How humans may, or may not, evolve in the future

November 25th, 2009 - 2:40 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic Washington, November 25 (ANI): An article in National Geographic News has made four predictions in which human beings may, or may not evolve in the future.

The first prediction is that human evolution has now come to a stop.

Natural selection, as outlined in Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, occurs when a genetic mutation is passed down through generations, because it affords some benefit.

Eventually, the mutation becomes the norm.

“But if populations aren’t isolated, crossbreeding makes it much less likely for potentially significant mutations to become established in the gene pool-and that’s exactly where we are now,” said anthropologist Ian Tattersall of New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

The second prediction is that human beings will continue to evolve, with plenty of evidence indicating that human evolution is far from over.

According to Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, Darwinian evolution in humans is actually speeding up.

He highlighted sexual selection through mate choice as one key driver.

“You still have powerful mate choice shaping mental traits, particularly traits that are needed to succeed economically and in raising kids,” Miller said.

“We’re also going to get stronger sexual selection, because the more advanced the technology gets, the greater an effect general intelligence will have on each individual’s economic and social success, because as technology gets more complex, you need more intelligence to master it,” he said.

The third prediction is that humans might achieve electronic immortality in the future.

A philosophy known as transhumanism sees humans taking charge of their evolution and transcending their biological limitations via technology.

Transhumanism raises a spectacular array of possibilities, from supersoldiers and new breeds of athletes to immortal beings who, having had their brains scanned atom by atom, transfer their minds to computers.

According to Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, in addition to living forever, “uploaded” beings would be able to “travel at the speed of light as an information pattern,” download themselves into robots for the occasional stroll through the real world, think faster when running on advanced operating systems, and cut their food budget down to zero.

The fourth prediction is that since humans need isolation to evolve, establishing colonies on different planets might spark off further evolution.

If, in the far distant future, habitable planets beyond our solar system were colonized by Earth migrants, that could provide the necessary isolation for new human species to evolve.

“If we had spacefaring people who went on one-way voyages to distant stars, that might be enough to trigger speciation,” said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (ANI)

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