Jun 3, 2023·edited Jun 3, 2023Liked by Ben Reinhardt

In the sprawling cityscape of Munich, Year 2080, Avani head of the molecular cybernetics program at Xtech corp was meticulously curating a presentation for eager students in the metaverse. The subject matter being "Historical intersection between human imaginaries in art and technology". Having sifted through clips of the movie Avatar (2009), she selected her favorite snippets to underscore her points. As she reclined on her couch, a thoughtful pause in her preparations, her sythetic iridophore skin material hummed and cast a soft blue glow, a living canvas for Solis, her designer synthetic photosymbiont, mimicking the bioluminescent skin of the Na'vi. A product of over two decades of relentless effort by the molecular cybernetic team, Solis is a non-replicating symbiont; evolved to harmoniously co-exist with other human microbiomes, while bearing a synthetic genetic code, made of building block chemistries markedly divergent from the 3.5 billion-year-old ancestral code, dictating the rest of her body's functioning. Powered by solar energy, Solis is dependent on key nutrients from the human skin for survival and in return can manufacture nanoinjectable vaccines, therapeutics and designer drugs on demand, instructions for which can grabbed from the ether by the neuralink. Solis, most importantly would provide a window into the inner emotions of humans and their interactions, orchestrating a myriad of iridiscent glows and fractal patterns on the synthetic skin matrix. With a smile Avani, broke from her meditation quipping, "the only thing missing is the tree plugin feature".

Expand full comment
Jun 9, 2023Liked by Ben Reinhardt

Title: Elixir of Evolution: The Triumph of Artificial Cells

Dr. Amelia Hartley stood at the forefront of scientific innovation, her pioneering work on artificial cells as chemical plants transforming the landscape of chemical manufacturing. As their breakthrough reverberated through industries, the applications of their creations became increasingly diverse and awe-inspiring.

In one notable instance, a brilliant scientist named Dr. Adrian Westwood approached Dr. Hartley's team with a paradoxical challenge. He sought a custom-designed material that possessed seemingly contradictory qualities: exceptional heat resistance, the ability to withstand enormous amounts of pressure, and unparalleled dimensional stability—no deviation even on a nanometer scale.

Dr. Westwood's vision was to construct a groundbreaking spacecraft engine capable of venturing deep into the cosmic abyss, pushing the boundaries of space exploration. However, existing materials were insufficient to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures encountered during such interstellar voyages.

Driven by their relentless pursuit of innovation, Dr. Hartley's team embarked on a journey to craft a material that would defy conventional limitations. They immersed themselves in a realm where artificial cells danced with chemical reactions, working in harmony to bring forth a material of unparalleled strength and endurance.

Layer by layer, the artificial cells wove their magic, synthesizing and arranging the atoms with meticulous precision. The hierarchical, multimaterial structure took shape, imbued with the resilience of a diamond and the adaptability of living organisms. These cells harnessed their extraordinary abilities to guide the material's growth, nurturing its unique properties.

After weeks of tireless effort, the team presented Dr. Westwood with a translucent sheet—an ethereal marvel. This seemingly delicate material possessed an inherent resistance to heat, capable of withstanding temperatures that would melt most metals. Its molecular structure, carefully engineered by the artificial cells, granted it an unparalleled ability to endure pressure that surpassed any previous benchmarks.

Dr. Westwood marveled at the material's ethereal beauty, its strength, and its seemingly contradictory characteristics. He envisioned the spacecraft engine that would bear humanity to the farthest reaches of the universe, powered by this marvel of science and innovation.

The material's dimensional stability astounded even the most seasoned scientists. When placed under immense stress, subjected to extreme temperatures or pressures, it remained unyielding, maintaining its original shape and dimensions to an astounding degree—even at the nanoscale, where minuscule variations could spell catastrophe.

With the tailored material in hand, Dr. Westwood embarked on his mission to create a spacecraft engine that defied the boundaries of what was deemed possible. And as the vessel pierced the vastness of space (even black holes), propelled to faster-than-light speeds by the revolutionary material crafted within the artificial cells, humanity's quest for knowledge expanded like never before.

The triumph of Dr. Hartley's team resonated throughout the scientific community, inspiring countless researchers to harness the power of artificial cells to create materials and compounds that surpassed the limits of imagination. From durable yet lightweight construction materials to ultra-efficient energy storage systems and beyond, the applications flourished, forging a future where human potential knew no bounds.

In the annals of scientific achievement, the tale of the paradoxical material created by artificial cells became a symbol of human resilience and unwavering determination. It stood as a testament to the extraordinary advancements made possible by embracing the limitless possibilities offered by merging biology and engineering—a testament to the elixir of evolution crafted by the genius of Dr. Amelia Hartley and her visionary team.

And in recognition of their groundbreaking contributions, Dr. Hartley and her team were awarded the coveted first place in Spectech's coordinated research program, receiving the core books that symbolized their unwavering commitment to innovation.

Expand full comment
Jun 6, 2023Liked by Ben Reinhardt

Once upon a time, somewhere ethereal, God - the silent observer of existence and eternal eavesdropper on the universe's melodrama - sat watching a curious little blue dot called Earth. This is no ordinary tale of divinity, so don't expect any lightning bolts or burning bushes. Our God, for the sake of today's story, is a jolly ancient deity with a fondness for humanity’s whimsy, relishing in their odd experiments and even odder technologies.

“There’s new tech on the block.” God said delightfully as he rested his eyes on his favorite little blue planet.

In a world where VR headsets had become a family staple in even the most impoverished homes–– as ubiquitous as TV and Wi-Fi are for us today, a gap in the markets emerged. Movies and streaming services were recovering from the broken economic system. Dinner conversations started to hint at cravings for the next digital distraction. God heard these murmurs and whisperings, watching them weave their way through the social zeitgeist until they reached the ears of builders itching to make things happen and tech tycoons eager to multiply their riches. Deals were feinted and struck, and after a relatively short R&D process, advertisements for “The Synaptic Symphony” began popping up all over people’s digital devices.

The pitch was simple: Imagine the most Immersive VR experience you’ve ever had. Take your family and friends for only $9.99! The similar price to a movie ticket was an ironic recall to revive emptying cinemas as the Synaptic Symphony replaced blockbuster movies. Humans would step into the cotton seats, don a neurointerface helmet, and let the microscopic electrodes connect with their brains. It was a bit like having a billion tiny hairdressers working on your scalp, only these hairdressers were beaming artificial cells into your cranium.

That was the extent of what most people knew about the Synaptic Symphony and its experience–– much like most people know today that movies are filmed on cameras and edited with computers.

Those more curious would find scientific papers or YouTube videos explaining in detail how the artificial cells employed in this technology were engineered to mimic the behavior of neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers. The cells were carefully designed and carefully controlled, but most importantly, non-self-replicating to prevent any unintended consequences. Monitoring the user’s brain activity in real time, the electrodes used neurofeedback loops to adjust intensity and chemical release patterns based on the user’s brain signals, creating a personalized virtual reality experience that responded to an individual's cognitive and emotional states.

Imagine hearing a cello's deep note and tasting dark chocolate or sensing the ocean's roar in the crash of a cymbal. The music not only tickled the brain but also pirouetted with your senses, creating a symphony that was as unique as your DNA. Yes, any person could now experience synesthesia, where all the senses were wrapped up in each other, barriers nonexistent, overlapping and borrowing, and sharing. In the span of just 3-5 minutes, you could let yourself be enveloped by a petal's velvet touch, the sight of music notes dancing in the air, smelling the passage of time as it warped itself around you. The humans had somehow engineered the artificial cells to modulate the brain's temporal processing— realizing that by activating or inhibiting specific neural circuits, experiences could be made to appear to unfold faster or slower, effectively changing the human’s subjective perception of time when they were within the virtual environment.

A new kind of popcorn in hand - celestial flavor, his favorite - God continued his divine binge-watch of the human race.

"On one hand," he mused aloud to nobody in particular, "they've finally managed to simulate time travel, which is quite the technical party trick.” He crunched on a fluffy piece of cosmic popcorn, the taste like the glow of nebulae. "On the other hand, they’re introducing artificial cells into their brain and turning their nervous system into a vat of miniature chemical plants…"

The synaptic symphony affected many in a very peculiar way. It was not a harmful or addictive strain; it was a subtle discordance, a shift in the internal rhythms of those who experienced it.

See, in the beginning, there was God. And before God created light, or darkness, or anything of the material sort, he first sorted out the ancient notion of "musica universalis," which humans commonly referred to as the "music of the spheres”. All mathematical relationships express "tones" of energy. ", manifesting themselves within the realms of numbers, visual angles, shapes, and sounds, forming an exquisite tapestry of proportionate interconnectedness. Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon, and planets all emit their own unique hum based on their orbital revolution and that these celestial harmonies, though imperceptible to the human ear, influence life on Earth, imbuing everything with its own harmonic tenor. Building upon Pythagoras' insights, the philosopher Plato drew parallels between astronomy and music, considering them “twinned” branches of sensual recognition— astronomy captivating the eyes, music enthralling the ears. Both disciplines sharing an intimate reliance on the profound understanding of numerical proportions.

In other words, our world is a symphony, and every atom a note.

Most humans were oblivious to this, of course. The impact of the Symphony was akin to an instrument being finely tuned. It subtly changed the essence of a person, like a piano wire being tightened or loosened—just enough to alter the sound but not enough to be immediately noticeable. Corporate-funded psychologists, no matter how well-intentioned, plagued the first recipients with surveys and psychological evaluations, yet could never intuit the reason behind this disharmony.

The Synaptic Symphony was such a classic case of human curiosity mingled with ignorance about their extensive interconnectedness with the universe. This would have made God blink twice if not for his omniscience. Reclining further into his cosmic armchair, his attention remained firmly on the little blue dot. Seeing humanity in this light, on the verge of a precipice between innovation and possible self-destruction, God felt the thrill of uncertainty, the one thing even an omniscient being could enjoy.

"So the grand experiment continues," he chuckled grimly, his divine laughter echoing through the cosmos, sparking a few new galaxies on the side. "I suppose it wouldn't be humanity without a little bit of chaos."

Expand full comment

You can tell I've been reading a lot of Ted Gioia recently lol https://tedgioia.substack.com/p/get-ready-to-pay-more-for-music

Expand full comment