Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution 398

Posted by Soulskill
from the already-banned-in-kansas dept.
movesguy sends us to The Daily Galaxy for comments by Stephen Hawking about how humans are evolving in a different way than any species before us. Quoting: "'At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information. I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race,' Hawking said. In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, 'an external transmission phase,' where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. 'But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage,' Hawking says, 'has grown enormously. Some people would use the term evolution only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution

Comments Filter:
  • What's his point? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i-like-burritos (1532531) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:05PM (#28576991)
    This is basically just a useless semantics argument.
    • by Swizec (978239) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:33PM (#28577127) Homepage
      Every social scientist in the world, and, well, pretty much EVERYONE in the world has heard the phrase "The evolution of society" at one point or another. Hawking is ... I don't know what he wanted to do. Humans as organisms aren't evolving (much), people are. So what exactly is new about his words?
      • Re:What's his point? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:02PM (#28577245) Journal

        Well, first of all, humans are still evolving. I understand Hawking's point, but he's understating one aspect of our species to overstate the other.

        I'll take his point, but I'll say none of this just began with literacy. The change in our evolution, if you can call it that, started with culture, and culture started a lot earlier than books, a lot earlier, in fact, than humans. Our closest relatives, the higher primates, show, to one degree or another, those abilities too.

        • by TheLink (130905) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:38PM (#28577463) Journal
          I agree, it did not begin with literacy, there was Culture and Religion way before literacy.

          Your consciousness depends on your collection of cells to work together as a _group_ (with the individual cells regularly making sacrifices for the benefit of the whole).

          But independent cells have done pretty fine for billions of years, without this newfangled "working together for the better of the whole" idea :). Are your poor little white blood cells and neurons doing that much better than protozoa? Do they even know "You" exist? Red blood cells don't even have a nucleus.

          Can Culture and Religion benefit the hosts? Or only some cultures and religions?
      • by Raffaello (230287) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:13AM (#28577609)

        Exactly. Apparently something that is very, very old news in social science circles [wikipedia.org] has just occurred to Hawking, so naturally, it must be a new idea, right?

        Miranda: How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!
        Prospero: 'Tis new to thee. (The Tempest, Act V:Sc. 1, line 183-184)

    • by ssintercept (843305) <ssintercept@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:12PM (#28577299) Journal
      these goddamn anti-semantic bastards!

      i didnt put my hand through my buddys guts at Normandy to hear you spew...

      ohhhhh...it means what????

      sorry....carry on...
    • Re:What's his point? (Score:2, Informative)

      by ldcroberts (747178) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @02:20AM (#28578205)
      His argument must be about genetic engineering. Some people might assume it's his view that external knowledge being part of evolution is what's different, but it's not - as anyone with any real contemplation will point out - external transfer of information has been happening in many other species for many millions of years. An example would be the documented case of Blue Tits pecking through milk bottle lids on doorsteps to get at the milk. One bird started it, others copied, new generations of birds observed and copied it. Information was passed down. http://www.britishbirdlovers.co.uk/articles/blue-tits-and-milk-bottle-tops.html [britishbirdlovers.co.uk]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:09PM (#28577005)

    ...the singularity is already here [wikipedia.org]...

  • Memes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orkysoft (93727) <{orkysoft} {at} {myrealbox.com}> on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:11PM (#28577015) Journal

    So he's talking about memes [wikipedia.org].

    • Re:Memes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fractal Dice (696349) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:34PM (#28577131) Journal

      A fun question to ask people is: "if you could only have one, which would you rather do: author a successful book or be parent to a successful child (raised by others)". The answers tell you whether the person sees themselves as a bundle of genes or as a bundle of memes.

      The overgrown human brain is just a big appendix the body provides as a home for symbiotic memes :)

      (obviously, it's not Hawkings' area of expertise so we expect to find people who have already had the idea)

      • Re:Memes (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:11PM (#28577297)

        That depends ... is the mom hot?
        Consequence-free sex wins every time.

      • Re:Memes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rdnetto (955205) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:26AM (#28577961)

        The answers tell you whether the person sees themselves as a bundle of genes or as a bundle of memes.

        You're making an assumption about their reasons for wanting to procreate. Given that the child would be successful, its possible that they could do far more than a single book could. For example, they could write many successful books, or be another Hawking, Einstein or Tesla.

        • Re:Memes (Score:4, Insightful)

          by metlin (258108) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:17AM (#28578399) Journal

          Or you could do both - John Stuart Mill [wikipedia.org] is the perfect example.

          James Mill wanted his son to carry on the mantle of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarian philosophy, and John is probably one of the greatest philosophers of our times.

          So, there is no reason you cannot do both - James Mill was a great thinker in his own right (as was Jeremy Bentham); and them raising John the way they did created a true genius.

          If only everyone raised their kids thus... imagine how far humanity would go.

      • Re:Memes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:31AM (#28577981) Homepage Journal

        A fun question to ask people is: "if you could only have one, which would you rather do: author a successful book or be parent to a successful child (raised by others)". The answers tell you whether the person sees themselves as a bundle of genes or as a bundle of memes.

        Only if you assume that people's main goal in life is to reproduce themselves or achieve immortality in some regard.

        Me, I'd rather be a parent to a child, because I've had more fun playing with kids and doing family activities than I've ever had writing, or talking to a group of people. I've heard a few writers talk about going on book tours and it sounds like hell. Also, fame seems to be universally hellish, unless the person is emotionally sick enough that they can't feel good from normal situations, but need the adoration of nameless strangers.

        So my main thrust in life is to enjoy myself. At some point all of my progeny will die out ( if I ever have any ) and certainly all my writings and recorded thoughts will be obliterated. I don't worry too much about the future.

      • by bennomatic (691188) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:35AM (#28578007) Homepage
        I was once told that a man hasn't truly lived until he's planted a tree, written a book and fathered a child.

        I can point to dozens of trees around the Portland metro area that I've helped plant, including one in my front yard which is doing great. My son is fourteen weeks old, so that one's in progress.

        Now if I just had something interesting to say, I'd get started on that book. Of course, I'm in no hurry to finish *all* my tasks...
      • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:08AM (#28578595)

        Of course it is "fun" because it is a false dichotomy. It is a rare exception to not have both when you want to. (What do you mean "raised by others"? That makes no sense! Then you would not be the parent. You would only be the genitor.)

    • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:12AM (#28578619)

      Oh you mean that other kind, that has nothing to do with that car analogy of a beowulf cluser of soviet russian goatse clods, dawg?

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:12PM (#28577019)

    Memes. [wikipedia.org]

    Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist of some note, coined the term to describe the ideas that people create, that reproduce in much the same way genes do.

    This came from his earlier ideas of a "selfish gene [slashdot.org]" to postulate that genes existed to propagate themselves, which helped to describe a lot of aspects of evolutionary development, from altruism to various kinds of suicidal behavior. In other words, it isn't the lifeform itself that is important in the reproductive cycle, so much as the information they pass along.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:14PM (#28577031)
    This is a fairly accepted view among cultural anthropologists, who pay their bills by digging up ancient cultures and studying the progression of ideas, religions, and technologies. One guy, whose name I forget, but whose paper they made me read in Anthropology 101 made the comparison between hardware and software evolution. In more modern terms, Windows, Linux, OSX, etc, all run on the nearly ~30-year-old x86 CPU, but no one is going to say that computer programs now are where they were 30 years ago, just because the instruction set hasn't changed much.
    • by TheLink (130905) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:13PM (#28577305) Journal
      But computer programs aren't that different compared to 30 years ago.

      Just look at the operating systems:

      Unix is pretty old. When you strip away the "transparent windows" and flashy glitz, the popular desktop computer O/Ses (Linux/OSX/Windows) are just as primitive as stuff 30 years ago.

      And look up the "Mother of all Demos" - they had real time video conferencing, working together with a remote user over a WAN on the same document. So many innovative concepts, 40+ years ago.

      The hardware available then naturally limited these pioneers, I'm sure they had plenty more they could think of but could not implement.

      Linux - just Unix revisited.
      Mac - The WIMP from PARC finally makes its way to the public (note the scrollbar was invented in 1977).
      Windows 95/2K- ok the taskbar was nice (I think the Acorn had it first).
      Windows XP - whoopee a new colour scheme, and some rearrangements, no big improvements
      Windows Vista - I can't say this is a big improvement, in many ways the user experience is worse.
      KDE/GNOME - basically the same old thing as "X" years ago, now with Wobbly Windows and stuff copied from Windows 95.

      As for apps, the spreadsheet was a decent leap 30+ years ago. The browser? Go look at the Demo again and look up the history of hypertext. DTP? I dunno...

      The Lisp fanatics will say stuff is just as primitive as it was 50 years ago, if not more primitive ;).
      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:25AM (#28577681)

        I think this highly oversimplifies things.

        Yes, many "mechanical" things about computer software hasn't changed that much in 30-40 years. The C language is 40 years old and still is the language of choice for many things. Most other languages are similarly imperative, if not downright derived from C (functional languages, while at least as old, never really caught on much). Operating systems still basically work the same way: they allow separate processes with isolated memory, separate users, restricted access to hardware by programs, preemptive multitasking, etc. Even GUIs aren't that new, since the WIMP interface was invented by PARC in the 70s.

        What's new is all the high-level stuff done with it: having an internet that not only connects universities, but is accessible by everyone from their home or their mobile phone. Buying stuff on the internet, communicating with each other on Facebook, etc. The thing that's changed is who uses this technology, and what they use it for.

        When I was in high school in 1989, the only people that had computers at home were either adults who needed them for work, or geeks like me. Most people didn't have computers, and thought anyone that spent their spare time on a computer instead of watching some crap on TV were crazy. Now, every knucklehead has a computer and knows how to use the internet. People spend all kinds of time screwing around on sites like MySpace and Facebook. So many people read the news online that newspapers are going out of business left and right. All kinds of people are using Craigslist to buy and sell stuff locally, or to meet each other.

        As for apps, the spreadsheet was a decent leap 30+ years ago. The browser? Go look at the Demo again and look up the history of hypertext. DTP? I dunno...

        Actually, browsers have evolved a lot in the last 15 years. They started out as just a way to display marked-up text, and now they're a way to not only show all kinds of data (text and video), but a way to interact with other systems. For instance, look at Google Maps, or other AJAX apps. That's not static data, it's basically a way of running an application remotely. IMO, the whole HTTP legacy of web browsers is holding them back. The entire way interactive web pages are written now seems like a giant kludge, when for many things it seems like it'd be simpler to just write an app in C++ or Java or whatever, run it on the remote server, and display it remotely on the user's computer.

        • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:54AM (#28577835) Journal
          OK, to show you my POV - here's what I consider a big change- when humans get virtual telepathy, telekinesis and augmented brains.

          This is already being crudely done with mobile phones (communications and buying of stuff via vending machines).

          And the tech is already there for:
          1) humans (and other creatures) to control stuff just by thinking.
          2) adding extra senses (google for "seeing tongue")
          3) Small cams, microphones etc

          Once you can do it safely and reliably, add some clever software and you can use "thought macros"[1] to control stuff and communicate.

          You could then take a picture/video of something, tell your e-brain to save it and associate it with a particular thought pattern so that when you rethink that particular pattern the object is retrieved, and you can also send it to someone else[2].

          Then humans, computing and culture would enter a new stage of evolution...

          As it is, you can show me all that fancy AJAX and I'll just go "meh". Yes all that is very nice and useful, but looking at what's possible with the current state of the art I'd call that "underperforming" ;). In contrast Douglas Engelbart and gang really stretched the limits of technology in the 1960s.

          Then again maybe it was a waste of resources and we would still have what we have today even if he and his bunch didn't do all that? Oh well, I'm just getting rather impatient though :).

          [1] I bet nobody's thought patterns are the same - so you'd have to "train" the program to recognize thought macros.
          [2] Trouble of course is the **AA might have something to say about that and want to collect toll on each retrieval and share. I wouldn't like that particular evolutionary path.
      • The Lisp fanatics will say stuff is just as primitive as it was 50 years ago, if not more primitive ;).

        One good CDADDDR deserves another!

  • ten thousand years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:26PM (#28577089) Journal
    Ten thousand years is only 400 twenty-five year generations. That's not a lot of time for any significant alteration in how our evolution works, especially considering the millions of years it took to get us this far in the first place. Perhaps Dr. Hawking should stick to theoretical physics.

    Of course having said that, he's a father, grandfather, world famous author, and Nobel prize winning genius, despite being a wheelchair bound victim of neuromuscular dystrophy who can barely speak, whereas I am single, childless, and broke, despite being relatively healthy.
    • by Swizec (978239) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:36PM (#28577139) Homepage
      Clearly you need to impair yourself physically to allow your brain to develop. See, blindness develops your ears, deafnes develops your eyes, and physical disability develops your brain.<br><br>Why do you think all the best graders in primary school suck at sports and get picked on? This is why.
    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:06PM (#28577265)
      Ten thousand years is only 400 twenty-five year generations. That's not a lot of time for any significant alteration in how our evolution works...

      Not true, at all. I recall reading about a study (in Russia, iirc) where scientists attempted to breed a specific trait into wild foxes. They went through a program of selective breeding and in _seven_ generations, they successfully altered the genetic traits of the animal. Seven. So, 400 generations is _PLENTY_ of time for evolution to alter our species in meaningful ways given that it can be accomplished (admittedly, in a controlled environment) in just 7.

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:06PM (#28577275)
      I think you are missing his point... what I hear is that the "external store" is an essentially new phenomenon on earth that has been exponentially growing for the last few hundred years, and that we, as a species, are evolving through development of the external store rather than changing our DNA.

      Interestingly enough, within the next 25 year generation, that external store will likely become powerful enough to enable us to rewrite our DNA in meaningful ways, potentially bypassing millions of years of Darwinian evolution... unless SkyNet takes over.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:22AM (#28577665)

      That's one of the key points of cultural evolutionary theories: culture evolves MUCH faster than genes. Even if we allowed the full force of natural selection to determine our physical evolution, our culture changes so much faster that our physical evolution is essentially static in comparison. A cultural "generation" isn't anything like 25 years.

    • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:42AM (#28577777)
      With all due respect to Dr. Hawking, the idea that humanity evolves differently from other species is nothing new amongst paleontologists and evolutionary biologists.

      Most plant and animal species evolve by natural selection (or mutation, or whatever the current fad alternative theory is) over generations and hundreds of years. If local climate becomes colder, mammals with favorable cold adaptations such as thicker coats gain a selective advantage. Over time, the gene for thick coats becomes fixed in the population. For humans, if it starts to get cold out, we put on a coat. Or we build insulated enclosures that feature heated swimming pools.

      Because of our ability to alter the environment, communicate abstract ideas, and store information outside our genetic code, humanity is able to adapt to environmental changes in real time, rather than geologic time. Its still evolution - change over time, adapting to new environmental factors - but much faster.

      And, more often than not, the environmental changes are of our own making. We adapt to new technologies, new life styles, and new information as society progresses. Those adaptations spread quickly through the social environment via education and mass communication. You need to use a blackberry to be successful in your new job, but you're not sure if you inherited the texting gene from your parents? No need to mate with a slashdotter and pass the job off to your kids, just read the instruction manual!
    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @02:30AM (#28578241)
      Thats about how long it took to make a wolf look like a chihuahua. I'd say that's plenty of time.
      • by 7Prime (871679) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:05AM (#28578587) Homepage Journal

        Thats about how long it took to make a wolf look like a chihuahua. I'd say that's plenty of time.

        Ahhh, but through careful selective breeding. Breeding can increase evolutionary speed by about 1000 fold. It's not fair to compare the selective breeding of a species to natural selection.

        You can make a wolf into a chihuahua in probably less than 20 generations (20-40 years), if you have a big enough starting pool and know what to look for.

  • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:28PM (#28577103)

    We are more than just our genes

    Yes, but we must be willing to use that knowledge to improve human chances for long-term survival, not to counteract the evolution just to feel good. If we take the latter course of action, as it is trendy to do, we are in effect using our evolutionary advantage against ourselves.

  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:39PM (#28577147)

    Errrgghh.... Stephen Hawking said something that bothered me. I feel weird.....

    Now, I am not a biologist, or even in the field. I have read The Selfish Gene, and consider myself up on evolutionary theory....

    OK. There are several misconceptions about evolution that drive me nuts. Why? Because it's incredibly important to understand, as it helps explain so much about life on this planet. It hurts me that people accept the Law of Gravity, but poke at the evolutionary process....

    Ok... Misconceptions.
    1. Evolution has a goal.
    It doesn't. We are not going to transcend or become ultimate beings. No. It just adapts critters to their environment. What's neat is that critters adapt to each other, together. Think about that, and ecosystems, and all that web of life stuff for a while and it's pretty neat.

    2. Evolution is critter-centric.
    We are simply carriers for genese. Evolution is gene centric. Most of your genes are useless to you. Stuff that is stupid at a critter level can make perfect sense at a gene level. Those little bastards are using us, and don't care about us at all, as long as we breed.

    3. Survival of the fittest.
    It's survival of the breediest, not necessarily of the fittest.

    4. Evolution works through mutation.
    Errrrgghh... I disagree with Stephen Hawking. Ok, mutation helps, but you know what? Evolution doesn't need it. Most mutations result in a f*kup, not something useful. Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

    I feel weird....

    -Tony

    • by russotto (537200) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:48PM (#28577181) Journal

      We are simply carriers for genese. Evolution is gene centric. Most of your genes are useless to you. Stuff that is stupid at a critter level can make perfect sense at a gene level. Those little bastards are using us, and don't care about us at all, as long as we breed.

      Don't anthropomorphize genes; they don't like it.

      Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

      Evolution also needs variation. Mutation is one mechanism which provides that (though not the only one).

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:08PM (#28577285) Homepage
      No, it's not necessarily "survival of the breediest". The breediest does not survive in the long term if that population growth alters its habitat beyond its ability to adapt. Examples of this can be found at the cellular level (e.g. cancer cells breeding out of control may kill the organism, including the cancer) and at the cellular-phone-using level (e.g. H. Sapiens breeding out of control crowds out too much CO2-eating vegetation adds too much CO2 into the air, causing the greenhouse effect and its own eventual extinction).
    • Hawking is talking about cultural adaptation, which isn't a new concept. What's (relatively) new is the realization that human evolution has continued into historic times [nationalgeographic.com]. So, Homo gets three bites at the apple: a chance to adapt via culture, enabling it to survive in environments that would otherwise select against it; adapt via thus far dormant or undesirable existing genetic characteristics; and adapt via continuing random mutation (most of which will continue to be undesirable for a given situation).

    • 4. Evolution works through mutation.
      Errrrgghh... I disagree with Stephen Hawking. Ok, mutation helps, but you know what? Evolution doesn't need it. Most mutations result in a f*kup, not something useful. Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

      I feel weird....

      -Tony

      Not only are you weird you are wrong on this point, though you were more or less right
      on your first three. Evolution operates on variation. The ultimate source of variation is mutation. The fundamental source of mutation is radiation and other events at a quantum mechanical level. Therefore evolution is stochastic. Without mutation while their could be some limited evolution by genetic rearrangements, however there could no longer be any evolution of proteins which is the real driver of evolutionary change.

      Does that explain it simply enough.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:28AM (#28577709)

      No, evolution needs mutation. From dictionary.com:

      mutation: a sudden departure from the parent type in one or more heritable characteristics, caused by a change in a gene or a chromosome.

      Mutation isn't simply a random base pair getting smacked by a gamma ray, it's all the processes that randomly change our DNA, from those gamma rays to copying errors. Yes, mutation by itself makes for crappy, slow, probably unworkable evolution. But without mutation there is no way to introduce novelty into the genome - you end up just shuffling the same genes over and over. Except that without mutation you wouldn't even have genes.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:01PM (#28577241) Homepage

    But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.

    Take that line a step further and you get transhumanism. We are no longer an isolated life form, but are inherently coupled with our tools. Tools that extend our minds around the planet. The Internet.

    Books are cool, but they're pretty uni-directional. Wikipedia is cooler, updating our knowledge base in real time. Twitter is even faster; a brain extension so fast and light that it recently fomented revolution.

    Yeah, we're past genes. What's more, we're rapidly passing static tools like rocks, newspapers, and books. Our minds are connected to each other in real-time, planet-wide. Our individual minds are gaining connectivity to the hive mind and extending our capabilities, much as our giant neocortex lifted us above the other animals.

    See: Transhumanism [wikipedia.org]

  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:02PM (#28577243)

    Life isn't just about passing on your genes.
    We can leave behind much more than just DNA.
    Through speech, music, literature and movies...
    what we've seen, heard, felt ...anger, joy and sorrow...
    these are the things I will pass on.
    That's what I live for.
    We need to pass the torch,
    and let our children read our messy and sad history by its light.
    We have all the magic of the digital age to do that with.
    The human race will probably come to an end some time,
    and new species may rule over this planet.
    Earth may not be forever,
    but we still have the responsibility to leave what traces of life we can.
    Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:04PM (#28577253) Journal

    ... and use higher and higher levels of abstraction [abstractionphysics.net] so to communicate and develope more and more refined technology that will someday allow us to advance beyond where we can see ourselves going today. To the point of enabling us to create a black hole for the purpose of its rebound effect of creating a galaxy so as to continue on the expansion of the universe for the insurance of the continuation of conscious life.... to repeat the process.

    One of the things I have noticed about our evolution is that it seems to be related to population growth. As our population grows we face new problems that we must adapt to and this generally leads to advancements in social development. One recorded event is the story of the tower of Babylon and how the population growth and specialization grew to the point of a bicameral mind break down [julianjaynes.org] that lead to expansion and now so long after, we have come back together in population growth with further advancements.

    Another interesting analogy or extension of this process is that of open source software where branching projects off to eventually bring the best of the branches back together.... and its all based on, in essence, Abstraction Physics [abstractionphysics.net] of code development. Where the difference between human to human language and human to machine to human, is automation of human created abstractions...

  • by rlseaman (1420667) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:08PM (#28577279)

    Stephen Jay Gould told an anecdote about Richard Feynman excitedly announcing that he had discovered new principles of evolution. On inspection they turned out to be either well known findings or well known fallacies. Basically he was largely ignorant of the literature in the field. It says more about physicists than about evolution that he would deem himself qualified to wade into the fray with such minimal preparation.

    It is not surprising that Stephen Hawking, another great physicist, similarly feels empowered to speculate about evolution without apparently having read Richard Dawkin's popular works. Others have mentioned memes, but Dawkin's notion of the extended phenotype might be even more pertinent. Hawkings appears to be taking the notion of the meme to the extreme of thinking that species evolution is now relying on actual gene analogues outside our physical corpus. Rather, our genes remain internal, but their somatic expression is external to ourselves.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:48AM (#28577813)

      "Stephen Jay Gould told an anecdote about Richard Feynman excitedly announcing that he had discovered new principles of evolution. On inspection they turned out to be either well known findings or well known fallacies. Basically he was largely ignorant of the literature in the field."

      If you know anything at all about the incredibly high level of intellectual honesty Feynman held himself to, this statement would sound absurdly out of character for him. In the absence of a citation, I call bullshit on your specious anecdote.

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:37AM (#28578013) Homepage Journal
      You've said in a very nice and kind way what I would have said in a more blunt way. Stephen Hawking is a very smart, well-educated guy in a highly specified field. Because of his fame and renown as a smart guy, he feels qualified to talk about whatever underdeveloped thoughts come into his head. I'm sure he's spent a lot of time thinking about this, and formulating his thesis, but he hasn't gone through the humbling process of learning what other smart people who can come before him have said. When I started college, I knew it all. When I left, I knew nothing.
  • by binaryspiral (784263) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:09PM (#28577293)

    If Hawking is saying our evolution is now dependent on our (for most people) public education system... we're fucked.

    Pack your bags, it's Idiocracy time.

  • by etherlad (410990) <[ianwatson] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:26PM (#28577397) Homepage

    Sir Stephen Hawking is a very smart man, and I have the utmost respect for him.

    However, he should stick to the areas of his expertise and let biologists talk about evolution, because that's their area of expertise.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to take Dr. Richard Dawkins' thoughts on quantum mechanics as definitive, and this is no different.

    • by DrGamez (1134281) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:55PM (#28577537)
      If a brilliant man who talks like a robot says something - I'm pretty sure I'll listen. It's just THAT cool.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:15AM (#28577621)
      Oh for fuck sakes. The man has a brainstorm, and you feel he's out in left field. Apparently the man has touched on a subject that biologists have been discussing for a while now, and he did it without any substantial background in biology or the study of evolution. I doubt he was expecting another nobel prize for this. You say you have respect for him, but you don't have basic respect for intellect, so I doubt your disclaimer whole heartedly.
    • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:18AM (#28577637)

      Makes one wonder about folks that take Dr. Richard Dawkin's thoughts on theology as definitive, doesn't it?

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:35AM (#28577741)

      Hawking is more or less repeating ideas that others have come up with, as others have pointed out, but your post is pointless. If you disagree with someone, Hawking or otherwise, make a cogent argument refuting theirs. "He's a physicist and this is biology" is just a slightly mangled appeal to authority - a logical fallacy.

      Ironically, Hawking is saying many of the same things that Dawkins has said.

      • by Michael_gr (1066324) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:55AM (#28578555)
        Just the opposite. etherlad is pointing out that automatically believing something Hawking says, just because "he's a famous scientist", is a logical fallacy in itself. Hawking is not a biologist and therefore is unlikely to have made any actual research, theoretical work or experiment regarding evolution or memes. Therefore, what he said was probably just opinion. No better than anyone else's. And, as other people said, it's not even a new idea, and certainly it isn't HIS idea. So why is it even news? I don't know.
      • by jipn4 (1367823) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:43AM (#28580463)

        "He's a physicist and this is biology" is just a slightly mangled appeal to authority - a logical fallacy.

        Why do you think anybody listens to Hawking in the first place? Because he is famous. If he weren't, nobody would give a damn what he had to say about biology. Refuting him on biology is no more worthwhile than refuting the guys at the Creation Science institute on biology.

    • by tyroneking (258793) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:52AM (#28578757)

      Sorry but you're so wrong.
      1) Hawking is very very smart and it is likely that he has very good ideas about many branches of science beyond his own. It's not beyond possibility that he has more knowledge than most about more than one field is it?
      2) There is a clear connection between what Hawking has to say about some part of human evolution occurring externally to the human form (in information stored externally) and the idea that information crossing the event horizon of black hole is preserved and emitted back out (IANAP so forgive any error I may have made here).

    • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @08:56AM (#28579503) Journal

      Sir Stephen Hawking is a very smart man, and I have the utmost respect for him.

      However, he should stick to the areas of his expertise and let biologists talk about evolution, because that's their area of expertise.

      I wouldn't expect anyone to take Dr. Richard Dawkins' thoughts on quantum mechanics as definitive, and this is no different.

      This is a pure ad-hominem attack. You show absolutely no understanding of the message, you don't even mention it with one single word, but you feel you can bash the messenger.

      The interesting fact is, Hawkings has not even taken on genetics itself (of which he is no expert), he states taht human evolution is determined by more than just genes, as we are a species that leaves behind us more information than just what is stored in our genes. So he wasn't even talking from the podium of a geneticist; his was a larger-picture stance looking at humankind as more than just an animal species.

  • by doti (966971) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:43AM (#28577787) Homepage

    So, he is comparing the natural (genetic) evolution with our intellectual (externally carried information) evolution.

    Then, we could compare the stages:

    speech <==> multi-cellular organisms
    writing <==> central nervous system
    printing <==> dry-land vertebrades
    internet <==> ???

    What's next?

  • by littlewink (996298) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:57AM (#28577843)
    An organism interacts with it's environment by slightly modifying it's behavior. That behavior alters the environment, sometimes radically. Sometimes a positive feedback loop is established between organism and environment that causes unusully rapid evolutionary change. Man is the most extreme case of niche construction . See Niche Construction [nicheconstruction.com] for details.
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:04AM (#28578583)

    Because the more we are, the less does any single person need to know, to survive and successfully reproduce.

    Also we have two types of reproduction now: The genetic one. And the reproduction of thoughts and ideas.
    So you can leave children in this world. But you can also leave a philosophy/mindset that changed people. (Or both.)

  • by senorpoco (1396603) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:51AM (#28578751)
    I for one welcome our new human overlords.
  • by j1mmy (43634) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @07:07AM (#28579147) Journal

    the modern ability to manage and/or cure a number of life-threatening conditions is greatly impacting the evolution of our species as well. people who would never have made it to adulthood a century ago are now passing on their crappy genes to their kids.

Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too." -- Dave Haynie

Working...