Technology is progressing rapidly, and it is changing the way we live, work and play. New inventions are happening, and new paradigms are born almost every day. Conventional concepts we are used to as a human race for decades or even centuries are being disrupted by cutting edge technology.
Just half a century ago, computers were only surfacing and were used for particular scientific or research work, but today they are found all around us. We see, and experience computing power around us in all shapes, sizes, and types. There are small and portable ones like in smartphones. There are big ones like desktops and mainframes. And lately, with innovative devices like Google Glass or Snap Spectacles – this computing power has also invaded our wearable devices.
Whether we like this technological revolution or not – we can clearly see how it is affecting our daily lives. But an interesting question arises – what are long-term effects of this revolution? I am not talking a decade or a century from now – instead what are the implicit Individuals who win the actions on a human evolutionary timeline – which could span millennia.
Technology is changing the patterns of our life. There was a time when we were very physically active, but now we rely on devices to do most of our work. The changes in our behavioral patterns and adaptations that are caused by these technological advances could prove to be the primary driving forces behind the next stage of evolution for our species.
Charles Darwin proposed that evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations – which could happen over eons or within few centuries. This process of evolution relies on the process of natural selection. Charles’ theory of evolution is based on the idea that all species gradually change over time. The complex process of evolution relies on there being a genetic variation in a population which affects the physical characteristics of an organism. Some of these characteristics may give the individual an advantage over other members of the same species which they can then pass on to their offspring. This process of continuously adopting advantageous characteristics by subsequent generations is called “natural selection.”
Individuals who win the evolutionary lottery and have the characteristics best suited to their environment are more likely to survive, finding food, avoiding predators and resisting disease. These members of the species are more likely to reproduce and pass their genes on to their children.
But the losers in this race that are poorly adapted to their environment are less likely to survive and reproduce. Therefore their genes are less likely to be passed on to the next generation.
As a result, the individual members of a particular species who are most suited to their environment survive and, given enough time, the species will gradually evolve.
Darwin termed this process “survival of the fittest.”
Even though Darwin’s theory has been able to explain the evolutionary cycles of many species including homo sapiens – it seems like it is proving to be ineffective as of late especially when it comes to humans. And this phenomenon could be directly attributed to the increasing power of technology in the field of healthcare. Multiple deadly diseases have been completely eradicated by the use of sophisticated cures like anti-biotics. As a result, even the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us can live their lives relatively comfortably. In some case, they can also reproduce with advanced techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF). So the phenomenon of the survival of the fittest is no longer at work here.
Instead, the evolution is occurring in two other ways
Most of the mainstream medical cures, drugs, and surgical procedures are available and accessible to a vast majority of the population (except for an unfortunate segment of the global population who still do not have access to affordable and reliable healthcare). But for the sake of argument – let’s assume every human being is given an environment to survive and live a healthy life.
Even with these universal advantages – we see every individual is slightly different. Some of us can adapt, and trust technology much better and faster while others are slower to embrace these changes. These traits that make one person more efficient in the modern world as compared to others. These adaptability traits could affect the quality of life of the individuals and other factors like their financial status and place in the contemporary world. As a result, even a person with a slight physical disadvantage but with robust mental capabilities can flourish in this world.
On the other hand, a lot of the physically demanding obligations have been taken off our plates. We no longer have to hunt for our food. We no longer have to fight off formidable predators on a daily basis. The physical stresses and demands on our bodies have greatly decreased. Machines have taken the intensive work role in industries, agriculture, and transport.
The mental capabilities are the distinguishing factors in the current world. With the decreased emphasis on physical prowess, the mind is the center of attention. It is the human mind that designs and operates the automatic machines. Our minds are processing information at ever increasing speeds. Through the generations – we can bank upon this knowledge and pass it from generation to generation in the form of written or oral word and text. Thus the human race is progressively building upon its collective experience at an accelerated pace. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the human mind is slowly evolving to adapt to this world of automation, complexity and know-how.
Evolution itself is a slow natural process. But by observing this phenomenon in several species over extensive periods of time – there are predictions we can make about its likely course.
As we determined above, the human mind is the organ that is being used most extensively in the current world.
From complex computations in the workplace to the rapid decision making we need to execute on a daily basis.
While the analyzing part of the brain is used for a multitude of reasons, the information retaining a portion of the brain is facing many issues. The amount of information which is thrown at us is growing at an astonishing rate. The various sensors which surround us informing us about our current surroundings; news and social media which are bombarding us with information about current affairs in the world; a plethora of choices we have to make about what to eat, drink and stay healthy. All this information is like drinking from a big fat firehose. This explosion in information is quite detrimental to comprehend, store and analyze all this information.
It is, therefore, probable that our human brain may evolve based on these two factors. Over time human brain may actually start to favor its analyzing power and rely less on its capability to retain information (because this capability is already provided to us by computers). This is analogous to saying that humans will get better CPUs and RAM but relatively smaller hard disk space.
Additionally, there may also be a considerable effect on other organs and limbs. For instance, our hands, legs, and feet may undergo a huge change. Our past generations used hands for physical labor to hunt for food and build a shelter. We used our legs and feet to migrate and follow our food from continent to continent. But now we are using these ambulatory organs for much less tedious chores. So it is highly probable that they may come changes to these organs to make them more efficient in their use.
A great example of this was put forward by Melbourne artist Patricia Piccinini who built “Graham” – an interactive, life-size sculpture of a future human who has adapted well to travel in fast vehicles and have unique abilities to survive crashes.
Transhumanism is a futurist concept which is analogous to artificial evolutionary process. It involves the studying of internal software of human body and tinkering with it for better results.
Humans didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They are products of evolution of millions of years. The current human genome is the result of countless mutations that occurred before the appearance of modern humans some 200,000 years and after it. Some of those mutations were really beneficial and lasted for a long time while some were outright bad or only situationally good.
The tinkering with the genetic setup of a human for removal of any inefficient mutations and insertion of useful and better genes comes under transhumanism. In addition to ineffective mutations, there are also some mutations which are outright harmful and can cause different diseases and conditions. Transhumanism deals with these mutations and increases the lifespan of a person. Transhumanism is an active counter to aging. It makes a person smarter, stronger and energetic.
Genetic engineering is not all that there is to Transhumanism. There are many other technologies that are enhancing the physical and mental capabilities of human beyond what is biologically possible. Google Glass and bionic body parts are good examples of this. Google Glass gave cognitive information to one’s mind that is not humanly possible to gather in such rapid time frame in real time. On the other hand, bionic arms and legs allow a person to tolerate loads that aren’t achievable by normal humans.
In the end, we can say that human evolutionary cycles will definitely be affected by this rapid growth in technological advancements. These technologies have already significantly changed the patterns of life thus making the standard evolution considerably fast. People of all physical strengths and capabilities can live healthy and fruitful lives; making it possible for their mental genes to mutate and create a better result. Additionally, artificial evolution is also not too far off in the future, and soon people might be able to select the different characteristics of their offspring like mental capabilities, physique, and energy levels.