The Null Device

Homo Sapiens 2.0

An interesting MSNBC article speculating on the future of human evolution, and interviewing scientists including Richard Dawkins:

Some environmentalists say toxins that work like estrogens are already having an effect: Such agents, found in pesticides and industrial PCBs, have been linked to earlier puberty for women, increased incidence of breast cancer and lower sperm counts for men.

"One of the great frontiers is going to be trying to keep humans alive in a much more toxic world," he observed from his Seattle office. "The whales of Puget Sound are the most toxic whales on Earth. Puget Sound is just a huge cesspool. Well, imagine if that goes global."

If we count humanity's technology as part of the evolving package &emdash; the extended phenotype, as Dawkins called it &emdash; then that will become part of the future of humanity, even if only due to the inevitable increase in pollution of an increasingly crowded Earth. Our descendants will have microscopic flotillas of nanobots in their bloodstreams, hunting down toxins and zapping proto-cancerous mutations. Perhaps corporations will remain the dominant species on earth, and the nanobots will be rented from the corporation that owns the patents for them; any human unlucky or imprudent enough to miss a payment can look forward to dying of massive organ failure, turning into a mass of tumours or having their suddenly naked immune system eaten alive by superbugs within 24 hours. Unless you live in the future's equivalent of Brazil or somesuch, in which case you'd get free open-source nanobots, considered by the America of the future to be pirated. But I digress.

Further on, the article speculates about whether humanity will diverge into different species, looking at Eloi/Morlocks scenarios, whether any sort of apocalyptic scenario could divide humanity into enough separate subgroups for them to evolve separately, and the question of body enhancement:

"You're talking about three different kinds of humans: the enhanced, the naturals and the rest," Garreau said. "The enhanced are defined as those who have the money and enthusiasm to make themselves live longer, be smarter, look sexier. That's what you're competing against."
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. Then there's all the rest of us, who don't get enhanced only because they can't. "They loathe and despise the people who do, and they also envy them."

Then there is the question of germline genetic engineering, which could create instant races of superhumans or monsters, the AI singularity and even the vaguely retro-sounding prospect of spacefaring.

There are 4 comments on "Homo Sapiens 2.0":

Posted by: memphet http:// Mon May 16 22:34:23 2005

eeehhh.. you can adapt to anything!

Posted by: gjw Tue May 17 00:49:17 2005

The important thing to always remember in any discussion of human evolution, is that natural selection is driven by fecundity. With "rich" people having fewer (often no) children, and poor people having more, the genes of the 3rd world are winning. Wealthy people can augment themselves all they want, but if they don't breed, and if the traits don't breed true, the "wild type" will win every time.

Posted by: acb Tue May 17 07:27:41 2005

Assuming that natural selection prevails over unnatural selection.

Posted by: memphet http:// Thu May 19 01:15:06 2005

it's all natural really... it's our illusion that we are a separate proccess...