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Next Step in Human Evolution 660

Posted by Zonk
from the transhumanity-unite dept.
PrivateDonut writes "Where is evolution taking our species? MSNBC has up an article that examines where evolution could take the human race. The gist of it is that no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups." From the article: "Such ideas may sound like little more than science-fiction plot lines. But trend-watchers point out that we're already wrestling with real-world aspects of future human development, ranging from stem-cell research to the implantation of biocompatible computer chips. The debates are likely to become increasingly divisive once all the scientific implications sink in." Class, please read Transmetropolitan for homework.
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Next Step in Human Evolution

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  • possible first split (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RobertLTux (260313)
    I would think that the tech haves and have nots would be the first split the the tech folks would split into mech and bio only engineering.
    • by RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:41AM (#12535199) Homepage
      That sounds exactly like the plot in the anime Gundam Seed, followed by the plot in the game Total Annihilation.

      God I need to get a life >_
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:28AM (#12535119)
    We all know that Human evolution is shorty to be off shored to Mars because martians are a dime a dozen and grow faster in the reduced gravity.
    • ... shorty to be offshored to Mars ...

      If there's a chance of growing faster, shorty will probably be first in line.
    • Re:Complete rubbish (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Haydn Fenton (752330)
      Since I'm a pensive person, I've wondered what the human race will evolve into a few times.

      Obviously other animals have evolved to adapt to their surroundings, birds have evolved to be lighweight so they can stay in the air, fish in very deep and dark water have evolved to have colourful lights on them, polar bears to have lots of fur, and so on..
      But humans no longer need to physically adapt to our surroundings as much as before, since we have enough intelligence to change nature to how it suits us (for ex
      • by E_elven (600520) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @07:58PM (#12538997) Journal
        No, no, no! You may understand this correctly but there are so many who do not so even stating it incorrectly is dangerous.

        Obviously other animals have evolved to adapt to their surroundings, birds have evolved to be lighweight so they can stay in the air, --

        No, birds can stay in the air because they are lightweight.

        -- fish in very deep and dark water have evolved to have colourful lights on them,

        No, the other fish just died.

        polar bears to have lots of fur, and so on..

        The ones without fur, also, died.

        The one Really Big Thing about evolution is that there is no purpose. The fittest do not survive, it is just that the least fit die off.

        Similarly us humans can only wonder at our own complexity because we are so complex that we are capable of wondering.
      • by MicroBerto (91055)
        You're right. Physically, we're devolving.

        For an easy example -- I have quite horrible vision (thanks Dad! I still love ya tho) -- Were I in the caveman days, I don't know if I would have lasted to have that many kids.

        But since I can obviously get around with my vision fixed, I am around to reproduce and pass on my awful vision (which isn't even as bad as many others). Just one easy example... but physically, science is enabling us to live with some pretty stinkin bad traits.

        Mental evolution? I duno.

  • Pinky toe (Score:2, Funny)

    by EGSonikku (519478)
    OK, that little useless thing on your foot commonly referred to as "the pinky toe" has to go. Other than ramming it into doors and such (causing great pain on colorful metaphors) I have found no practical use for it, so, according to Darwin. It has to go.

    And hopefully the creationists stay out of this one, lets leave the flame wars to Fark.
    • Re:Pinky toe (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EnsilZah (575600)
      Sadly, useless organs are not in quite the same hurry to go away as critical ones are to appear.

      So the species will have to deal with having a pinky toe, hair in uncomfortable places and organs such as the appendix a while longer.
    • Re:Pinky toe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xplenumx (703804) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:43AM (#12535204)
      OK, that little useless thing on your foot commonly referred to as "the pinky toe" has to go. Other than ramming it into doors and such (causing great pain on colorful metaphors) I have found no practical use for it, so, according to Darwin. It has to go.

      Does that pinky toe hinder your ability to breed? If not, then why should 'evolution care'?

      • by EGSonikku (519478)
        "Does that pinky toe hinder your ability to breed?"

        running around screaming like a lunatic and punching walls doesn't usually put my girlfriend in the mood, so....
      • by athakur999 (44340) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:04AM (#12535297) Journal
        Yes.

        Scenario 1 - Guy with pinky toe:
        Hot woman: Hey there, wanna come over?
        Guy: Hell yeah, let me walk ov... GOD DAMN IT I JUST STUBBED MY PINKY TOE... sweet mother of God this hurts. Make it go away!
        Hot woman: Wuss.

        Scenario 2 - Guy w/o pinky toe:
        Hot woman: Hey there, wanna come over?
        Guy: Hell yeah, let me walk over there.
        Hot woman: WTF happened to your pinky toe?
        Guy: I got rid of it. For you. It means more of my blood can now be used for a thicker, long lasting erection.
        Hot woman: Nice.

  • Human evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:30AM (#12535127) Journal
    Human evolution has reached the point where other then learning to breathe in a low oxygen area (like underwater) or being able to fly we've pretty much at the peak we can be at.

    Over the years we've evolved to use tools and tools have kept us up with the latest evolutionary fad. We're pretty much a stable mutation of a monkey (with other obvious mutations still happening once in a while). Other then learning to fly or breathing water we can't adapt any more to our planet.

    When humans move to another world with more problems we will probably start evolving again. Untill then why risk evolving and screwing ourselvs over if we take the wrong path?
    • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bheer (633842) <rbheer@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:35AM (#12535153)
      There could _lots_ of beneficial mutations even in our current environment... photographic memory, better regeneration... the problem is, our technology actually _breeds_ biological consistency: a mutant will sooner be carted off to hospital than be allowed to live out the rest of his life as he would normally (which may mean a brutish existence for many but _could_ allow a rare mutant to emerge).
      • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:12AM (#12535333) Homepage Journal
        I agree.

        Another limitation is that humans in the industrialized nations have more or less driven out natural selection. For example, stupid people are protected, if anything, it is someone else's fault that a stupid person did something that could have killed them. Sometimes the brain dead are allowed to live for fifteen years.

        The highly intellectual people become either smart enough to not reproduce (contraceptives), reproduce less by choice or don't reproduce often because of social factors. Stupid people reproduce like rabbits, some of them start before they leave highschool.
        • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dr. Evil (3501) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:41AM (#12535510)

          Heightened sex drive and fertility... birth control makes it tougher to get pregnant, those who have sex more often should wind up with more children.... who, when older, might be predisposed to having sex more often.

          From the article: "Others believe we could blend ourselves with machines in unprecedented ways -- turning natural-born humans into an endangered species."

          Like... c-sections.

          Oh and earlier sexual maturity... there's no longer a risk of killing the mother. With social safety nets, infant mortality and the ability to provide for the child is not an issue. Horrifying as it might seem.

          Multiple births are also non-fatal these days, although fertility drugs make that tougher to determine if it is a factor.

          It's all speculation of course.

          • I see evolution kicking in pretty soon on the birth control thing. Right now, most people are biologically predisposed to enjoy having sex and only think about having family after having sex results in children. Now that there's birth control of course, people can have a ton of sex and still never have kids. This of course makes them evolutionary dead ends. Eventually these people will all die off, and be replaced by people who may or may not enjoy sex, but definitely enjoy having children.

            So, for example,
        • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @11:01AM (#12535626) Homepage

          Another limitation is that humans in the industrialized nations have more or less driven out natural selection.

          You are confusing biological evolution with social systems. The removal of "natural" (what is that anyway, should we deny all medicines, housing, and civilisation to a few generations just to clear out the gene pool? And in this society, who do you think will triumph and propagate their genes, the brutes or the intellectuals?) selection does not harm humanity; if anything it broadens the gene pool and increases the chance of beneficial mutations which might lead to any one of a number of positive effects.

          Also your sweeping characterisation of the stupid as being born that way smacks very much of a particularily nasty type of eugenics, as does your pinning of "highly intellectual" people. I am aware that there are more than a few people of low intelligence who are genetically built that way, but I would say these are in the vast minority. Much of this has to do with environment rather than their genes.

          don't reproduce often because of social factors

          And what is this? Did you ever stop to think that the same social factors might inversely apply to the less fortunate among us? It is well known that in times of war, plague, or other stressful times, the rate of population growth increases. By applying this on the micro- or individual scale, you can easily see why those who feel pressured or are in fact most pressured would "breed" first and faster.

          Although it would make life very simple for a certain type of mindset to identify a "stupid" gene and assign lesser rights to these lesser beings, things just aren't that easy.

          • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @01:20PM (#12536514)
            To play devil's advocate here...
            The removal of "natural" (what is that anyway, should we deny all medicines, housing, and civilisation to a few generations just to clear out the gene pool?
            Hmm? "Natural selection" is in this case quite clearly intended simply to reduce to "survival of the fittest". Fitness now will certainly mean a different thing than it did five hundred years ago, much less ten thousand -- but the point is that the natural order of things is for the fittest to have a higher likelihood of being able to survive and reproduce. Now that we have social safety nets and free health care to permit even those who aren't able to look after their own survival to live and reproduce... well, the effect should be obvious.

            As for the argument that having a more diverse popultion means more room for mutations -- I'm not arguing against diversity, so long as some kind of reasonable fitness function -- such as that provided by making food/housing/etc available strictly via a market economy -- is being applied. If a fitness function is so limiting as to substantially reduce the number of variations which don't directly impact one's ability to tend to one's own survival, that fitness function is broken. To put it bluntly: A society of six-foot, blonde-haired, blue-eyed caucasians is the last thing I would want -- and if relying on a pure market economy in our present society would cause a trend towards that norm, our society needs to be fixed.

            That said, it wouldn't be a Good Thing to apply this whole pure-market-economy worldwide. Just doing it in some significant (reasonably diverse) region should cause it to succeed (inasmuch as that region, over the course of a few generations, generates individuals more fit than the population median) or fail (obviously, the inverse) without eliminating gene lines surviving elsewhere in the world which might be falsely targeted by the fitness function in question. In short: I might be wrong, and I don't want to take over the world; a US state or two (allowing folks who don't like it to easily leave, and folks who do like the idea to emigrate in) would be more than enough.

            I am aware that there are more than a few people of low intelligence who are genetically built that way, but I would say these are in the vast minority. Much of this has to do with environment rather than their genes.
            If having good genes is less important than having good memes (and the nature/nurture debate is far from decided), how does that actually change anything once we consider that memes are typically passed on through one's family?
            Your sweeping characterisation of the stupid as being born that way smacks very much of a particularily nasty type of eugenics
            Yes, it does -- which isn't to say that it's wrong. (Devil's advocate aside, I honestly do think that voluntary, temporary sterilization as a precondition for accepting welfare funds makes quite a lot of sense. The moral argument against has always been presented as self-evident, which to me it isn't. Anything much beyond that [ie. anything that involves using force of government to compell actions which would not be taken voluntarily] I'm unlikely to support. As for my motivation for taking this view -- I grew up around far too many welfare mothers having more kids so they'd get a bigger check from the government each month. And just to go back to the race thing briefly -- said welfare mothers were almost execlusively caucasian).
            • Re:Human evolution (Score:4, Insightful)

              by droneboy (846761) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @07:41PM (#12538909)
              Okay, let's give you a quick lesson in ethics and morality.

              First, imagine that you will be reincarnated as a random individual in a society. You have no way of knowing what skill sets and ability you will wake up with. Now, what kind of social organisation would you want to apply given that there is a distinct risk that you will be 'reborn' without your current level of ability to take care of yourself? Do you really want an undiluted survival market to apply? Is your ability to survive in such a situation the only measure of the worth of your next life? If you were doomed from the start by the nature of that society, but that nature could be changed so as you would not be doomed, would you not want it changed?

              Consider then whether humans have intrinsic worth or are just a means to some ends. Are you the means to someone else's ends, or do you make your own decisions? Are your decisions to be treated seriously as intrinsic to your being, or brushed aside as aberrations in the mass march to a predetermined or naturally selected ends?

              It is an ethical imperative that humans be treated as ends in themselves, otherwise a mechanistic world view results, and all nature of opressions follow from this. What this means is that if we have the means to help each other survive, then we are compelled to make use of them, and cope with the consequences. If a man is born crippled, we give crutches, if he is stupid we teach him patiently, if he is diseased we search for a cure. That we have now begun to grasp genetics offers a way to ameliorate the consequences of a lack of natural selection, but even in its absence we are compelled to defy natural selection; the alternative being the death of humanity as a collection of sentient beings. Sentience is inefficient, you know.
          • Re:Human evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jericho4.0 (565125)
            "your sweeping characterisation of the stupid as being born that way smacks very much of a particularly nasty type of eugenics"

            It is, by and large, a fact. Acknowloging that doesn't mean we have to start sterilizing people.

    • Re:Human evolution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Frogbert (589961) <frogbertNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:49AM (#12535228)
      Well for starters we could get rid of those violent tendancies, they don't seem to help anyone. And whats with religion? If our brains could wire themselves not to need it we'd have it made in the shade.

      How about better lungs to breath pollutants, or immunity to STD's... or bigger brains to suit our lifestyle, these days physical strength is less important, we could spend a little more energy on our brains don't you think.

      We are far from perfect but thats not a bad thing, it just means we have room for improvement.
      • Re:Human evolution (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgibbs (83782)
        Well for starters we could get rid of those violent tendancies, they don't seem to help anyone. And whats with religion? If our brains could wire themselves not to need it we'd have it made in the shade.

        Until we got wiped out by a tribe of violent religious fanatics. That's natural selection, too.
    • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by andreMA (643885) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:14AM (#12535348)
      pretty much at the peak we can be at.
      I'm reminded of the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the guy who quit the patent office in the 1890's because "everything had already been invented" Yes, I know your point was that we're not presently under evolutionary pressure, not that we're "perfect" as it is; your phrasing just struck me as humorous.

      I can think of numerous potential beneficial evolutionary changes, some incremental and some more radical:

      • Better detoxification in heavy metal poisoning: self chelation therapy
      • Reduced need for sleep
      • Continued adaptation to upright posture: stronger vein walls to prevent varicose veins/hemorrhoids.
      • Further widening of the female pelvis to ease childbirth
      • Additional articulation of fingers
      • Auxillary sensory organs on hands (taste/smell/vision/vibration (hearing))
      • Seperation of eating and breathing functions - no more choking to death on food
      • Controlled background processing of thought (unlike the rather chaotic 'subconscious reasoning' we practice today)
      • Ability to regrow missing/damaged limbs and organs (eg, axlotyl)
    • One word - Disease (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xplenumx (703804) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:21AM (#12535384)
      Like it or not, pathogens are constantly evolving and will continue to keep selective pressure on us.

      The most polymorphic genes in our (actually most any) genome are the MHC genes - genes that are central to the adaptive immune response. These genes are under extreme selective pressure, to the point that we can track how peoples migrated by monitoring how haplotype ratios changed or new ones emerged over time.

      New diseases are emerging all the time - as a prime example, HIV is a brand new disease that made the species jump to humans less than 100 years ago. As an immunologist, I fully expect another 'Black Plague' to emerge and wipe out 25% of the world's population within my lifetime.

      Evolution by disease clearly isn't as flashy as evolving wings or gills, but it's evolution none the less.

    • Re:Human evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BooRolla (824295) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:40AM (#12535500)
      This is dumb.

      Evolution will continue to happen - and it won't be the sci-fi kind. Just plain old Darwinism.

      Between air pollution, climate changes, the continual population shift from rural to urban, other environmental factors, and even random error.

      Evolution won't stop because it is a journey not a place. All the variables that effect are lives are not tightly controlled enough to even come close to an end.

      Anytime someone says how a scientific phenomenom is going to halt, I raise an eyebrow. Maybe you should too.

  • Space... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zaydana (729943) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:30AM (#12535128)
    "The gist of it is that no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups." Well, if we are seperated into seperate environments that would probably have the same effect as being seperated into seperate groups. That probably means that we will evolve in space. It makes sense as well, we could still evolve to "work better" in microgravity... we could still evolve to run better on different air, maybe purer or less pure oxygen. And since we're in smaller gruops in space, according to this, we are going to have an even greater chance of evolution. So, is space travel going to bring on the next stage of human evolution?
    • Re:Space... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Andy_R (114137)
      The west already isolates groups. Tall, silm, rich beautiful people rarely interbreed with the short fat ugly poor people, and if any of those traits are genetic, I think we'll see a pretty rapid divergence of races.
  • by Xpilot (117961) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:30AM (#12535130) Homepage
    Adamantium claws. Telepathy. Electromagnetism. Weather control. Yeah you read it right, they'll discover that there is a gene that controls weather.

    And they'll dress in spandex and fight each other for survival and/or world supremecy.

    I for one, will be very entertained by our new mutant overlords.

    Pass the popcorn.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:12AM (#12535334) Homepage
      Yeah you read it right, they'll discover that there is a gene that controls weather.

      They've already discovered that gene. Turns out it is present in puppies, but gets disabled in adult dogs. So next time rain ruins your picnic, remember this and kick a puppy. Make sure to tell everyone that the rain is the puppy's fault, so they don't think you're kicking puppies for no reason. That'd be mean.
  • by jackcarter (884148) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:31AM (#12535131)
    Why can't people EVER use the "Not Safe For Church" tag on these things?
    • NSFC? Try VerySFC. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xplenumx (703804)
      Why can't people EVER use the "Not Safe For Church" tag on these things?

      Perhaps because there are a whole lot of church going, very religious people who believe in evolution.

    • by subtropolis (748348) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:13PM (#12536034)

      LOL.

      I was just thinking that it'd be funny if the xenophobic fundies started advocating segregation so as not to interfere with evolution.

      Hey, stranger things happen. Have you heard about Neal Horsley [foxnews.com], the anti-abortion zealot who fucks animals? No, really. In his own words:

      AC: "You had sex with animals?"
      NH: "Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."
      AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."
      NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"
      AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"
      NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."
      Colmes said he thought there were a lot of people in the audience who grew up on farms, are living on farms now, raising kids on farms and "and I don't think they are dating Elsie right now. You know what I'm saying?"
      Horsley said, "You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates you might in fact have sex with it."

      Perhaps it's just the biological imperative. He does it to further our evolution.

  • "no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups."

    Actually, there are still a few isolated groups of humans living in the world today - the two that immediately come to mind are the bushmen and pygmies of Africa. Does this mean that "civilized" men are doomed to be an evolutionary dead-end, while groups that seem primitive in our eyes will make the next leap forward?

  • by Nyago (784496) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:31AM (#12535137) Homepage
    From the summary: ...no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups.

    Evolution will continue as long as DNA continues to mutate. To say that human evolution is at a standstill is ridiculous. We have been mutating (and remaining mostly unchanged, too) for hundreds of thousands of years. We haven't changed all that much because we're already incredibly well-adapted to our environment. Just look at the population. :P

    In addition, our race has lived in isolated groups for most of its existence. Isolation only leads to inbreeding, which is generally a Bad Thing for evolution, as it limits the availability of new genetic material.

    Of course, I have yet to RTFA...
    • We haven't changed all that much because we're already incredibly well-adapted to our environment. Just look at the population.

      Well, yea, and evolution takes hundreds of generations to be noticed.

  • Not exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Liquidrage (640463) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:33AM (#12535144)
    The gist of it is that no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups

    No, the gist is that we won't have two seperate species of humans without isolation. Evolution doesn't stop.

    Not only is that a very basic and obvious concept, it says exactly that in TFA.
    FTFA:
    "Evolution is still at work. But instead of diverging, our gene pool has been converging for tens of thousands of years -- and Stuart Pimm, an expert on biodiversity at Duke University, says that trend may well be accelerating."

    And at this point, not only do we have natural mutations that could be dominant, we also have the ability to alter evolution through our own means.
    • Re:Not exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Council (514577)
      this absolutely fascinating book [amazon.com] argues that biological evolution as a mechanism for change has been outstripped by technology, and that the next steps in our evolution will be steps we take ourselves.

      I'm not doing it justice with this description, but it makes the case that biological evolution is slow and error-prone and has just barely managed to produce its only creatures capable of higher thought, and that the pace of all kinds of change has been accelerating constantly, and that this is the end game

  • I for one worship our super-rodent masters.

    (rtfa, it's there)
  • by elgatozorbas (783538) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:34AM (#12535150)
    Survivalistian: Protective brow and skin layer contribute to "radiation hardening."

    I highly doubt this: human intervention will outrun 'natural' changes in background radiation.

    In general I have the impression that the article assumes human adaptation while engineering will probably be much more important: we unravel the DNA etc and cure diseases and make 'stronger' humans. Drawback of this: I don't want to sound like a Nazi, but I can imagine this counteracts 'natural selection'. If glasses wouldn't have been invented, everybody would have perfect eyesight etc...

    • by Froggy (92010)
      If glasses wouldn't have been invented, everybody would have perfect eyesight etc...

      I doubt it. The current existence of people with impaired vision, combined with centuries of testimony about such people, indicate that the tens of millennia that the human race existed without the ability to ameliorate such deficits did not wipe out these genes.

      I keep hearing similar arguments from evolutionary psychologists: behaviour X exists because at one stage in our evolutionary history it must have given a surviv
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:37AM (#12535165) Journal
    To answer the question, one has to look at which genes are reproducing themselves, and which aren't.

    It's pretty clear that the environment has been dysgenic for intelligence in the modern world for at least a century. The more intelligent you are, the better education you get, and the more education you get, the less children you have.

    The most likely outcome of future human evolution might be something like Kornbluth's "Marching Morons." Over the next few centuries, the average IQ of the human race will drop to 60-70.

    The Flynn effect might be raised as an objection, but the Flynn effect is not genetic, so it can't affect this.
    • It's pretty clear that the environment has been dysgenic for intelligence in the modern world for at least a century. The more intelligent you are, the better education you get, and the more education you get, the less children you have.

      I have to disagree - I find that social pressures play as much of a role in eduction as does intelligence. I certainly know of 'uneducated people' who I would consider to be brilliant - just not trained. Some of the individuals are there due to economic / immigration rea

      • It is fairly well established that low-IQ people are having more children than high-IQ people.

        I can point out exceptions just like you did -- I know smart people with lots of kids, and stupid people with none. I'm sure that you know enough mathematics however to know that individual exceptions do not challenge a statistical trend.
        • IQ is a lousy way to determine intelligence. IQ seems most closely associated with the ability to do well on tests, rather than some innate "smarts".

          If you want to get silly, take a look at this page [chrisevans3d.com]. Clearly the future will be populated by idiotic Republicans, breeding like mad, while a handful of super-genius tree-hugging Democrats survive in Utopian nanotech habitats.

          More practically, bearing children seems more closely related to urbanization rather than IQ. What's happening is that people are
    • Over the next few centuries, the average IQ of the human race will drop to 60-70.

      I think you mean the average will drop to 60-70 using the current scale. The average itself wont change. It's 100 by definition.
    • The more intelligent you are, the better education you get, and the more education you get, the less children you have.

      However, intelligent people are generally attracted to other intelligent people. There's your isolation right there.

      Morlocks and Eloi, baby.
    • by SamSim (630795) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:13PM (#12536033) Homepage Journal
      Call me a crackpot, but I'd conjecture that over the next few centuries, the average IQ of the human race will remain at precisely 100.
    • It's pretty clear that the environment has been dysgenic for intelligence in the modern world for at least a century. The more intelligent you are, the better education you get, and the more education you get, the less children you have.

      This doesn't represent an evolutionary process or the 'environment' in a traditional sense. It's not a natural influence, and therefore one that is fixable. It's more just society inadvertently selecting the things that create this outcome. Westernized nations dump truck

  • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:37AM (#12535166) Homepage
    There will be no further naturally occurring evolution of the human race. Since medical science can overcome just about any malady, disfigurement, or defect--allowing anyone to procreate--there is no opportunity for nature to weed out anything. For example, 5000 years ago a man who had a faulty liver would most likely die and his genetic line might die with him. Today, a man with a faulty liver spends a coule of days in a hospital and is able to continue his genetic line. So in essence, science has outsmarted evolution. Survival of the fittest doesn't apply when everyone survives.
    • Not true in the slightest bit.

      Science can not cure everything. You say science can overcome just about anything, but it can't right now. If that were true, infant mortality rates would be about zero. They are not. And let us not forget that a very large part of the world's population doesn't live in world similar to your typical /. poster where medical care is top notch.

      Second of all, survival without reproduction doesn't mean much. If people with faulty livers end up on average reproducing less (some
      • You say science can overcome just about anything, but it can't right now. If that were true, infant mortality rates would be about zero. They are not. And let us not forget that a very large part of the world's population doesn't live in world similar to your typical /. poster where medical care is top notch.

        This is an economic problem, not a scientific one. Witness, for example, the terrible case of the late Terry Shively, where she was kept alive through artifical means. As long as the money kept comming

    • Exactly: many people seem to forget that the key concept behind evolution is "survival of the fittest". Just because we require dexterious thumbs for playing our playstations doesn't mean our offspring will magically be born with superior thumbs unless, of course, in some scary extension of multiplayer games our survival did really depend upon our playstation skills :)

      However, IMHO evolution is still occuring - the causes have simply changed. People who fail to reproduce nowadays are the ones who fail to

    • Success actually (Score:4, Informative)

      by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@NoSpam.pacbell.net> on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:09PM (#12536002) Homepage
      You misunderstand evolution if you think it's not working.

      The current situation, where everyone survives, works in favor of evolution. It means when the next catastrophe occurs (whether it be killer allergies, poison canaries, pollution, parasitic ants, whatever), we will have a hundredfold more diverse genetic pool than if we were thinned out because less people survived.

      To put it succinctly, we are currently in a phase where the geneline is being enriched.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:38AM (#12535176) Homepage
    Humans have been most counter-productive when it comes to evolutionary improvement.

    The short and simple of evolutionary drive is: "the good changes survive and the bad ones die."

    Well, with all of our disease curing, deformation correction (not to mention aesthetic surgery), and public welfare the most unworthy humans are reproducing at enormous rates. To further worsen matters, the most worthy humans are, for personal reasons, not reproducing or having only one child furhter decreasing the population of the 'successful.' We're actually backsliding quite a bit.

    And as has been pointed out, any improvements in humans are likely to be artificial and if any actual changes in humans arrise, it will be in how suitably humans will accept these additions. (That would be to say, their bodies will be less likely to reject artificial implants, foreign tissue, etc.) That's quite a gruesome picture being painted of our future... some Frankenstein-ish collection of beings with plugs and wires hanging out everywhere. "What? you use KEYBOARDS and MICE? How 21st Century of you!"

    But back to the subject, we have all but overcome the forces of evolutionary drive. The only exception to that might be in the area of disease where if some new super-potent plague emerged killing all but the most immune, we might see another tiny step... maybe...
    • by rokzy (687636) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:51AM (#12535234)
      plugs and wires is the kind of crap you see in movies. we already have good wireless tech so why would we use horrible wires?

      at the very most, the sign of an "enhanced" human would be an apple-shaped white LED just under the skin that pulsates when you're asleep.
      • by Jerf (17166)
        we already have good wireless tech so why would we use horrible wires?

        Bandwidth.

        Every coaxial cable has huge swathes of bandwidth all to itself in its own little independent world. Fiber has even more, or at least so I assume from how it is used.

        The wireless world, no matter how clever you get and no matter what existing uses you shut down, will always have less bandwidth.

        Wireless has its uses but for fundamental reasons, barring some really odd and completely unexpected scientific advance, there will
  • ...from a conscious decision to make modifications are hardly 'evolution', certainly not evolution by natural selection. This article is pretty bogus, even if it makes correct predictions. You might as well say that anything that happens in the future is a product of evolution.
  • Few years back , the common consensus was that the next step in human eveloution would most likely be a second thumb on each hand for better manipulation of object. We had a long debate about what may follow , a few people suspected increased brain capacity as highly likely and a continuation in the trend for people to be slightly taller and have less hair.
    We decided not to count in any form of gene manipulation though , though it is highly likely that within the next hundred or so years it will likely beco
  • There should be a warning sticker on slashdot stating that evolution is only a theory. You people with your scientific methods, can you not see that there is a perfectly good explanation to it all? What makes you think you have evolved enough to question it? (well, I didn't mean evolved, I mean what makes you think God has granted you enough of a sense of, well not granted, miricaled, yeah, just thought it into being).

    Oh, and I will pray for your souls to have a sense of humor.

    God is great, God is good
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Evolution works fine until society appears, then it seems to go backwards, as the more inteligent, more dynamic outgoing people who make our world tick decide not to have kids, and those on welfare have 15 or more :)
  • Memetic evolution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EnsilZah (575600)
    We might not have that much genetic evolution ahead, but what about a memetic one?

    Technology seems to have advanced quite a bit in the last century, and i don't see that stopping soon unless we go dark ages when the oil runs out.

    I don't think that coming up with new ideas is fundamentally different from growing a new limb, and with those ideas we could probably change ourselves faster than genetic evolution would.
  • by Isldeur (125133) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:50AM (#12535231)
    The gist of it is that no further evolution will occur unless humans can be separated into isolated groups."

    You know, back when I was a med student, I asked this doctor I worked with if he agreed that humans - due to their ability to change the world around them so much - had stopped evolving. He said something a bit insightful to that - that we were actually evolving much faster than we ever had before not less. And that makes sense. We don't need to take eons to evolve new bodily ways of fighting infection - we have antibiotics now and can fight infection intelligently. The list goes on and on.
  • Simply look at the types of people who are having lots of children and the types of people who are not having children. Then draw your own conclusions on the future direction of the species (and it isn't necessarily smarter/stronger).

  • by Zergwyn (514693) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:53AM (#12535250)
    Evolution acts on population gene pools when some factor favors the survival of specific genes. However, modern humans depend on genetics to a far smaller extent then any other species; rather, we depend on our intelligence. We don't evolve thicker fur or blubber to live in colder environments, we alter our environment (shelter) or create artificial means to warm ourselves. Synthetic transportation replaces wings or faster legs. We use medicine to cure ourselves of disease and accidents. It therefore seems both likely and acceptable that in the future, humans will choose to alter themselves at a physical, internal level. This seems to be a logical progression from our current external prosthetics, like cars. I suspect this will take the form of one or more of the following:
    1. Genetic engineering: Gene therapy is currently a very promising field of study, and research on vectors is finally yielding some extremely promising results, both for viral (see some of the fourth generation or higher lentiviral systems) and non-viral (liposomes etc). As gene therapy becomes common, the same techniques can be applied to not just fix genes, but add or alter existing ones to give desirable attributes (better vision, etc).
    2. Brain-computer interfaces: Once again, most current research takes place with the aim to provide superior prosthetics to people who have suffered from accidents. This is my personal area of interest. In principle, all the input and output going into the brain should be able to be intercepted and controlled. By doing that, a person could be transplanted into any artificial body desired. I feel that at the current pace of development, this will be a relatively (there is always risk with surgery) safe and well understood procedure within 20-30 years, assuming research isn't outlawed or anything like that.
    3. Medical nanotechnology: Very speculative, I don't think anyone knows for sure whether is can actually be done or not. I'm listing it because it would be a different way to augment the human body from the previous two.

    All of these technologies may work together, of course. It may be that human genetic engineering would help a person be more compatible with synthetic augmentations, for example. I also believe these are all good things. The core of what makes us us is our minds, and it seems tragic that so many people are restricted by the box their brain must travel in. I hope to be able to help make it so that losing limbs and getting paralyzed are simply no longer problems that need to be worried about beyond some inconvenience. I think that transferring to artificial bodies, or at least advanced gene therapy, will be important for future efforts to colonize space. It appears that in many ways, the primary threat is luddites shutting the research down. Fortunately, so far most of this has passed under their radar, so I am hopeful that will continue to be the case until actual products are ready to go. At that point, it will be too late to stop it. It is an exciting time to be alive though, and I encourage everyone to go and do some research on the subject, especially if you have access to a college or corporate net that has subscriptions to primary research engines, like ScienceDirect or JStor. Also, everyone can look at becoming a member of the AAAS, which will get you online access to Science.


    Some links:

    University of California Neuroelectric Research Group [berkeley.edu]. Some interesting information, with PDFs available, on BCI.

    Gene Delivery Systems [ucla.edu]. A free quick intro (from a lecture/course) on some of the different vector systems being studied for gene therapy, and desirable characteristics.

    Those of you with access to journals can go read a very interesting study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16(6):1022-1035. "Optimizing a Linear Algorithm for Real-Time Robotic Control using Chronic Cortical Ensemble Recordings in Monkeys," by Wessberg and Nicolelis.


  • Sitting here in a hotel in North America I've just watched a series of diatribes by the religious right, and I swear that their mouths are bigger than the rest of us.

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @09:56AM (#12535263) Homepage
    If you want to know where evolution is taking homo sapiens, get thee to a barnyard.

    Evolution is driven by selection pressure. Selection occurs because some individuals die or otherwise fail to breed. Their heritable traits tend not to be found in the next generation.

    So, ask yourself, what consistent selection pressures are acting on us now? Note that things that would have killed us in the past are now regularly taken care of by medical science. In just a couple of generations we have a significant subpopulation that can't breed at all without medical intervention. Some of these traits are heritable, such as difficulties in childbirth or needing IVF techniques to overcome fertility problems.

    Other traits which seem to universally pop up in domestic animals are also showing up in humans. The modern urban environment is just as alien and stressful to us as modern farms are to the animals we keep there. So we are seeing hypersexuality, earlier and earlier puberty, obesity, and a lot of neurosis. THAT is the evolutionary future of the human race, and it's already well on its way.

    The only way out of this situation is to start applying deliberate selective pressure. Given that this would essentially mean giving up the right of individuals to reproduce at will, I don't see it happening any time soon. Plus, I would imagine that a lot of effort would be thrown at hot-button traits like homosexuality or intelligence which probably aren't even heritable. (I know there are a lot of people who say otherwise; there are good reasons for doubting them, starting with their very eagerness.)

    The world's population is already effectively split into two major groups, those who can afford radical medical intervention and those who can't. For another idea on how that might work out check out H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Some things are so basic that they're easier to call before you're well into the trend.

    • by harvardian (140312) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:13PM (#12536038)
      So we are seeing hypersexuality, earlier and earlier puberty, obesity, and a lot of neurosis.

      I don't have anything better to do than argue with a eugenist on a Sunday morning, so here goes:

      You are overstating the inevitability of very vague negative effects in order to support your beliefs. It sounds very Chicken Little-ish. For example, hypersexuality and neurosis? Do you have any real evidence that these are increasing? If you take an anthropology class you'll see plenty of people who don't "fit in" and get branded as a witch in tribal societies. It may be true that anxiety and depression levels are rising, but it could also very well not be true.

      I also just read a very interesting article about Genghis Khan and how up to .5% of currently living men may be directly descended from him, due to his massive number of offspring. It's not like modern humans are the only ones to be into sex. Have you ever studied Bonobo apes? They're extremely sexual, even engaging in homosexual play. So I fail to see how this is new.

      As for obesity and a lowering age of puberty, you are correct about these. FYI, the lowering age of puberty may be an effect of better nutrition (see here [mum.org]). Our bodies are not used to eating as much and as well as they do. More on that later, though.

      The only way out of this situation is to start applying deliberate selective pressure. Given that this would essentially mean giving up the right of individuals to reproduce at will, I don't see it happening any time soon. Plus, I would imagine that a lot of effort would be thrown at hot-button traits like homosexuality or intelligence which probably aren't even heritable. (I know there are a lot of people who say otherwise; there are good reasons for doubting them, starting with their very eagerness.)

      Here's the real meat of where you're on the wrong track.

      Let's start easy. Is a person who weighs 1000 pounds going to procreate less than, at an equal rate to, or more than, a normal weight individual? The reasonable answer is "less than." This is selective pressure. It only needs to exert itself at the extremes to have a gradual effect. Remember that evolution is a long process.

      The same argument can be said for neurosis, even though I've disputed whether or not this is a new problem. Are people who are very anxious and depressed going to procreate less than, at an equal rate to, or more than a normal person? I'd argue that they are less likely to procreate than a normal person. Hence, selective pressure.

      As for homosexuality and intelligence, you're simply off-base. Read this Science article [nature.com] to see that heritability of intelligence is pegged somewhere "below 50%". They say it this way because previous studies have found very large heritabilities for IQ, and it is significant that they found heritability to be "so low" as to be under 50%. Here's from the full text:

      Our results suggest far smaller heritabilities: broad-sense heritability, which measures the total effect of genes on IQ, is perhaps 48%; narrow-sense heritability, the relevant quantity for evolutionary arguments because it measures the additive effects of genes, is about 34%. Herrnstein and Murray's evolutionary conclusions are tenuous in light of these heritabilities.

      Aside from this evidence, it's simple folly to think that genetics plays no role in intelligence. The number of NMDA receptors in your brain have recently been shown to play a role in memory, which has an obvious relation to intelligence. Does it not make sense that people with higher numbers of NMDA receptors would have better memories and be more intelligent? The number of NMDA receptors in your brain is definitely partially controlled by genetics. The degree to which it is malleable is the real question.

      As for homosexuality,

  • by loony (37622) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:06AM (#12535301)
    I'll probably get flamed for this but I have to say it anyway...

    Why does anyone still expect evolution in our society? With the social system and the way our economy works there is no reason for evolution anymore. If you take a pack of lions... The top is the strongest animal, then the second tier is the ones that are almost as strong and so on. Now I look at where I work - the richest and most powerful guy has his job cause he started almost at the top and had the right backing... The next level down are all his friends - most of them completly incompetent idiots. Evolution? No thanks!

    Now the other side - and that's the really scary one - since when do we weed out bad genes? Today most people die a natural death, no matter if they were stupid, disabled or had any other issues. In the past, those would have been the first to get killed by lack of food, deciese or wild animals. That kept the gene pool cleaner. Today, they have kids just like everyone else - and that has severe negative impact on the human race.

    I'm not saying that there is any ethical way of changing that or that it even should be changed, but if the topic of evolution comes up, most people just silently ignore these two facts most of the time...

    Peter.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:07AM (#12535306)
    Darwinian evolution (in which the genes affect reproductive success) will have a decreasing role in future. The ability to repair congenital defects, correct metabolic disorders, and cure life-threatening conditions means that natural selection does not occur with the same intensity as in the past. More people survive and reproduce would not of in the past.

    The one area where Darwinian evolution may play a role is in how people respond to pharmaceuticals. Not all drugs work on all people -- some people cannot tolerate certain drugs and other people metabolize a medication so quickly that it is ineffective. These people will find themselves part of the orphan disease population -- populations that are too small to be worth the effort to develop drugs for. In time, them may succumb more frequently to medical problems and become less prevalent in the population.

    What we will see is more evolution of memes (rather than genes). Memetic evolution is Lamarckian, not Darwinian. Whereas genes are markedly stable (the copy error rate is very low), memes are more malleable and tend to acquire new characteristics that are then passed on.

    Thus, I would argue that Lamarckian evolution will play a bigger role in the future than Darwinian evolution. The characteristics that people (and society) acquire will be passed on to the next generation. The new technologies, new terminologies, new ideas, and new ways of living will define humanity's future and a person's life far more than does the genetic sequence of a person's DNA.
  • We're pretty much done as far as evolution goes. What prompts the evolutionary process? A need to adapt to an environment, propegate the species, etc.

    Well, I think we're good enough at holding our own these days. Not only do we adapt to our environment, we change it (i like to say 'terraform' but some people have a hard time accepting NYC as proof...). 6+ billion of us folks seems to be a bit more than our planet can handle anyway, so no need for mother nature to worry about people dying off any time soon

  • One ingredient that is missing here is a discussion of longevity. If humans live to an average age of 100 years, then some of the stuff discussed, like traveling to another star system or improving a human gene line, becomes extremely hard to accomplish. OTOH, if a human can live a million years, then time is much less an issue.
  • Only some features are adapted due to selective pressure (the type of evolution most people are assuming in this article), some features are adapted due to random genetic drift (neutral genotypes moving around). Just because there isn't selection does not mean that some unselected traits can take hold.
  • fallacies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @10:18AM (#12535369)
    I think evolution happens too slowly for anyone alive today to care about it. By the time there are significant and noticeable difference in more evolved humans than the ones alive today, we'll all be long dead.

    Unless we're too near-sighted to noticed the more evolved people than us at this point in time...

    I'm not a specialist on evolution, but I noticed that it seems to happen more quickly after a massive die-off, with a few pockets of survival here and there.

    And then you see new species evolving into the spaces previously unavailable because a previous species occupied it.

    As for possible human evolution, the author of the article seems to indicate that the current convergence is a bad thing... not necessarily.

    Assuming that various ethnic groups each have enough differences in DNA which can be beneficial to everyone, we could see a global "sharing" of this genetic data... after a while, a global catastrophe drives us a big step backward into the stone age, separates the survivors into tribal groups, and then we can go forward evolving again, for better or worse.

    We don't know
  • In Garreau's view of the world, the naturals will be those who eschew enhancements for higher reasons, just as vegetarians forgo meat and fundamentalists forgo what they see as illicit pleasures.

    I'm not sure I'm a vegitarian for "higher reasons". Mostly I do it because evidence continues to show that a primarily vegitarian diet is the most healthy for you.
  • Evolution has stopped, and we may actually see some "regression", due to the fact that natural selection is over in most human populations.

    Think about it. Women used to mate with the strongest/smartest/most capable that emerged from a pretty level playing field; men used to mate with whoever showed the greatest fertility signs.

    Now, you have things like women marrying rich asthmatic heirs; men being attracted to anti-fertility symbols (being super thin is not good for fertility) or being attracted to total
  • by peter303 (12292) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @11:13AM (#12535681)
    I see the "peacock effect" continuing- that is enhancing physical traits that seem sexually attractive amongst us, but with otherwise no survival advantage. Right now we use technology to do this, but may breed or insert this into our genomes. Probably in the last ten thousand years we bred for large breasts and penises, because we have clothing technology now and lessened new to to run after wild animals for dinner. I wouldn't be surprised if we didnt breed for skinny, tan women with huge knockers and fat lips. The long term evolutionary view held chubby girls were fit and fertile. We would also breed guys with muscular chests, never graying-balding pates, and large slongs. The Bushman-type hunter with the skinny runner's build was the long term norm.
  • Wrong Wrong Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joshv (13017) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:11PM (#12536023)
    Isolation is required for speciation (the creation of a new species distinct from the original species) it is not required for evolution to change an existing species.

    Evolution is driven by the environment and selective pressures. If the environment changes, the species must adapt or die out.

    In the abstract, each species inhabits a 'fitness landscape', think of it as a mountainous landscape - those poorly adapted inhabit the low lands, those well adapted inhabit the summits.

    A particular species is ever changing, exploring other peaks, and sometimes getting lost in the valleys. The landscape can change as well, thrusting up the lowlands and making previously ill-adapted specimins quite well adapted (think of the tiny little rodents that did so well after the climate change that killed off the dynosaurs).

    So, to the people who claim that human evolution has ended because of our technology's ability to compensate for suboptimal genetic mutations and variation - you couldn't be more wrong. Techonology has merely become integrated into our fitness landscape, like fire and tools have been for millenia.

    There are many examples of where technology has massively altered the fitness landscape. The valley of near-sightedness is no longer so deep, and the summit of intelligence has lost a couple thousand feet. This dramatically changing fitness itself will drive evolution. The nature of the changes doesn't matter. Evolution isn't 'trying' to make us smarter. It isn't trying to make us stronger, faster, or more attractive.

    Think about it this way. Yes, technology allows women who have narrow hips or large babies to give birth, when in the past they would have died in child birth. The result, there is less selective pressure on the width of hips in women and the size of babies. We can expect to see more variation in hip with, more narrow hips, and larger babies. In the future it might be exceedingly rare for women to give brth without a C-section.

    Is this good or bad? Who knows, it allows our genome to explore previously unexplored territory - women with smaller hips, or who have larger babies in utero. What will be the result? Who knows. Perhaps there is some hidden adaptive benefit in these traits. Perhaps not. Maybe the genes that cause mutations or disease that used to kill before reproductive age have hidden benefits that are revealed when techology allows these people to survive and reproduce. Or perhaps they just open the path to a different peak in the fitness landscape.

    As for those who point to the developed world's most successful reproducers, the poor, as evidence of our devolution - I ask you why you assume these people to be inferior? Sure, many are not self-supporting, but many are - raising large families on their own incomes. Seems these people are quite successful at making and raising babies. Their genes will have proportionally higher representation in the coming generations than will those of us who choose to have one or two children.

    Don't fall into the trap of assuming that just because these people are poor they are somehow less intelligent or in some way inferior. Less educated certainly. But less intelligent? Remember that current human intelligence evolved in pre-literate societies.

    Even the worst of the trailer trash functions at a relatively high level compared to our neolithic progenitors. Jim Bob knows how to operate a complex machine called a pick-up truck, even at high speeds. He can read, has a vocabulary well north of 5,000 words, can do basic math, and is mostly likely required to have highly developed hand-eye coordination in whatever work he does (if it is manual labor). These tax human intelligence far beyond the selective pressures that lead to the evolution of our current level of intelligence. Even the poorest among us need all our vaunted human intelligence just to survive.

  • by xs650 (741277) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:23PM (#12536101)
    The next logical stage of human evolution is for women's eye to migrate to their breasts so they can maintain eye contact with men.
  • the singularity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BoomTechnology (832547) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @12:41PM (#12536236) Homepage
    something that the article lightly hits on: there's also a big underground movement about something called "the singularity" which is also a theory that more involves the next step in human evolution rather than evolution itself.

    From the http://singinst.org/ [singinst.org]Singularity Institute: "What is the Singularity? Sometime in the next few years or decades, humanity will become capable of surpassing the upper limit on intelligence that has held since the rise of the human species. We will become capable of technologically creating smarter-than-human intelligence, perhaps through enhancement of the human brain, direct links between computers and the brain, or Artificial Intelligence. This event is called the "Singularity" by analogy with the singularity at the center of a black hole - just as our current model of physics breaks down when it attempts to describe the center of a black hole, our model of the future breaks down once the future contains smarter-than-human minds. Since technology is the product of cognition, the Singularity is an effect that snowballs once it occurs - the first smart minds can create smarter minds, and smarter minds can produce still smarter minds." There's a singularity group at Stanford as well. Pretty important stuff because it can have many possible outcomes, anywhere from some Matrix-like effect to becoming transhuman -- so there's a big underground movement that's trying to ensure a positive outcome. Anyways, it's pretty interesting stuff if you've never checked it out. A good place to start is google :)
  • by datawar (200705) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @01:30PM (#12536580)
    Humans have reached a point where biological evolution is no longer important to us. The current "important" evolution is happening in the mind -- memetic evolution. Next steps will hopefully the creation of new environments able to sustain self-replicating patterns, whether these patterns be computer networks or some other complex ecology.

    Your brain and the ecology of all human brains is clearly where the evolutionary action is now (and has been for a relatively long, long time). Where's it gonna be next, and how will we know when it gets there? The first conscious monkeys didn't know they were the first step (or did they?)...

  • by yaphadam097 (670358) on Sunday May 15, 2005 @02:59PM (#12537145)

    Evolution isn't done with us. Hominids have been around something like 4 million years, and in our current form around 300,000. The entire history of civilization is about 15,000 years - roughly equivalent to a speck of fly shit on the evolutionary time line.

    Modern evolution moves at a slow pace, because the threats to human life today are relatively few, and our most significant threats don't prevent us from reproducing. For example, in the US and Europe all roads seem to lead to myocardial infarction. Since this generally doesn't kill us until we reach our fifth decade or so, we can have plenty of fat, diabetic kids before our own metabolic disease kills us. In the poorer parts of the world the biggest threats are AIDS and malnutrition, but again, they manage to crank out puppies well before their inevitable demise.

    So, in order for evolution to progress at a higher rate we need greater selection pressures, and in layman's terms that means we need to start dying off faster. I'll offer a handfull of likely scenarios, some that we cause ourselves, others that we have no control over:

    1. Nuclear winter: we blow enough stuff up to put a bunch of debris in the atmosphere that stays there for a number of years. This turns industrial agriculture to shit. We are forced to return to subsistence farming and other old school techniques. Those of us in heavily industrialized areas like the coasts of the US will be in deep shit, and probably have to start eating each other (Of course, a lot of us will already be blown up, and the places where we lived will have radioactive fallout lasting for decades.)
    2. Artificial Climate Change: We'll keep pumping crap into the air, so that all the kids in our favorite equatorial vacation spots have severe asthma by the time they're school age. Species will become extinct at rates that haven't been seen since the time of the dinosaurs. The ocean levels will rise, eventually destroying low lying coast cities. Agriculture will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Oh yeah, this one's already happening.
    3. Major volcanic event(s): This is very similar to what I described above for a nuclear winter, except that mother earth can do this one all by herself, as the evidence shows she has done before. Some folks think that this is what killed the dinosaurs, although many think that an asteroid precipitated that (Which could also happen again).
    4. Old fashioned ice age: Mother earth can produce climate change all on her own. She has done it many times before, and the next time is a question of when not if. Again, if we can't grow food to feed billions of us many of us will die. Those who are in the best position to feed themselves will be most likely to pass their genes on to future generations.

    All of this to say, basically, that it's not technology's effect on evolution that we should be worried about per se. Eventually, mother nature will have the last word, whether or not we press her hand.

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