FUTURE HUMANS: Four Possible Evolutionary Paths

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.

four ways future humans may evolveHis 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.

Four ways future humans may evolve

Four ways future humans may evolveJames 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.

Four ways future humans may evolveFinally, 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.

 

10 of the Weirdest Futurist Scenarios for the Evolution of Humanity

In the July 2012 article, “10 of the Weirdest Futurist Scenarios for the Evolution of Humanity”, George Dvorsky has a little pseudo-scientific fun with projecting out scenarios of future human evolution.  In the article he takes a squint-eyed view of 10 possible futurist outcomes of human evolution.

Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis

First, he thinks that voluntary devolution would be a nice idea. That it would be our great service to the rest of the animal kingdom to use our technological advances to take us backwards instead of forwards. The intent would be to return to pre-civilization and ultimately back to the jungle. That way, he contends, we will not be harmful to ourselves, our planet or other animals and would also make good prey for lions and their like.

Dvorsky doesn’t stop there; he goes on to provide another alternative- voluntary extinction! This also borrows from the idea that humans are the worst thing to happen to mother earth, and would be a nice idea- as says the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM), if we just stop breeding and eventually die out. The result would be that every other creature would then be able to live and die on their own terms without being ‘encouraged’ by us!

eco-human-of-the-futureThen there’s the eco-human possibility. Here, most philosophers have their doubts about our ability to deal with climate change and more ecological disasters. What they are confident we can do however is to pharmacologically make ourselves dislike meat somehow (to increase the mortality rates of chicken, cows, pork and the rest), reduce our ecological footprints by reducing our physical selves, use cat-eyes technology to lessen our need for lighting and more. By this method, we would be preserving our resources like light and space.

He also thinks we could become transgenic humans, using transgenic technology to inter-mingle with the rest of the animals. Using this, we could borrow a dog’s high end sense of smell and hearing, cat eyes, eagles’ vision, and other useful traits to put all of them into ourselves. As transhumans, we could be quite something. Imagine having hawk vision, cat eyes, lizard scales and shark teeth while retaining your awesome thinking- quite the sight!

big-head-human-in-the-futureThe fifth scenario borrows from a fundamental belief about evolution- that unused parts of anything eventually wither away. Considering that humans lately use mostly their brains and hands to eat, Dvorsky sees a time when all humans will be just some huge brains walking around on hands and strictly following this principle, the guy has a point; we no longer walk- we just drive, so our legs will eventually disappear. There are suggestions we will soon stop eating, so our stomachs will wither away. We might also stop breathing if upcoming lung technologies work out, so basically we will just need our brains. It is hard to suppress a good laugh on this imagination.

Dvorsky also looks at the likely scenario where there will be a collective superorganism (like the bees and ants have), where the state controls the action- and more frighteningly- the thoughts of the populace. It will use cyber-brain hacking and nanobots to do this. Some find this ‘global brain’ idea fascinating but Dvorsky naturally asks how much of an individual would remain in such a sea of multiple conscious thoughts competing against one another! Might we be digging ourselves into some big hole? I don’t know.

post-gendered-humans-in-the-futureAdvanced cybernetic and reproductive technologies will make humans postgendered.  As males and females, we are basically biologically bound binary species but should we somehow manage to become cyborgs- as is expected, we would then have the privilege of having exosomatic wombs and choose sexual characteristics that please us instead or even discard the whole gender thing and just be asexual or just invent some fancy new genders that are easier to alter at a whim. At this point, we wouldn’t be your ordinary biological organisms.

Hot on the heels of this gender selection thing, we would then give rise to ‘designer babies’! You got that right. The trick here would be to select the finest traits we would like our kids to have and if they later don’t like those traits, even more advanced technology would allow them to remove or enhance those traits. The problem- or funny part (depending on which side of the fence you are on)- of this is- as Dvorsky observes- that people will reach weird levels in trying to outdo each other. Athletes for example have naturally developing characteristics. The future lads however will be made of sterner stuff. A basket baller for example thrives a lot on height, so he will likely enhance his height. His opponent will also then want to make himself much taller. The guy who started this will then seek to be still taller and so on. At the end of the day, how much height would they handle?

Consider swimmers- they thrive largely on limbs- won’t they then ultimately end up with limbs longer than swimming pools? Future Olympics will be quite interesting.

humans-all-limbs-in-the-futureHis ninth scenario takes us to space. Obviously, in our current form, we will suffocate out there so the good hearted scientists are tripping over themselves to get this fixed. Dvorsky cites Robert Freitas’ plan to eliminate the need for breathing and breathable air by somehow rendering human lungs unnecessary while Ray Kurzweil has advised that in future, nanobots will power our cells even better than food would. Craig Venter on his part has highlighted the need for an inner ear that will keep us safe from motion sickness. He has also called for development of DNA repair where radiation is likely and genes for bone regeneration. Other scientists have opted to suggest that we would be better off as some huge octopus wannabes able to slither effortlessly in this environment of zero gravity. Hairlessness, slower turn-over of skin, smaller stature and higher energy utilization will also be necessary. As soon as we can develop all these, then we can pack our bags and head out into space.

George Dvorsky’s tenth weird scenario for evolution isn’t necessarily the lousiest. Actually, it is one of the very highlights of future humans. The idea of uploading human consciousness right into a supercomputer.

This might seem fancy, but scientists are actually giving timelines about when it will be achieved- supposedly sooner than we might think. That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that using this uploading technology, uploaded minds will likely want to outdo one another in a competitive economy by making unlimited copies of themselves.

Another weird part would be that the upload could adjust its clock speed to even such low levels that the upload can literally watch mountains rise and fall.

The uploads could also switch their robot bodies effortlessly and alter the existing parameters of their environments generated by computers. The result; the very nature of subjective and physiological awareness could change.

Visit George’s original article here.

Visualizing the Universe: In Review

It’s ironic that optics is not a more common subject or theme in Hollywood movies, considering that movies are in many ways the result of optics. There are a few exceptions. AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Minority Report feature virtual reality. Numerous military-based movies draw attention to laser fighting jets and rifles with sophisticated scopes.

Close up shots and sound effects bring out the drama of these high tech devices. Of course, Star Wars made the laser popular for kids. The sound of camera shutters is another dramatic device used to heighten action in a story, especially where surveillance is involved in the plot, or a serial killer uses a camera to take photos of his victims.

Cameras are featured in many films, but usually as props for characters like journalists and cops when a crime scene is being photographed. Many characters wear glasses and sunglasses, which can play a pivotal role in characterization.

The prison guard in Cool Hand Luke wore mirrored sunglasses, dramatically emphasizing his cold demeanor when it came time to shooting a prisoner. Sylvester Stallone wore them in Cobra because, well, it made him look cool. In other movies, the audience follows the camera straight into an eye of a character. With the help of special effects, we journey straight into the brain and can see what a character sees inside their mind. Still, there aren’t a lot of movies about microscopes and telescopes.

Electron microscopy is a highly specialized field with applications and techniques dazzling in their sophistication. Science is kept out of the public eye, probably because no one understands it, except a select few.

Most people barely know what an electron is yet alone such things as apoptosis, intracellular signaling, pathology, anaphase A and anaphase B during mitosis, quantification and characterization of DNA in chloroplasts and mitochondria, characterization of nuclear structure and nuclear pore complexes, cytoskeletal organization in parasites, DNA repair, materials analysis of additives in weaponized microorganisms, genomics

A ton of new fields have sprung up in the last decade or so, either as a result of electron microscopy or the need for it. For instance, specialized branches in forensic analysis, chemical and biological weapon detection, lithography, nanomaterials and nanodevices, structure and chemistry of nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanobelt and nanowires, polymers, clean environments, crystallography, hydrocarbon catalysis, production and storage of energy, climate control and surface modifications for sensors, pollution and auto exhaust emission control, photocatalysis, biocatalysis, surface engineering, advanced fuel cells, alternative energy sources, and quantitative x-ray microanalysis of terrestrial and extraterrestrial materials.

As widespread as science is in our world, from medicine to auto design, from energy to building construction, it’s a secretive world requiring a big dictionary. Science invades everyday life, in fact, it created it. But we turn the lights off in our houses, hop in our cars and turn on our MP3 players without any awareness of how such processes, techniques and devices came into being. Einstein is just some gray-haired bearded genius who knew a lot of math.

Now we live in a world of language that includes nano-electronics, nano-photonics, micromechanical devices (MEMS) and Bio-MEMs, Cryo-Preparation, Cryo-Sectioning, and Cryo-Approaches Using TEM, SEM, Cryo-examination of frozen hydrated biological samples, Focused ion beam instruments, scanning transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, x-ray mapping, Low voltage microscopy, Scanning cathodoluminescence microscopy, and other terms and concepts that require an advanced degree just to learn how to pronounce them.

It must be difficult for those who do understand advanced science, not being able to sit down and chat with others as easily as “regular folk” discuss the latest football scores or Washington political scandals, so prevalent in the news.

From chemistry to biology, geology to math, science has never really been comfortable in the cultural mainstream. It’s ironic, since much of what we call culture, like movies, TV and music, is driven by advanced science. We take pictures with digital cameras without any concern for optics. We listen to CDs without any knowledge of lithography.

Electron microscopy is complex enough, but it’s even more complex with sub-divided into High-Resolution Electron Microscopy (HREM), Analytical Electron Microscopy (AEM), Electron Energy-Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), Convergent Beam Electron Diffraction (CBED), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Low-voltage SEM, Variable Pressure SEM (VPSEM/ESEM), Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD), X-ray Spectrometry, Quantitative X-ray Microanalysis, Spectral Imaging, X-ray Imaging, Diffraction and Spectroscopy, Crystallography, Scanned Probe Microscopy (SPM), Confocal Microscopy, Multi Photon Excitation Microscopy, Optical Fluorescence Microscopy, Infrared and Raman Microscopy and Microanalysis, Molecular Spectroscopy and Cryogenic Techniques and Methods.

In the future, ordinary silicon chips will move data using light rather than electrons, unleashing nearly limitless bandwidth and revolutionizing the world of computers. And to think, we’ve hardly tuned into the digital revolution that already took place.

Within the next decade, the circuitry found in today’s servers will be able to process billions of bits of data per second, fitting neatly on a silicon chip half the size of a postage stamp. Copper connections currently used in computers and servers will prove inadequate to handle such vast amounts of data.

At data rates approaching 10 billion bits per second, microscopic imperfections in the copper or irregularities in a printed-circuit board begin to weaken and distort the signals. One way to solve the problem is to replace copper with optical fiber and the electrons with photons. Integrated onto a silicon chip, an optical transceiver could send and receive data at 10 billion or even 100 billion bits per second. Movies will download in seconds rather than hours. Multiple simultaneous streams of video will open up new applications in remote monitoring and surveillance, teleconferencing, and entertainment.

Organic semiconductors are strong candidates for creating flexible, full-color displays and circuits on plastic. Using organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs), organic full-color displays are set to replace liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) for use with laptop and desktop computers. Such displays can be deposited on flexible plastic foils, eliminating the fragile and heavy glass substrates used in LCDs, and can emit bright light without the pronounced directionality inherent in LCD viewing.

Organic electronics have already entered the commercial world. Multicolor automobile stereo displays are now available. Future plans include OLED backlights to be used in LCDs and organic integrated circuits, film-thin solar cells, and portable, lightweight roll-up OLED displays (projected on a wall) designed to replace conventional TVs.

Organic circuitry is expected to exceed or replace silicon electronics. Organic semiconductors attracted industrial interest when it was recognized that many of them are photoconductive under visible light. This discovery led to their use in electrophotography (or xerography) and as light valves in LCDs.

The day will most likely come when every home has a particle accelerator, an electron microscope and miniature Hubble space probe as common as TVs, refrigerators and lightbulbs. But then, they’ll just be the “new” devices. Refrigerator doors are opened without any understanding of food processing. Few people know where TV images come from, beyond knowing they are either sexy or violent. And light is simply the flick of a switch…or the clap of hands.

Maybe it’s the way things should be, so we can get on with the business of living and leave the how and why to others. But in doing so, we inadvertently create power shifts. If knowledge is power, then specialized scientific knowledge is near God-like.

However, business people are shrewd and politicians are manipulative in ways they can control society, if not the world, without knowing what E=Mc2 means. Car dealers sell millions of cars without the slightest clue about pollution analysis or surface-to-road ratios, or how combustion works. And consumers don’t care much either, as look as the car can pass an emissions test and has a CD player, that’s good enough.

We put on our glasses and hope we don’t lose them. We take pictures of our children not because of a new kind of lens or photographic technique, but because we want to treasure a memory. We watch movies looking for thrills, without much regard for how they blew up that airplane, or where that sea of robot soldiers came from, or what supercomputer graphics workstation was used to create either image. We also trust our doctors, so when they order a PET scan, as frightening as it might be, we readily comply.

But somebody is out there working for an eyeglass company. Somebody is sitting behind a microscope all day much in the same way normal folks sit in front of the “boob tube” all day. Hopefully, the microscopist is more productive. And, there is such a thing as educational, informative and enriching TV watching.

So the future of human evolution is largely dependent not so much on knowledge and technology, but on the choices we make to engage ourselves in evolution/revolution. We can watch or we can participate. We can sit back passively or become interactive. It is the choices we make that will ultimately determine the constructive or destructive forces of advanced science. And with science moving to the atomic and sub-atomic level, perhaps average folk better pay a little closer attention to what’s going on in the universe.

Cretenists vs Evilutionists

“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future”
~ Winston Churchill

Micro-Evolution vs. Macro-Evolution
And the Cretinism or Evilution Debate

No that’s no typo. Cretenists vs. Evilutionists is an amusing yet poignant headlining error turned into an industry by Talk Origins that accurately captures the polarized nature of the debate between these two entrenched camps.

We believe that in the interest of open dialog, free exchange, and tolerance, it is necessary to address a couple of basic concepts dealt with on the site. Namely, creationist vs. evolutionist ideals. Germane to this debate are the concepts of Micro vs. Macro Evolution.

Micro-evolution can be demonstrated in the Laboratory, such as the evolutionary changes in bacteria to resist antibiotics. Micro-evolution demonstrates the ability of organisms to adapt to their environment. Are we correct to extrapolate from micro to macro-evolution? In other words are there limits to how far an organism can change?

We must distinguish between micro-evolution (which is repeatable) and the macro-evolution process that has potentially only occurred once in the known universe (and may not be repeatable). We are dealing with history in the case of both macro-evolution and Creation, and each must explain the origin of the living cells and all subsequent species. While micro-evolution occurs relatively quickly and is observable, macro-evolution occurs over many millions of years, according to its proponents, and is not directly observable but must be inferred from the remaining evidence. Creation occurred in a much shorter time frame according to its proponents, but still must be inferred from the remaining evidence to be scientifically valid. Just as forensic science has to establish a firm link between the crime and the criminal, we should expect that our study of origins should be able to prove that macro-evolution and/or Creation is true. We cannot confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of a creator.

Conclusion

We can conclude therefore, that while micro evolution has been proven to exist, there is no way currently to prove either undirected Macro-Evolution or Creation. And here is the key point: We are not interested in doing so. We present educational material on both of these topics, but make no stand as a publication either way. Individually, our beliefs vary, as does nearly every one of our visitor’s beliefs. Our site exists to educate and research the possibilities for the future, which are arguably not tied to our past due to the imminent application of technologies that will create a living laboratory of human micro-evolution going forward. A living laboratory that may have far reaching and tremendous effects. So while we cannot say for certain that micro-evolution in the past developed through blind stages into macro-evolution and is therefore responsible for the origins of the human species, we can anticipate with some certainty that technological forces will soon have the ability to profoundly and positively impact us in the future.

Can Future Micro and/or Macro-Evolution Be Stopped? Should it?

Activists groups are continually trying to halt the progress of technology and its application in the human arena. This is arguably the worst of all possible actions society or factions thereof can take. Why? As stated elsewhere on this site, the net effect of restrictive legislation in one location (or even a broad coalition of countries) will only drive the scientists, medical professionals, wealthy financiers and others desiring to employ the technologies for personal betterment ‘underground’. In this probable scenario the technology will continue to be developed but as a result of the (ineffective) ban, it will only be made available to the very wealthy and privileged who will be essentially free from any societal oversight or legal safeguards.

In the scenario in which human enhancement technologies are banned in one or even a coalition of countries, the activists responsible for swinging public opinion toward this future may sleep better at night having served their short term consciences, but at the cost of creating an increasingly elitist minority further widening the gulf between the haves and have nots at the genetic level. Sadly for society, these activists will accelerate the very future they are trying to avoid.

The answer, in part, is the active education and participation of everyone in evaluating and applying the technologies toward the shaping of a deliberate, positive future for all. The question is not how do we stop technological progress (an impossibility), rather, how do we make its benefits equally and safely available to all.

 

The Future of Homo Sapiens

By professor Jacob Palme, First version 29-May-2006, last revision 23-Mar-2012

Will the human species, Homo Sapiens, continue to evolve in the next millions of years? If so, how? What can we learn from what we know about Homo Sapiens development until now?

The Creation of Homo Sapiens

The human species (Homo Sapiens sapiens) started its existence between 110 000 and 50 000 years ago. Its development diverged from the apes about 5 million years ago.

The earth has been capable of supporting life for about 3 billion years, and is expected to continue being able to support life for between 200 million and 5 billion years in the future.

Using the higher estimate, if we view the period of being able to support life as 24 hours, then we are now about 9 o’clock in the morning, humans diverged from the apes about a minute ago and the human species started to exist 1-2 seconds ago.

Using the lower estimate, if we view the period of being able to support life as 24 hours, then we are now about one hour before midnight, humans diverged from the apes about 2 minutes ago and the human species started to exist about 5 seconds ago.

The average life span of a species on earth is a few million years. Every year, thousands of species cease to exist and thousands of new species are created. Will thus the human species cease to exist in a few million years, like most other animals? If so, why, and what will replace it? Or are humans so unique and different from other species, that experience from other species cannot be applied, and humans may continue to exist for a much longer time?

Note: This paper discusses many ethically and politically sensitive issues, and some readers will probably be offended by this. But the goal is not to give any views on what is right and wrong, what should be permitted or forbidden. The goal is only to discuss what will probably happen in the future of human evolution.

Differences between Humans and other Species

Humans differ so much from other species, that human future development may not be governed by the same principles as other animals. [Miller 2004] says that humans and human society should be seen as a fourth system of structured energy, Tetrology, different from the previous atomic, chemical and biological systems.

Miller says that humans differ in the use of advanced technology, use of controlled energy, use of clothes, use of sense-enhancements like glasses, telescopes or microscopes, advanced social organization, advanced language.

Also many religious organizations and other belief systems regard humans, or sometimes a subset of humans, as the chosen people, made by God to mimic himself.

On the other hand, it is apparent that many typical animal behaviors also occur in humans, as has been pointed out by [Morris 1967-1997] and [Diamond 1993]. Humans have a mating behavior and an aggressive behavior which is obviously inherited from our animal ancestors.

This is important when discussing the future of the human species, because humans may be so different that experience from animals cannot tell us anything about the future of Homo Sapiens.

How a Species Ceases to Exist

To discuss this issue, one must first discuss which processes causes a species to cease to exist. Some such processes are:

  1. The species is specialized to a natural habitat, which ceases to exist. The risk for this is rather low for the human species, because of its high adaptability to changing environments. A cosmic catastrophe like a giant meteorite will certainly kill most people on earth, but some will probably survive, and will rapidly proliferate again.
  2. In the case of humans, because humans have so thoroughly modified their environment (cutting down forests, carbon dioxide pollution, etc.) there is a risk that humans will themselves modify their environment in such a way that they cannot survive in it any more.
  3. The species is out-competed by another species, like the Neanderthals were out-competed by Homo Sapiens. There is today no existing species which might threaten the human species. There is a possibility that a new species, based on humans, may replace the human species, but then humans do not stop to exist, just continue in another form.
  4. The species gradually evolves, through natural selection, into a new species. Such evolution is however slow for such a large and wide-spread species as the human. It usually occurs in small, geographically isolated environments.
  5. The species is exterminated by a ruthless predator. This is the way the ruthless predator Homo Sapiens has exterminated almost all big animals on the earth. Also within the human species, races have been exterminated or nearly exterminated by other races, for example the Australian aborigines. Such extermination is nowadays labelled “genocide” and is very much disapproved of. No non-human predator threatening humans is likely to evolve, expect possibly a new species based on the human species.
  6. The human species might also be threatened by a new virus or bacteria, but experience indicates that it is unlikely that such a threat will appear, such that we will not be able to combat it or that the whole species will be exterminated by such a threat.
  7. When bacteria grow in a mold, they reach a stage where there are too many bacteria, and they all die because of overpopulation.

How a New Species Can Replace Homo Sapiens

A new species, to replace Homo Sapiens, might be created in different ways:

  1. By natural selection in a limited population (New species occur mostly in limited populations, [Mayr 2001 p. 136]. Widespread species undergo little evoutionary change [Mayr 2001 p 254].) This is not very probable, since the tendency to intermingle among all humans is very large. Much more probable is that the human species itself evolves without splitting into a new species [Mayr 2001 p. 191], but also such evolution is not very probable, at least in a short time range [Mayr 2001, p. 261].
  2. By explicit creation through breeding or genetic manipulation of Homo Sapiens. This is the most likely alternative. When parents are given the option of creating better-than-average children, it can be expected that many parents will choose this option. Even if politicians talk a lot about the ethics of genetic manipulation, they will in practice probably not be able to stop some people using this option.
  3. By explicit creation through breeding or genetic manipulation of another species. But no such species very suitable for replacing humans exist.
  4. By an artificially created species. This might even be based on computers and not on biology. However, we are very far from this option today [Pearson 2004]. “Artificial intelligence” is a branch of computer science, but its results until now are very far from creating a species which can outcompete humans. No computer has the general adaptable intelligence of humans, nor can they even reproduce themselves.

Has Homo Sapiens Evolved Before?

Modern Homo Sapiens originated between 110 000 and 50 000 years ago. But until 50 000 years ago, it existed only in Africa. Then, in just a few thousand years, the art suddenly expanded into the whole of Europe and Asia, and eradicated all the rests of previous humanoids like Homo Neanderthalus and Homo Erectus [Klein 2004]. Many anthropologist believe that this must have been caused by a genetic mutation, for example a mutation which increased the language capabilities. Other’s claim that the human brain has not changed for 150 000 years [Mayr 2001, p. 252]. But they base this claim on fossils, and fossils may not show changes in the organisation within the brain.

After that, Homo Sapiens continued to live as a hunter-gatherer until about 10 000 years ago, when agriculture suddenly began and rapidly changed the prosperity of Homo Sapiens. Why did this suddenly happen 10 000 years ago? Many anthropologists believe that again, the cause was a mutation, probably in the area of linguistic skills.

Genetic research shows that certain genes related to the brain size did change between 5 800 and 37 000. Exactly this gene cannot explain changes in humans, since not all intelligent humans have this particular gene. But the fact that genes related to brain size have changed in this time span indicates that humans are still evolving [Warner 2005].

One of the researchers behild this result is qouted as saying “Our studies indicate that the trend that is the defining characteristic of human evolution — the growth of brain size and complexity — is likely still going on If our species survives for another million years or so, I would imagine that the brain by then would show significant structural differences from the human brain of today.”

Thus, it seems as if Homo Sapiens has evolved, and as if the major evolutionary events occurred quite suddenly. If this continues, we can expect that a sudden good mutation perhaps 10 000 years into the future can again change Homo Sapiens by natural selection. Of course we do not know exactly when this mutation will evolve.

How Homo Sapiens can Evolve

Homo Sapiens can evolve through natural selection or through breeding or genetic manipulation. Breeding and genetic manipulation is most probable for a few people in technically evolved countries.

Natural selection is most effective when many animals die before reproduction. Thus, natural selection is more effective in developing countries. In industrial countries, medical development allows most of those who would die to live and reproduce.

The size of the brain of humanoids has increased three times in the last two million years [Hofman 2002]. This icnrease has meant more connections, less nerve cells. This means that with the current design, the brain cannot become more than three times larger than it is today. Other studies [Pearson 1997] indicate similar results.

Note that a species need not evolve. Some species remain identical for hundreds of thousands or millions of years [Meyr 2001, p. 193, 195]. And the evolution of humans has had long periods of little change, such as the Homo Erectus which did not change very much for 1.5 million years.

Will Homo Sapiens Deteriorate

Some people say that the lack of effective natural selection for humans in industrial countries will cause the human species to deteriorate, since natural selection is necessary to keep a species healthy. As a simple example, the existence of spectacles would cause more people to be born near sighted.

However, this is counteracted by immigration of people from less developed countries. This immigration is today so large, that it can probably counter the risk of deterioration of the species as a whole.

Also, future use of genetic manipulation and intentional breeding can be expected to counteract degradation.

Genetic Manipulation and Artificial Breeding

Genetic manipulation and artificial breeding is today disliked, because it was used in earlier years by governments in questionable ways. Most known is the Nazi ideas of killing or sterilizing “inferior people” like Jews and people with mental illnesses. Also in non-Nazi countries, enforced sterilization was common earlier, but is not done so much today.

The reason for this is that such government control is today not regarded as ethical, and also that the efficiency of such schemes is debatable. All schemes which reduce the genetic variation within the human species can cause more harm than value.

In spite of this, it is my belief that genetic manipulation and artificial breeding will be important in the future, but not done by the governments but by parents. Already, today, more and more pregnant women voluntarily screen for disabilities and genetic diseases of the faetus and choose abortion rather than giving birth to a child with a genetic illness [Tännsjö 1999].

This will probably become much more common in the future, with better medical and technical options of influencing the genes of future children [Pearson 1997]. There will certainly be a lot of discussions about the ethics of this, but my belief is that positive genetic manipulations will eventually become accepted ethically. And this might create a race of superhumans, which might even become a new species threatening its creator.

Evolution of Human Cultures

One can note that a Darwinian type of evolution today does not exist only for Homo Sapiens itself, but for various cultural organisations of humans. In particular, the economic competition on the world market has many Darwinian features, with survival of the fittest as one central function.

Do You Agree?

If you do not agree, or have more ideas on the future of Homo Sapiens, you are welcome to comment on this paper. Your comments may influence future versions of it. A forum for discussion is available.

References

The original of this paper can be found at http://web4health.info/en/aux/homo-sapiens-future.html.

There is not very much written about the future of Homo Sapiens. There are a large number of books about evolution and human evolution and about how humans were formed by evolution, and this is important for understanding what will happen in the future. Here are presentations of some such books:

 

  • [Leakey and Lewin 1977]
  • Origins: The Emergence and Evolution of Our Species and Its Possible Future
  • By Richard E. Leakey and Roger Lewin.
  • ISBN 0-525-48013-7.
  • E. P. Dutton publishers 1977.
  • A detailed and interesting overview of all the stages of evolution of Homo Sapiens since the separation from the monkeys 5-7 million years ago.
  • [Mayr 2001]
  • What Evolution Is
  • By Ernst Mayr, Basic Books, 2001.
  • Lots of information about how Darwinian evolution works.
  • [Miller 2003]
  • From DNA to ABC
  • By Joel Miller.
  • ISBN 91-972454-3-7.
  • BenTarZ Productions, 2003.
  • A collection of essays, many of them give interesting ideas on human development and human languages development. Are humans distinguished from the monkeys by the use of tools? But monkeys also sometimes use tools. Are human distinguished by building houses? But beavers and birds also build nests.
  • Miller claims that modern human society is a distinct new stage which he calls “civil society”. I wonder if historians five hundred years from now will agree with this?
  • On the future, the author says that implanting of electronics inside the human body will be an important feature of how people live in the future. I agree with him, this is quite probable an area where major changes in our lifestyle will come in the future.
  • [Bryant 1999]
  • Evolution of animals and the age of reptiles
  • by Peter J. Bryant
  • An overview of how life started and developed on earth. Life started 3 billion years ago, multi-cellular organisms 2 billion years ago, complex organisms 600 million years ago, mammals outcompeted the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
  • [Miller 2004]
  • Tetrology and the Tetrastic System
  • By Joel Miller
  • A presentation of the view that the human system of organizing knowledge is so different from the previous atomic, chemical and biological systems, that is should be seen as a forth, Tetrastic system.
  • [Pearson 1997]
  • The Future of Human Evolution
  • By Ian Pearson
  • Darwinian Evolution will have limited impact on the future of Homo Sapiens, since other kinds of evolution, such as breeding, genetic engineering and electronics will take over as dominant factors.
  • [Warner 2005]
  • Human Brain Still a Work in Progress
  • By Jennifer Warner, The Human Genome Project, citing: Evans, P. Mekel-Bobrov, N. Science, Sept. 9, 2005; vol 309: pp 1717-1720; 1720-1722. News release, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. News release, University of Chicago Medical Center, Science Daily.

 

  • [Morris 1967-1997]
  • The Naked Ape, The Human Zoo and Intimate behavior, The Human Sexes, The Naked Eye
  • By Desmond Morris
  • ISBN: 0-385-33430-3, 1-56836-163-7, 0-09-1878675, 0-563-38358-5.
  • These three books which give many interesting insights into how human behavior is governed by our animal past.

Related information

Credit

Original Article reprinted with permission from here.