Posted by: zyxo | December 17, 2008

Human evolution : the future of men


Huxley - Mans Place in N...
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What will we become ?

A recent Scientific American article discusses the idea and apparently has attracted the interest of a lot of people.

Here are some of my own thoughts about the subject.

First : about evolution itself :
Evolution = change + selection.
.. Change by mutation, crossing over, mixing of father and mother genes
.. Selection : forced by the environment and strongest in changing environments.

It is clear that evolution never stops. There is no reason why mutations and crossing over would quit their jobs. And with the globalisation there has never been more mixing of different father and mother genes.

The habitat where the human species dwells has never changed at the present pace. Every generation sees another mother earth. So it is clear that selection is on its full speed.

OK, let us assume that the human species continues evolving. What is the direction ?

Alternatives are :

  • bigger humans. According to Olivier Curry : human species is set to reach its peak in the year 3000, growing taller and living longer thanks to improved nutrition, lifestyles and increased medical knowledge. They will also modify themselves – through technology or otherwise – to attract partners and will therefore be better looking. ‘Race’ will also be a thing of the past – by the year 3000 all humans will have ‘coffee’ coloured skin. As far as I am concerned this is complete bullshit. 3000 years is far to way ahead to make predictions, and if people live that long they will probably intelligent enough to make smaller humans, with tiny ecological footprints.
  • bigger brains. Not quite probable. If you see the increase in intelligence of humans during the last centuries, or even decades, it is clear that our brains are big enough. And more : to get bigger brains would mean that people with the biggest brains on the average have more children. And that I do not believe.
  • Connected brains. Absolutely sure. It is the most normal thing that all machines become connected and exchange information. The connection of human brains to machines has also started (see for example here and here). So it is only a matter of time that individual minds will communicate with one another via our electronical gadgets. Real telepathy !
    According to Kevin Kelly’s post what comes after minds ? there will be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences.
    I think that meta-level is still relatively far away, unless the next alternative is there fast.
  • Machines ? If people continue to develop thinking things, like for example Asimo robots brainpowered by biological brains, it could be that the artificial brainpower will quickly surpass our own and what will happen next will be too complicated for a human being to understand

And two more things left :

Group selection : the selection of the best tribes will not exist any more : globalisation has left only one single (huge) group. To select the best, you need alternatives, which is impossible if there is only one left.

If people get smart and technically savvy enough to do the selection themselves : who will decide what to (de-)select ? (Kristin Jenkins on serendip : “Frighteningly, it may be” (Conklin, 1922))

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Responses

  1. “and if people live that long they will probably intelligent enough to make smaller humans, with tiny ecological footprints.”

    Intelligent enough? That would be design, not evolution. Bigger bodies are a sexual selection trait, and would grow *very* slowly. People wouldnt realize what happened until many centuries later.

  2. Sophismata,
    Where does evolution stop and where does design begins ? Are our milkcows the result of design or evolution ?
    Of cause, when we will start messing around with the genes in the zygote to “correct” them, you could call it design. But still : the ones doing design would have gotten there by evolution … So it is just a next layer in the sequence of evolutionary layers.

  3. Design begins with intelligence. 🙂 Whenever selection is conscious, it’s design not evolution.

    Our cows were consciously selected to produce more milk: design.

    Our height has been unconsciously selected as women prefer tall men: evolution.

    For the first, see http://tinyurl.com/3o77pt. For the later, see http://tinyurl.com/4lmyvg and http://tinyurl.com/4tvjvd


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