Fisherian Runaway

Fisherian runaway is a mechanism proposed by the mathematical and evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher, to account for the evolution of exaggerated male ornamentation by persistent, directional female choice. When females are attracted to a certain trait within males, this trait over time gets over-emphasised because males with the trait will be selected by the female. An example is the colourful and elaborate peacock plumage. The bird’s extremely long tail seems incompatible with natural selection because it requires a great deal of energy to grow and maintain, reduces the bird’s agility, and may increase it’s visibility to predators. Yet, the tail has evolved, which indicates that females have a preference to mate with peacocks that possess a longer and more colourful tail. Peahens that select long-tailed males  in turn have male offspring that are more likely to have long tails and thus are more likely to be sexually successful themselves. Equally importantly, the female offspring of these peahens are more likely to have a preference for peacocks with longer tails. However, because the costs for the production of such a tail are so high the absolute fitness levels of all the members of the population (both male and female) is less than it would be if none of the peahens had a preference for a longer or more colorful tail. In his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins writes: ” In a society where males compete with each other to be chosen as he-men by females, one of the best things a mother can do for her genes is to make a son who will turn out in his turn to be an attractive he-man. If she can ensure that her son is one of the fortunate few males who wins most of the copulations in the society when he grows up, she will have an enormous number of grandchildren. The result of this is that one of the most desirable qualities a male can have in the eyes of a female is, quite simply, sexual attractiveness itself.”

90 to 95% of women feel more attracted to tall men. Much like the peacock’s tail this means more people are born that are tall and/or have a preference for taller partners. In this Fisherian runaway the human species continues to grow taller while it is abundantly clear that height itself has few, if any, real advantages, is mostly a unnecessary ornament and from a survival perspective ultimately leads to maladaptation.

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Temperance

Temperance is defined as moderation or voluntary self-restraint and characterized as the control over excess. It is what an individual voluntarily refrains from doing. This includes restraint from retaliation in the form of non-violence and forgiveness, restraint from arrogance in the form of humility and modesty, and restraint from excesses such as conspicuous consumption in the form of prudence. Temperance was one of the cardinal virtues in Greek philosophy and christianity, as well as buddhism and hinduism. Some ague that the limitation of human height should not be included within the categories of self-restraint since it is outside our individual control. This is debatable. First, virtues are mostly the result of our upbringing. Small stature as a vessel of physical modesty could be included in a shared value system. Secondly, although height is a heritable trait, environmental conditions such as food and climate influence it greatly: up to 20% of our size is the result of non-genetic factors. Thirdly, even if adult people cannot become smaller themselves they can still make choices that allow their children to embrace a lifestyle that keeps them smaller. One might also argue that because this is really about a turnaround for the entire species that it is not so much about the individual as it is about humanity at large. If so, finding political support towards a small-stature-promoting organisation of society needs to be taken into consideration.

Temperance is often depicted as a woman transferring water from one vessel to another. In this case from a tall vessel to a smaller one.

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Growth Chart Resilience Exercise


The human species is obsessed with growth. Even without specific context, any decline or absence of growth mostly inspires a negative response while an increase creates a feeling of positivity. Through a series of simple exercises we intend to build resilience against our default response that growth is always good. The Growth Chart Resilience Exercise combines declining charts with the color green. The paradox represented in the color green is that it symbolises qualities like life, renewal, harmony and environment as well as greed, money, growth, and jealousy. Rather than provide us with a clear illustration of our desire for less, the Growth Chart Resilience Exercise presents us with the challenge of having to reconcile seemingly disparate notions of growth and decline, as well as the different emotions inspired by the color green.

Image by Jeroen van Kempen.

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Shaq Sequence

Shaquille O’Neal is an American retired professional basketball player. At 2.16 m tall and 147 kg, he was one of the heaviest players ever to play in the NBA. His size inspired the Shaq Sequence, an number of images used by The Incredible Shrinking Man to illustrate the ramifications of human height and how shrinking would translate into a lighter and less needy human species. O’Neill perfectly illustrates that we have a clear choice: continue to grow towards Shaquillian height and much greater resource needs, or shrink and need much less. At 150cm Shaquille O’Neill would lose 30% of his height but 66%, (97kg) of his weight (0,7 height x 0,7 width x 0,7 depth=0,34 weight). While we continue to speculate on an average human height of 50cm this is mainly a theoretical goal as we already know the human species can be as short as 54,6cm. By putting our goal a little beyond this we can be sure not to miss out on any new and exciting developments in regards to the extremely short. At the same time humanity has most to gain from the first 10% to 30% of shrinkage since this is where we give up most of our size. The first cuts are the deepest.

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The Growth Hormone Jungle

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Growth hormone is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration in humans and other animals. As with all hormonal pathways the path concerning the promotion and secretion of growth hormone leads right into a dense jungle of interrelated secretions of life. But we must enter if we are to learn where growth transforms into unnecessary growth.

Once secreted, growth hormone remains active in the bloodstream for just a few minutes, allowing enough time for the liver to convert it into growth factors, especially insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which has growth-promoting properties on every cell in the body. An elevation in growth hormone increases the available nutrients by promoting the mobilization of tissue stores with a wide range of biochemical processes. Some biological effects of growth hormone are 1. An increase in cell division and DNA polimerase activity, necessary for DNA replication. 2. Protein anabolism, the uptake and synthesis of amino acids, RNA. 3. Lipid metabolism, the release and oxidation of fatty acids. 4. Carbohydrate metabolism, glycogen deposition, change blood sugar level, insuline release, peripheral insulin resistance (glucose intolerance, which precedes the development of type 2 diabetes by several years). 5. Mineral metabolism, calcium and phosphate deposition in bone, calcium turnover. There exist several hypothalamic hormones that control growth hormone release. The most major of these secretion stimuli is the growth hormone release factor (GHRH). In contrast, the hormone known as somatostatin (GHIH) is known to suppress the release of GH. Studies have shown that glucocorticoids are also able to suppress the release of GHRH as well as reduce GHRH receptor responsiveness.

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KankerCel: The Hallmarks

The Incredible Shrinking Man has taken a keen interest in cancer, perhaps the most damaging of all unwanted-growth related diseases. Studying and abstracting the mechanisms behind cancer hopefully allows us to formulate new ideas on how to deal with undesired, unnecessary and malignant growth as it has manifested itself in unnecessary tall people over the last two centuries.

Point of departure is the paper The hallmarks of cancer, originally published in the journal Cell in January 2000 by Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg. The cancer researchers believe that the complexity of cancer can be reduced to a small number of underlying principles that govern the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells. The traits that the authors highlight in the paper are (1) Cancer cells stimulate their own growth; (2) They resist inhibitory signals that might otherwise stop their growth; (3) They resist their programmed cell death; (4) They can multiply indefinitely; (5)  They stimulate the growth of blood vessels to supply nutrients to tumors; (6) They invade local tissue and spread to distant sites; (7) They use abnormal metabolic pathways to generate energy; (8) They evade the immune system; (9) They generally have severe chromosomal abnormalities which worsen as the disease progresses, and (10) Cancer cells are often induced by local chronic Inflammation.

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Unsinkable Jesus Gecko

Changing perspective and seeing reality through the eyes of the very small has the potential to unlock previously unimagined, unseen worlds. The Coleodactylus amazonicus, or Brazilian Pygmy Gecko, could sit comfortably on a finger tip. It is so small that no other reptiles in South America compete with it for food, for territory, for anything. By shrinking to just a little over of 2cm they created there own ‘reptileless’ reality where their speed and agility allows them to compete successfully with insects. Rain however, poses a special challenge. If it wasn’t for their hydrophobic skin they could drown in a waterdrop, much like Alice fears drowning in her own tears in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Falling into a puddle causes no harm as the gecko, because of its small size and hydrophobic qualities, is unsinkable. It’s also called the Jesus Gecko because it can walk on water.

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Neglecting Gravity

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As Stephen Jay Gould writes in “Size and Shape” we are prisoners of the perceptions of our size, and rarely recognize how different the world must appear to the very small. Since our relative surface area is so small at our large size, we are ruled by gravitational forces acting upon our weight. But gravity is negligible to very small animals with high surface to volume ratios; they live in a world dominated by surface forces and judge the pleasures and dangers of their surroundings in ways foreign to our experience. An insect performs no miracle in walking up a wall or upon the surface of a pond; the small gravitational force pulling it down or under is easily counteracted by surface adhesion. Throw an insect off the roof and it floats gently down as frictional forces acting upon its surface overcome the weak influence of gravity.

Falling is not a verb in the insect world. It simply doesn’t exist.

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Abun’dance

Abun’dance is a short ceremonial dance conveying the desire to shrink towards a situation of abundance through shrinking the human body. It was originally performed by Arne Hendriks at the beginning of the lectures on the topic of shrinking the human species. The dance consist of two simultaneous movements. Its primary movement is a gradual increased crouching while at the same time swaying the left and right arm back to front. The Abun’dance starts while standing up and culminates in a crouching position. While diminishing his or her height the dancer keeps eye contact with the audience and upon completion remains in a crouched position while looking up at the audience. The dance is performed by a tall person to symbolise how the contemporary desire for tallness should be replaced by the desire for smallness and can be quite painful if the tall person has knee and/or back problems. While not pleasant for the performer these ailments add to the power of the narrative since they illustrate some of the disadvantages of being tall. Abun’dance is meant to be performed in a simple uncomplicated manner.

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Abundance Fantasies: Mukbang

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In our series of abundance fantasies we investigate if and how the human desire for abundance can become a positive force for change. Most abundance fantasies revolve around an illustration of the central promise that if we act in a certain way we will be rewarded. The fantasy provides indirect moral guidance in order to change behaviour, like is described in so many of our religious texts. The Incredible Shrinking Man’s central promise is that we can shrink towards abundance in almost every material aspect of life, including food, space and energy.  However, we have not yet dealt much with how to come to terms with that abundance when it arrives.

The Korean culture of Mukbang shows videos and livestreams of protagonists eating enormous amounts of food while chatting with hundreds of live viewers. Many of the viewers are paying to indulge in this binge-viewing, binge-eating privilege. Often while eating, but also often without eating. Broadcast Jockey Fitness Fairy, who has uploaded more than 100 mukbang clips to her Youtube account, said she believes her fans are merely participating in a fantasy, living ‘vicariously’ through her. This paradoxical redirection of the viewer’s desire for abundance, both indulging in and practically denouncing the physical act of over-consuming, may help in reconstructing metaphysical values allowing our species to find a balance between the desire for abundance and how it manifests itself. Watching a gluttonic stage act may keep the demons away. BJ Francesca Tteokbokki, BJ Diva, and Banzz risk their health and the health of our planet so that most of us don’t.

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