People are basically walking sponges


So I was about to Google what is probably the smartest thing I’ve ever said, which is that people are basically walking sponges.

Smart because true and startling. (If a sentence is true but surprisingly so, then it’s smart or stand-up worthy.) Sponges are the key moment in our evolution because they are animals halfway between mere cell colony (like a volvox) and organism chock-full of specialized organs (like an earthworm or human).

Sometimes, you can say something true in a way that touches, moves, and inspires. This was one of those times.

The sponge was our seventh incarnation, according to the latest and best model.

Table: Our first seven incarnations
DateEvent
4000 MaThe earliest life appears.
3900 MaCells resembling prokaryotes appear. This marks the first appearance of photosynthesis and therefore the first occurrence of large quantities of atmospheric oxygen on the earth.
2500 MaFirst organisms to utilize oxygen. By 2400 Ma, in what is referred to as the Great Oxygenation Event, the pre-oxygen anaerobic forms of life were wiped out by the oxygen consumers.
2100 MaMore complex cells appear: the eukaryotes.
1200 MaSexual reproduction evolves, leading to faster evolution where genes are mixed in every generation enabling greater variation for subsequent selection.
900 MaThe choanoflagellates may look similar to the ancestors of the entire animal kingdom, and in particular they may be the direct ancestors of sponges. Proterospongia (members of the Choanoflagellata) are the best living examples of what the ancestor of all animals may have looked like. They live in colonies, and show a primitive level of cellular specialization for different tasks.
600 MaIt is thought that the earliest multicellular animal was a sponge-like creature. Sponges are among the simplest of animals, with partially differentiated tissues. Sponges (Porifera) are the phylogenetically oldest animal phylum extant today.

So I start typing inside the Today’s Tom Oracle (the Google search field, which anticipates what you will write based 100% on statistics and locale) and what do I see? This:

And then the Lord said …
And then the Lord said …

And I realized. There have been a lot of zombie movies. And they are peaking in popularity right now.

What is the larger insight of the zombie craze? And why now?

The larger insight is the cultural acceptance of atheism and the fact that biological systems can be deterministic and unintentional and yet produce animals that (sometimes) can choose freely (inside The Voice module at least) and have intentionality. Americans are finally fascinated with the emergence of consciousness from Legos and simple rules of physics.

What is the difference between Normal Mom and Zombie Mom? One is a machine that bridles itself with stories and social bonds. The other is a machine that runs only on this body now and fears nothing. We are always both simultaneously, and the right disease or drug can send us into super-social mode (LSD, MDMA) or super-bio mode (alcohol, PCP). Normal Mom is Zombie Mom, right now. All it takes is a chemical wrench.

Mechanical determinism is stronger than hope. That is the essence of zombie horror.