In this story, you have a chip implanted in your neck that takes constant measurements of your pulse, blood sugar, physical exercise, and feeds it to your smart phone. In this story, before you travel, you go to the doctors not for vaccines but for an organ transplant that is closer in genetics to those of the locals. In this story, your children constantly ingest viruses like candy but unlike candy, these viruses make them healthier. In this story, you refer to yourself as human but in reality you are saying human*. And that asterisk contains more qualifications than you even understand—the deepest rabbit hole in the long history of defining what it means to be human. That asterisk doesn’t care about the philosophical mess of the spiritual, moral, cultural, logical, or physical human—its fine print is strictly biological which is tangled enough. Human* is an amalgamation of a multitude of species simplified into one functional term. It’s like how we think about air: a complex composition of molecules and particulates which passes as one entity that you suck into your lungs: in out, in out. In this story, being human* is not any more special or unique than being any other organism. Or rather, a human* finds that all organisms are equally marvelous.
Maybe we’re not to that point in the story yet. Maybe right now you are still at phase 0.001 clinical trials. Maybe you are still unknowingly part of the grand human* experiment, where biology is outwardly respectable, but in reality, it is a Wild West claim-jumper with a thin veneer of protocol greasing the handlebars of its mustache. Maybe this is the part of the story where you still wake up with nightmares in which you have been unwittingly made into chimera, fused with other organisms in such a way that none of you can live without the other—remade from human into something other. That quaint time early in this story where you still think you are inviolately human, and your bad dreams are just that rather than faint foreshadowing of the very real present and accepted future. Maybe in this part of the story terms like virus, genetic modification, stem cell research, and bacteria still freak you out.
Don’t worry. This part of the story speeds along as technology and scientific research revise our world daily, hurtling humans towards our eventual paradigm shift to human*. Like any paradigm shift, the only thing that actually changes is what you accept to be true. In this story, nothing actually new happens; we are finally discovering a hidden world deep inside ourselves that has been for the last ten thousand years.
In the crisis of this story, you will discover that you are indeed a chimera: you were born one through an ancient curse or blessing (Which is it? Both). Building to that crisis, you will have a period of giddy joy as your quality of life improves with heady advances in technology and science. In the surprise twist, you will learn that nothing you do is private. From blowing your nose to washing your hair, you are shedding collectable data constantly, and someone is collecting. Finally, in the denouement, you will have a very long time to live and consider these things.
In this story, the more you understand about the human* system, the more power you have over your personal health. In this story, you are part of a revolt that puts technology in your hands, molecular biology in your kitchen, and the experimental subject and research scientist is yourself. In this story, you transition from letting the world transform around you to becoming an intrepid explorer that seeks to understand her world and take part in affecting that transformation.
In this story, you know that you aren’t transhuman or posthuman but are simply human* and being a human* means that what is invisibly in you—the in-human—matters as much as what is visibly you. This story is your human* journey; your field guide primer to agency in a world that constantly fluctuates.