In his article “Future Humans: Four ways we may or may not Evolve” dated November 24, 2009, James Owen honored the 150 year anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” by documenting what a few scientists speculate on some popular ways we humans may, or may not, evolve be as digitized electronic immortal beings or cyborgs bound in muscle.
His first documented prediction considers the possibility that human evolution is in fact dead. In this prediction, he argues against Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ concept by suggesting that even the weakest survive long enough to transfer their genes to the next generation, thanks to medical advances. At the time that Darwin came up with this concept- James Owen notes, only a half of Britain’s population grew to the age of 21. Currently, that figure sits pretty at 99%.
Also, increased human mobility means a lot of cross-breeding among humans, indicating that Darwin’s theory of natural selection becomes irrelevant: there is no isolation therefore little chance that the fixation of any significant biological novelties would appear from which to select. We’re all stuck trading about the traits that currently exist in the gene pool.
His second relayed prediction- that evolution in humans will continue- also considers natural selection but Owen takes another view. On the one hand, in an increasingly complex technological world, mates will be selected for their ability to thrive in this new environment and average intelligence will increase as a result. Of course the proponent of this notion fails to take into account the actual inverse relationship between income and quantity of offspring that occurs in the real world. As another part to the second prediction, on scientist argues that advancement in human biotechnology will ultimately make it possible for humans to select the best genes for themselves and especially their offspring. The end result will be an entire generation of humans with attractive characteristics such as height, masculinity, intelligence, health, and social status. Also, our immune systems will become stronger as pathogens travel ever increasingly to different corners of the earth, helping humans to become universally immune.
James Owens’ documented third prediction is a bit more far reaching; that humans will evolve into electronic immortals. This prediction considers the concept of transhumanism, a form of unnatural selection that is much faster than natural selection. Here, humans will live forever, use uploaded (and faster) minds (using advanced operating systems), download themselves to become robots at will and even travel at the speed of light as a pattern of information. Imagine reducing your food budget right to zero! These ‘humans’ will have brains that are scanned- one atom at a time and uploaded on computers. Even better, ‘copying’ will mean that humans wouldn’t need to take the biological 20 plus years to mature- they could just be mature in seconds, experiencing the years of angst via simulated reality in torrents of electrons.
Finally, the author looks at the possibility of colonizing off world as an evolutionary direction. Here, James Owen wonders what would happen if some humans just went on one way voyages into space and to some new places on the solar system. He considers the possibility that some habitable planets might be discovered, then some humans (perhaps all) would migrate to those planets. They would eventually likely develop features that would make them ever more comfortable there.
See the original National Geographic article here.