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Live – The Boundless Body #2



Imagine all the things that make you human.


Imagine that on our planet, there is a parallel universe, a universe of bacteria. They form intelligent societies, just like ours on a micro-level. A reality of patterns and colors, intelligence and resilience, invisible to our eyesight. They make love, war, have families with norms and agreements. They experience, communicate and make plans for the future.


Just imagine it.


It might be true. Yet, we see ourselves as superior. Often, we argue that we are unique because of our abilities to think, communicate. We organize ourselves in communities, and with our intelligence we become stronger than what our physicality suggests. Seen from certain points of views, our miniature friends, the bacterias, are as good, if not better, at the same thing. For instance, the number of bacteria in a colony can be more than 100 times the number of people on earth. Yet, the bacteria are able to make sure they are all synchronized by sharing chemical messages. They experience their surroundings, and adapt to them in a way that makes survival more likely. And they do it like a team, where each member has its own task and its own function. A colony of bacteria might for instance form a specific pattern, in order to move as a group, on challenging surfaces.


“Of course” one could think at this point, with no ego`s, agreement and synchronized action it is easy. But, what if they do have a sense of self? Seen in a microscope, a single bacterium chased by a white blood-cell will “run”, and make sudden 90 degrees angled direction-changes to escape, whereas a bacteria that is not chased will simply continue its random little dance. So, at least the bacterium has an individual sense of its surroundings, and “thoughts” about how to deal with these surroundings. On top of that, bacteria can differentiate between friends and enemy, family and foreigner. Researchers don’t yet know how, but that they do differentiate, is clear. Messages shared will be kept in the family, and warfare will be run with a clear sense of “front line” towards the enemies. One could say, the bacteria have a sense of identity through nation and belonging.


They are just like us. Imagine it.


Your imagination might be stopped by the thought that the bacteria are “simple” action-reaction systems. That they are automated, and made efficient through decades of evolution. Well, it took human beings 5-6 years to develop a certain type of antibiotics. It took the bacterias about half the time to become resistant to it. When we created the world wide web in 1989, the bacterias were laughing at us, having already had systems of global communication for decades.


Think about it.


Bacterias learn from experience, prepare for the future, and make decisions. They survive conditions human beings could never dream of. They live deep down in our earth under high temperatures and high pressure. They have been found in the ice, in fire, they are unstoppable. In places where the conditions seem too rough, they find ways to go “dormant”, only to wake up again when conditions are better. Bacterias are everywhere; the first ones to settle, and the last ones to go.


Still, I am special as a human being because of my personality….


For some years now, researchers have found interest especially in the bacterial flora of our guts. Experiments show that the different kinds of bacterias present in our guts might decide things like whether or not we have tendencies of depression, and whether or not we are willing to take a risk. A rat fed a certain kind of bacteria common for our gut, showed optimism, and willingness to fight for a hopeless cause for longer than the rats not given the bacteria. Experiments with germ-free mice, show that without bacteria, the behaviour changes, and even the structures of the mice’s brains become different.


The findings gives reason to think and imagine, that traits we have always seen as very personal – as factors closely connected to our feeling of identity, are in fact simply created and orchestrated by bacteria.


So who am I? Who are we? What are we responsible for?


What if, the bacterias are our Matrix. An invisible intricate system, a force that dictates, designs and directs our reality. What if we are nothing but empty tools ran by the bacterial matrix.


Just imagine it.

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