Saturday, February 18, 2006

Human Evolution: The Future

“Human evolution at the crossroads: Genetics, cybernetics complicate forecast for species”

Read article.

By Alan Boyle, Science editor, MSNBC
Updated: May 2, 2005

Excerpts:

The evolutionary future of humans:

“Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says it's the question he's most often asked, and "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade."”

“In the book "Future Evolution," University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward argues that we are making ourselves virtually extinction-proof by bending Earth's flora and fauna to our will.”

“"The big thing that people overlook when speculating about human evolution is that the raw matter for evolution is variation," he said. "We are going to lose that variability very quickly, and the reason is not quite a genetic argument, but it's close. At the moment we humans speak something on the order of 6,500 languages. If we look at the number of languages we will likely pass on to our children, that number is 600."”

“Global epidemics or dramatic environmental changes represent just two of the scenarios that could cause a Unihuman society to crack, putting natural selection — or perhaps not-so-natural selection — back into the evolutionary game. Then what?”

“If different populations develop in isolation over many thousands of generations, it’s conceivable that separate species would emerge. For example, that virus-resistant strain of post-humans might eventually thrive in the wake of a global bioterror crisis, while less hardy humans would find themselves quarantined in the world’s safe havens.”

“Imagine improvements that could keep you in peak working condition past the age of 100. Those are the sorts of enhancements you might want to pass on to your descendants — and that could set the stage for reproductive isolation and an eventual species split-off.”

“[computer scientist Bill] Joy speculated that a truly intelligent robot may arise by the year 2030. “And once an intelligent robot exists, it is only a small step to a robot species — to an intelligent robot that can make evolved copies of itself,” he wrote.”

Books mentioned:

Future Evolution, Peter Ward, W. H. Freeman, 2001, ISBN: 0716734966

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells

Evolution (A Novel), Stephen Baxter, Orion Pub Co, 2002, ISBN: 0575073411

Radical Evolution : The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- and What It Means to Be Human, Joel Garreau, Doubleday, 2005, ISBN: 0385509650

TonySeb: Interesting article, superficial.

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