability birthed world-wide natural disasters. Consistent and cataclysmic hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, mudslides etc tear the world apart, killing millions and draining financial resources. Combined with biological disasters like mass antibiotic resistance, the AC world’s population was decimated, and to ensure survival, they needed to consolidate resources.

Extreme circumstances are fertile ground for different ideas and imprudent solutions to flourish. In AC’s this leads to the United Adaptive, a global corporation who provide globalised crisis management and lifestyle solutions, to achieve traditionally public as well as private sector monopoly. Only a global operation like the United Adaptive could mobilise a worldwide relief program in response to the disasters that struck with brutal frequency in the backstory of AC. The repercussions of placing all responsibility and power with one organisation wasn’t a consideration, a ‘short-term’ effective solution was the priority, but we quickly learn how it negatively impacts Jun, our protagonist’s, life. After all, as British Politico Lord Acton famously said, ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

The United Adaptive was responsible for overseeing and implementing a global, mass migration program to ensure the population’s survival, meaning cultures and religions coalesce, people regardless of race or nationality co-exist and work towards a united, collective vision. They’ve already faced the worst possible scenarios and extremities, there’s nowhere to go but up, together. The swell of collective power is what saves them, but it’s the micro, ‘every day’ practicalities where the real challenges begin. One of the strategies implemented and regulated by the United Adaptive is the application of English as a singular global language – so-called UAEnglish – which rips out the beating heart of some character’s heritage, cultural and personal identities. It’s a key motivator behind some of Jun’s decisions in the story.

‘Jun had found it easier to live with typhoons and heat than entirely disband with Mandarin. Without it, she felt unanchored and lost, like she was denying a part of who she was. And she wasn’t alone.’ (Chapter 2)

 

Lifestyle adaptations explored in AC were also inspired very much by climate change. Because of the intense heat, for example, much of what we take for granted now is no longer fit for purpose; machinery can’t function, homes can’t protect families from hyperthermia. In the backstory of AC, there’s an overhaul of ‘lifestyle solutions’ (though not to the true potential because of resource/funding challenges), spearheaded by the United Adaptive. Everyday things need to be uber-efficient and operate with multiple functionalities. Solar energy, for example, is captured and used by items that require it as a power source or collect the energy on a mass scale to contribute to the central grid.

‘White identikit houses lined up like pills, deflecting the sun’s heat, but conserving its energy. Their algae-festooned walk-lights, tall and arched like soldier’s arms saluting their photosynthetic victories, and the access road was panelled with radiavoltaics, harnessing energy from the sun.’ (Chapter 1)

 

From the global natural and biological disasters, and the subsequent need to ensure the survival of humans, we see technological advancements in the health and wellbeing space too, most notably shown in the development of ‘health chips.’ In AC, there are two kinds of ‘health chips’; one focuses on cognitive and brain function, checking people’s mental health from a physiological point of view, but it also allows them to interact with lifestyle technology such as interactive entertainment platforms. In an earlier draft of the book, I had referenced that the United Adaptive developed technology to read people’s minds via the neuro brain chip, but the technology was exploited, so they disbanded it. I choose to lightly imply it instead of being explicit because I felt it was distracting. The second health chip monitors organ and blood physiology and is essential for the world’s maintenance of their health. Conveniently, it also serves as a ‘human GPS system’, which naturally is exploited. Interestingly, without this technology and it’s interpretation and application, Neuroscientist Jun wouldn’t have been exposed to one of the central characters – Odgerel – who exhibits exceptional (and useful) capabilities. From Jun’s perspective she, naively or selfishly, is captivated with the potential opportunity allowed by Odgerel. Through that, it allows us, and her, to explore the boundaries of her personal and individual morality and change the course of her reality as she knows it.

 ‘Out of respect for the exceptional tool you have inside of you, we must learn from it. If we don’t learn and apply, well, stagnation is death.’  (Jun, Chapter 10)

These are just a few examples of what the world looks like in Adaptive Consequences. Whether my theory of evolution is on the nose who’s to say right now, (I certainly hope not!), but researching this book impacted my life and choices in a big way. I always recycled and considered myself sympathetic and respectful to the planet, but after researching for the book, I quickly became a vegetarian, switched to green energy, contributed and supported environmental charities and political parties to name but a few. I didn’t set out to write a ‘cautionary tale’, and I certainly hope that’s not all it is, but I’d like it to be some food for thought. Mindfulness, the buzzword of ’17 and ’18 (and will probably carry on into ’19!!!!) is all very well, but we can’t live in the present for everything. Given the shape and direction the world is moving in, it’s never felt more relevant to stop and reflect what we want our future to look like and take the relevant actions and changes to make it happen.  

Hmmm. Mindfutureness doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though, does it?

 


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