The Harbingers

Screenshot anime Narue no Sekai

Luminous beings of healing, compassion and wisdom will herald the end of the human era as we know it. And they may be your children.

I would assume that there are few enough people who would be interested in reading this strange tale about a new Human Operating System. But you may be passingly familiar with a strand of modern entertainment that is called “superheroes”. Most people in the English-speaking world knows of at least some of these, such as Superman. But why are there more and more of them?

In the early days of superhero comics, the superheroes were few and far between. Superman was the only superpowered being in his world for a while, and rather more realistic than in the later comics. No flying to the stars, just jumping over tall buildings. But anyway, gradually there popped up more of them, and they began to interact. This is mildly interesting, but could be explained from outside sources: Where there is a demand, after all, there will be a supply. People liked to read about superheroes (and now watch them in movies), so the industry supplies more of them. Still, there is more to it than that, and this is relevant to our bizarre little series.

For when the writers of the various comic book universes turn to the future, that future is full of superpowered creatures. They envision a world in which a new breed of man is either taking over the world or coexisting uneasily with the ordinary Homo Sapiens. In the Marvel Universe they are called mutants (though some call themselves Homo Superior); in the DC universe, metahumans, in the Wildstorm universe, gen-actives. But perhaps the most revealing name is that given by Valiant Comics: Here, the new people with miraculous powers are called Harbingers, from the belief that they herald a new step in human evolution.

Western comics (and later movies) have not been alone in envisioning such a future. Japanese manga and anime, while different in many aspects, also often portray a future (or parallel present) in which the number of people with “abilities” or “aura powers” is rising rapidly, as more and more children are born with abilities their parents did not have.

This is perhaps not so surprising, for in real life we have had the Flynn Effect since at least 1914, when the first systematic, large-scale IQ tests were deployed. The Flynn Effect is a steadily rising intelligence in new generations, much faster than biological evolution can provide. The growth has been about 10 points per generation, or 3 points per decade. This means that if your grandparents had an IQ of 100, which is the average, then your parents probably had an IQ of 110, and you one of 120. However, because the average IQ must remain close to 100, new IQ tests are devised and the scale is reset. So chances are that you kids are just 110, your parents 100, and grandparents 90. (On average – this obviously varies from person to person.)

The multitude of low-IQ elders was so common that for a while it was assumed that human intelligence naturally decayed with age. And eventually it does, but as Flynn discovered, the more common problem was that today’s elders have been stupid all their life. There was just not much talk about it because their level of stupid was the normal back then. It is only now that they are being revealed as stupid, because smarter generations have arrived.

So far, the mysterious powers of the gifted children seems to be mostly things like using electronic devices without reading the instruction booklet, not flying and controlling the weather with their mind. Good thing too! But if my theory is right, and humanity is gearing up for the next phase change, the actual “superheroes” of the future will be humans physically like us, but with a new and vastly improved Human Operating System, namely Version 3. And they will quite possibly be as far ahead of us as modern man was ahead of the Neanderthals and his own ancestors who solved all problems with the same hand axe.

I have mentioned that the invention of speech as we know it must have been miraculous by the standards of its time. The new type of human was able to communicate extremely detailed information and make elaborate plans, and they could do so even in darkness or through walls! They were also able to invent new tools and weapons that had never been seen before, and they enjoyed activities that seemed meaningless to their ancestors, like painting images or making instruments sing.

Just like the Version 1 human with his hand axe could not have predicted what his children would be like, so we are also unable to say for sure what will happen after the Singularity, the Armageddon, Ragnarok or whatever we call the birthquake of the new era. We suspect that there will be war and rumors of war, and upheavals in nature that exceed what we have seen before. But we do not know quite what the new world will be like, if it even succeeds in establishing itself.

Still, we have some idea. Because there have been Harbingers already. Few and far between, misunderstood even at their own time, made into legend and then myth with the passing of time. But we know a few things about them, and it seems reasonable to think that the same traits will be found in the future.

They will understand those with the old mindset, but will not be understood by them. Their understanding will be deeper even than our own, not just deeper than our understanding of each other but of ourselves. They will know us better than we know ourselves. This will apply at least to the first generation, those who grew up like us, but it may well last as long as our current mindset still exists on Earth.

They will cooperate far better, almost as if they shared a common mind or at least a telepathic connection. They will seem in some ways like individual limbs on a greater organism, even though they each have their own personality.

They will not be slaves to physical desires or the hunger for status, acceptance or recognition. This is not asceticism like those still aspiring to the New Mind. It is a full clarity of their role as beings of information, centered on a specific body but using it rather than being used by it, and extending far into a virtual space beyond the particular body. Perpetuating their bodily life or their genes will be undertaken in so far as it serves the greater purpose in which they cooperate, not at the cost of it.

They will have a different relationship to time. And more specifically to eternity. Their thoughts will stretch far into the past and the future, but even the current time will flow differently for them. They will seem to know things they could not possibly know.

They will have Abilities that seem supernatural but are not, and these will not be technological in origin (although the future superhumans will almost certainly have technology beyond our imagination). They will specifically be able to influence the bodies and minds of normals, primarily to heal and sometimes to teach, but not to enslave. Still, the normals will fear them until they know them, and some even then.

They will appear to shine at times. It seems likely that this is a perception only and that they are not literally emitting photons, but I don’t know this for sure. I know that radiance is firmly associated with past Harbingers from different continents, cultures and eras.

Luminous beings of knowledge and compassion, the Harbingers will gently herald the end of the world as we know it, the end of Humanity version 2. The gold and the silver, the bronze and the iron and the clay: Everything we knew will become like dust on the wind, and the book of history will be closed.

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