Since practically forever, human beings have wanted to fly. I think representing angels with wings as higher beings testifies to this: because beliefs aside, angels don't need wings to get around.

But what would it be like if we did fly?
Would we build our house in tall tress or into high cliffs to give ourselves a bit of arial launch to get out in the morning? It' easier to get air born from a height than from the ground. Perhaps we would all live in high rise buildings—great tall constructions where everyone has a balcony from which to take off and land. Schools and businesses could occur the lower levels so it is easier to drop down to work. Going back up after a hard day could be tough but there might be ground level slingshots for a quick boost or elevators for the weak and feeble.

Would there be less obesity?
It takes more energy to fly than walk. Or, rather than being couch potatoes, would we watch the arial athletics of others as perch potatoes?

What about other forms of transportation?
If we commuted to work under our own power, we wouldn't need cars. Birds have no problem flying thousands miles to vacation in warmer climates, although it would mean getting more time off for trips. If we plan to travel greater distances. Annual rituals like spring break might not occur so far from home, so the gatherings might be more numerous but with fewer participants. They might be a bit more self controlled. Eliminating cars has other advantages: fewer greenhouse gases; commuter collisions sans thousands of pounds of steel automobile and slower speeds should be safer and less frequent; and I can't imagine texting while flying being too much of a problem.

Having wings sounds like it would be advantageous for a lot of reasons. However, there might be some problems. For example,

What about hands?
Physiologically speaking, most invertebrates don't have double sets of arms: one set for flying (wings) and another set for doing other stuff (lifting, carrying, holding). Birds mostly use their mouth and feet for those chores. Can you imagine pecking at a keyboard all day? Would we get the neck equivalent of carpal tunnel? Would we, like most birds, give up stereoscopic vision for 360° vision?

Or would we follow a more insect-like model? Flying insect manage any number of limbs as well as wings. But they do it in part by trading interior bones with an exterior shell. Lobster aside, we humans in general aren't as fond of insects as we are of birds. Even if insects like butterflies have prettier wings. Mostly we shudder at the thought of human-sized flies and roaches. Something in our collective cultural memory just hates bugs. There are more horror films about bugs gone amok than evil birds. I think we like birds better.

On the other hand, we human beings did, after many generations, figure out how to fly in spite of our decidedly terrestrial physiology. I think this speaks well of our current form. It's flexible enough to allow us to dream about and imagine things for which we are not naturally capable and then to find ways to do those things anyway. So even if we haven't invented the perfect means of individual personal flight yet, I expect that we will one day. And for me, that is good enough, because in the end these are all flights of fancy, and what we fancy, if we are passionate about it, we achieve.

Submitted by acmfox on