Tomorrow, I'll be interviewing Charlie Stross at Plokta.con, a con in Newbury, UK. He's the Guest-of-Honour, and he's written up a corker of a GoH contribution for the programme book.
Eusocial animals like ants, termites, bees, or naked mole rats, exhibit curious behaviour; their societies are stratified by role, with workers, warriors, and reproductive castes that may differ morphologically from one another. Humans aren't so obviously specialized, but if you consider our machines as part of our extended phenotype, it begins to look that way: if our machines become intentionally driven, and they're tailored to play different roles in our society, then you could argue that we occupy some kind of privileged position in a hive-relationship with tools that require our continued safety and comfort in order to further their own reproduction. There's nobody here in this hive but us queens, and the living machines we so carelessly manufacture as conveniences for our own comfort. Individual ants or other eusocial insect species all share the same genetic code, but different castes express radically different phenotypic traits, and indeed most ants are sterile workers who can only further their genetic traits by ensuring that their cousin, aunt or mother the hive-queen succeeds. Our machines don't share our genome (yet), but they share parts of the vast haze of information that has gathered around the genome, and they can only reproduce through us.Link