Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead - Robert Brockway (2010)
The fear of an apocalypse triggered by biotechnology is perhaps the most immediate concern out there: Genetic manipulation, biological weapons, and superdrugs set off the panic response like little else, and the risk seems to be becoming more real by the day. But what would need to happen for the worst-case scenario—a worldwide, man-made biological apocalypse—to actually come to pass?
First, you would need incentive, some benefit tempting enough for the masses to risk the very fibers of their being by introducing manipulated genes into their own systems. You’re probably not going to be game for freebasing possum blood unless you get something pretty cool in return. Free cable, at the least.
Second, you would need contagion, a way for these genes to spread from person to person, or otherwise propagate. While it may suck for you, personally, to have your mind taken over by telepathic heroin, if it doesn’t affect everybody it’s just back-page news.
Finally, you would need lethality: Because, well, it’s just not the apocalypse unless everybody dies.
Chapter 15. BIOTECH INCENTIVE
AS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, humanity is not entirely self-destructive. We won’t put ourselves in jeopardy for no reason. And we’re not going to! The good news about the incentive phase of a biotech apocalypse? You’re going to be able to do some pretty cool shit.
Activities Marginally Less Homoerotic Than Wrestling:
· Naked disco
· Hard-core gay sex with a bunch of other dudes (all the time)
The most alluring field of biotechnology right now is that of athletics, and for good reason: Athletes have been looking for new and undetectable ways to cheat since ancient times, when the very first Olympic wrestler greased himself up before a match. (Greek wrestling, much like its modern contemporary, professional wrestling, was the most socially acceptable way for butch men to get naked and grope each other with lubricant.) And ever since that first naked, cheating man-orgy, we’ve taken a big cue from their example. Genetic experimentation owes a great debt of gratitude to brave, unethical souls like those ancient Greeks, whose modern equivalents are competitors willing to risk shriveled testicles and crippling bacne just for a leg up on the competition.
A chief problem is that of “gene doping.” It’s the biological equivalent of pimping your ride, and it will soup you up in every way short of painting flames on your chest and installing monitors in your ass. In general, the term “gene doping” refers to any modification of the human body through enhanced DNA. It’s used for a variety of therapies, but in the field of professional sports there are some specifically desired uses: Injecting extra copies of naturally occurring genes, like those that create endorphins, might render you essentially immune to pain and fatigue. Or perhaps you’d rather have some extra testosterone, making you larger, stronger, and substantially more entertained by NASCAR. Before the prospect of gene doping, there was simple blood doping: Some athletes prefer injecting themselves with erythropoietin, or EPO, to boost their own red blood cell count. This enables better, faster, stronger oxygenation of the blood and therefore better stamina, fuller lung capacity, and less recovery time. But in the realm of modern science, that’s practically caveman shit. Why, all the way back in 1998, an entire cycling team in the Tour de France was expelled for EPO abuse, despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to trace, because evidence of almost any kind of gene doping can be explained in other ways: There are disorders, birth defects, or just different genetic profiles that could be responsible for unusual genes, thus allowing any athlete to dismiss accusations of cheating by attributing it to a tragic birth defect that rendered him substantially more awesome than the average man. With gene-doping technology, we’re looking at the same essential effects as blood doping; we’re just going to make them permanent. By altering DNA to increase the production of EPO in athletes’ bodies, they no longer need to inject untraceable superdrugs to up their performance; they’re already producing it. You’ve got little drug cartels up and running in your bloodstream.
Beware: EPO can easily be confused with ELO in casual conversation.
If you find yourself struggling to tell the difference, here are Some tips to help you differentiate between the two.
· EPO can also be called “blood doping.”
· ELO can also be called “dope” by people who own BeDazzlers.
· EPO is used to better performance.
· ELO will never be followed by the term “better performance,” unless it’s meant ironically.
· EPO is an illegal substance, and very hard to come by.
· ELO is not yet illegal, and can be found in yard sales across the country in the box marked FREE CRAP, next to broken He-Man toys and a single ski boot.
Consider vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). It covers the other end of the spectrum from EPO’s stamina-enhancing effects by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels, increasing blood flow, thus improving burst-style muscular strength. Its intended use is for treating muscular diseases, allowing patients with conditions that constrict their blood vessels to regain their muscle mass and, most likely, will eventually wind up helping old white men get boners—because pretty much all drugs end up in that shriveled-boner category. The thing so devious about VEGF is that, even if you manage to track this one, the gene that produces it is delivered to cells in the body in the first place by piggybacking on the common cold virus. So finding modified VEGF genes in the herculean superman who just hurled the Lithuanian swim team out of the coliseum will at best just prove that he had a case of the sniffles at the time. Which, if anything, just makes him look all the more impressive, doesn’t it?
But that’s only for the obsessed athlete, right? How could this possibly benefit the common man?
Well, for one, consider the elderly: Typically regarded as frail and easily knocked around for one’s amusement when you’re desperate to compensate for your microscopic manhood (not that I would know anything about that), their weak constitution is largely due to the natural loss of muscle mass. That’s just genetics, of course, and thanks to advances in biotechnology, there are experimental drugs in testing right now that help restore that lost muscle. They could restore enough, some say, to even equal those levels found in healthy young adults. That’s not just halting one of the worst aspects of aging; it’s turning it backward! The drug is called MK-677, and so far it’s been proven safe, effective, and able to restore up to 20 percent of total muscle mass in the human body. That’s a full fifth of the total human potential, effectively taking senior citizens back to the same overall body strength as a healthy twenty-year-old, according to Michael O. Thorner, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia Health System.
In case the elderly are, in fact, enjoying this book right now, please accept my most humble apologies and my thanks for your readership. To make it up to you, the following text is exclusively for your enjoyment:
· What’s with this Twitter thing? In my day that was called a sentence.
· Kids will stay off your lawn if you sprinkle it with cayenne pepper. That’ll give ’em something to cry about!
· Why don’t more places, serve rice pudding?
That’s a real thing now: geriatrics with the bodies of twenty-year-olds. That’s not science fiction. It’ll probably be commonly prescribed well within your lifetime if you’re reading this book (because hey, let’s face it, the elderly are probably not the key demographic for a book full of dick jokes about cutting-edge science).
So you’re already one-fifth immortal and possess nigh superhuman stamina just by taking pills, but wait! There’s more!
If you call now, the future will throw in super strength, absolutely free!
These deals are so crazy they’ll stuff and mount their dead mother!
Scientists have discovered that disabling a protein called myostatin can double the overall size of musculature in most mammals. This has only been verifiably proven in mice so far, but theoretically it should work on virtually any mammal. There’s a naturally occurring condition in several species that’s quite similar, where the animal’s myostatin is genetically suppressed. Whippets—those malnourished junkie-looking dog-rats—can suffer from a hypermusculature disease that creates “bully whippets”: Genetic freaks that are gargantuan, absurdly muscled even without exercise, and overall resemble nothing so much as a canine Incredible Hulk. It’s not a debilitating condition, either—that muscle mass is fully functional. Bully whippets have double the strength of their normal counterparts, and as a result can run at double the speed. There’s even been one recorded case of this condition occurring in a human. A German boy was recently diagnosed with the disorder. He’s been monitored from the day it was first discovered he had the condition, and all subsequent tests have verified that he is indeed in perfect health. This means that, theoretically, an artificially induced muscle-doubling disorder should also be entirely safe. Of course, the second professional weight-lifters heard of this development—a procedure that could render them roughly twice the terrifying abominations of nature that they already are—the researchers were swamped with offers to volunteer as test subjects. It’s not like the appeal of strength in a pill is limited to the Buick-resembling man-monster demographic either. Se-Jin Lee, one of the professors at Johns Hopkins University responsible for this discovery, states that every major pharmaceutical company is working on a myostatin blocker for treatment of diseases like muscular dystrophy.
If it’s already being tested medicinally, the demands of the free market (read: anybody who wants totally kickin’ abs for doing absolutely nothing, which, by last count, is everybody) dictate that it will soon be available for more casual usage as well, within just a few years by some estimates.
Sure, zombie drugs may be disturbing, but consider the side effects of some already available pharmaceuticals:
· Sleep sex (Ambien)
· Impulse gambling (Mirapex)
· Necrotic flesh (Provigil)
· Old-guy boners (Cialis)
If strength doesn’t appeal to you, what about stamina? There are biotech endurance enhancements in the works as well: Scientists at Case Western Reserve University genetically altered mouse embryos to limit the muscle response for burst-style energy. The effect of this was the lessened potential for energy spurts, but massively increased endurance. Some other little side effects were seen, like insatiable hunger, tripled life span, and a tremendously increased libido, along with a “very, very aggressive nature.” In other words, these are furious, untiring, and horny-as-hell mice … possessing a ravenous, unnatural hunger. The researchers, as they did with VEGF, EPO, and MK-667, freely admit that there is also the potential for abuse of this as a performance enhancer in humans, but they do strongly warn that these same potential side effects might affect humans the same as they do mice. So maybe take a rain check on that workout in a pill for now—side effects may be nausea, headache, stiff joints, endless rage, consuming lust, insatiable hunger, and other such general fucking zombification.
So there are zombie pills! Wonderful! But surely you didn’t think that was all?!
No! There’s even more! Science is clinically retarded for deals!
You’ve heard the phrase “in the zone”? The mental, spiritual, and physical state where you feel you can simply do no wrong—from shooting a fine game of pool to breaking world records—being in the zone is the common moniker for what scientists refer to as a “flow state,” a feeling resulting from a dopamine surge accompanied by a few neurochemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which generally serves to decrease reaction time, and even alter our perception of time itself.
That’s in a pill, too: You’ll be able to be “in the zone” within the decade just by popping some anandamide analogues. Anandamide, first identified back in 2004 by Georgia Tech neuroscientist Arne Dietrich, is the chemical responsible for triggering these flow-state highs and, as you’ve probably learned by now, pretty much any naturally occurring response in the human body can and will be manipulated by science like preteen girls by the Disney Corporation. Picture it: A generation of entirely average people doping up on “in the zone” prescriptions—flipping channels with the mental acuity of a crack athlete, every click executed so perfectly it’s like they’ve stolen God’s fingers. That’s … probably the most that will happen, actually, because human nature doesn’t change. Just taking this drug doesn’t mean you’ll automatically assume an active lifestyle. Why limit the feeling to the athletically gifted, when everybody wants to feel like they’re the best at something—even if that “something” is just the Hundred-Ounce Pee Break or the Triple-Digit Channel Change?
So we’ve established that there are real projects already under way with proven results that give humans everything from effort-free workouts to improved mental faculties. With kickin’ abs, endless stamina, mental acuity, and nigh-spiritual flow states available in pill form in under a decade, it’s not a matter of if you introduce biotech to your system, but how much you can afford and how awesome you want to be that day.
When you consider that we’re the generation that bought the Thighmaster and the Ab Cruncher, it’s safe to say we’ll probably make some room in the budget for buff-untiring-genius-time-manipulator-in-a-pill. And that’s how it starts; the massive incentive for biotech makes it a household name. Soon you won’t think anything of modifying your genetics on the fly, and biotech will be everywhere.