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Artificiality

File:Handbach (Sterkrade).jpg

The topic of artificiality has many aspects, from arts and aesthetics to ecology and economy, from philosophy to politics. I have touched this topic here and there in some of my articles already and I think it will take firmer contours on these pages in the future.

Bit by bit, artificiality is taking over. There was a time when rivers where something natural. Today, many are artificial, having been straitened, and their banks cast in concrete. There was a time when a forest was something natural. If you go through forests in Europe or America today, in many places you will find trees standing in military order. The human body, once natural, is now more and more a patchwork or natural and artificial components, changed by liposuction, surgery, tattoos, piercings and artificial hair (see https://asifoscope.org/2012/11/29/cosmetics/).

Much of the surface of our planet today is artificial and the parts that are still covered with organisms are to a great extend largely artificial structures, changed by agriculture or other human activities. Artificiality is being introduced into the genetic makeup of organisms. The light we see, the sounds we hear, the materials we use and their microstructure, the food we eat, more and more of our surrounding is to some extent modified by our activity or outright artificial.

This artificial “layer” covering nature more and more is “thicker” in some parts (generally where there is more money, because it is expensive to create and maintain) and “thinner” in others (see https://asifoscope.org/2013/01/05/dust/). I mean the word “layer” here not in the verbal sense but in the sense that the structure of the objects surrounding us is increasingly artificial, although at some level of their (micro-)structure, they remain natural (see https://asifoscope.org/2012/11/18/car-theory/). The artificial aspect may be a “layer” in the literal sense, e.g. when we paint a piece of wood or cover a piece of land with tarmac, but I want to use the term in a wider sense, referring to any changed aspect of the structure of something. E.g., the forest with the orderly planted trees has a “layer of artificiality”.

The increasing artificiality of our surrounding is not a new phenomenon. It started when thousands of years ago in several parts of the world, agriculture was invented and people started changing the landscapes around them drastically. But over the last two centuries, the process has been accelerating more and more (see https://asifoscope.org/2013/01/09/growth-and-creativity/).

Artificiality has a constructive and a destructive side. The resources of our planet are limited and we are increasingly approaching and hitting those limits. As a result, the destructive aspect is now getting more and more prevalent.

Obviously, while we are building artificial structures, we also destroy, and some parts of the artificiality of our environment are unwanted byproducts of our activities. There are many examples. There are beaches now in some places where a large part of the “sand” actually consists of small plastic particles, remains of our trash that has ended up in the see and slowly decomposed into small fragments, often after causing considerable havoc to animals. The composition of waters and the atmosphere has changed in many places, groundwater has disappeared or has been polluted, and soil has been poisoned.

As a consequence, many species go extinct. The natural and in many cases rich and complex composition of ecosystems is being replaced by an artificial one with a reduced diversity. It appears not so unlikely that in the process of artificialization of the surface of our planet, one of the last remaining natural elements, the human being, is also going to be abolished.

In a concrete brook

Frogs are nowhere to be seen

No splashing water

(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Handbach_(Sterkrade).jpg)

The haiku refers to a famous poem by Matsuo Basho.

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