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Revolution of Evolution: Mankind’s Evolution Ceases… or Increases?

It seems the question over human evolution–and perhaps more importantly, how (or if) it will continue–is on the table yet again. Coinciding with a Time Magazine cover story proclaiming the year 2045 as the “The Year Man Becomes Immortal,” famous professor of theoretical physics Michio Kaku made some rather surprising statements during a recent video blog, in response to a recent question as to whether humans have “stopped evolving.”

“If you read science fiction you might think that humans in the future will be slender, short, bald, with big heads and big eyes that sort of the stereotype that you get from the comic books,” Kaku said, (not the obvious reference to popular “Gray Aliens” that are prolific throughout abductee lore). However, when it comes to how humans will adapt and change, Kaku suggests there may be less change than we might expect, since humans are a product of our surroundings.

“In the old days, when we lived in the forests, there was enormous selection and pressures placed on us to develop a large brain, to understand how to use tools, to run, to be able to navigate, to survive in the forests. Enormous pressures on us because if you were not fit to live in the forest, you died.” True, there aren’t the sorts of pressures on humans that forged us into what we are today, as a result of our continuing adaptation. Hence, as Kaku says, “gross evolution, that is, evolution that will give us big brains, big eyes, bald heads and little bodies, that kind of gross evolution is pretty much gone.”

So in other words, we aren’t going to evolve into the sorts of “aliens” that we see buzzing around in flying saucers (scratch the “visitors from the future” hypothesis).

But perhaps there are in fact pressures on humankind today that are evolving and shaping us. While Kaku suggests that manipulation of humankind through genetic engineering may be a possibility a good ways down the road, the kinds of evolution taking place among the human species today may not be outwardly visible, like Kaku notes. Nonetheless, there could be potentials being crafted through the advancement of technology that will fundamentally restructure the way we think, act, and evolve, especially in terms of brain function and intelligence.

Consider the interactivity presented to us through social networking and the internet. Where communication was once something which, if not in person, took place initially via letters and eventually by telephone, now instant communication can occur in real time from points all around the globe. Think about it; if you’re active on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, some of your favorite people–individuals you may consider close friends–could also be folks you’ve never actually met!

The ways we interact with one another aren’t the only ways culture and technology are shaping us, however. Truth be known, perhaps these aren’t the most important among changes in interaction through technology, either (especially since, in terms of procreation and carrying on the physical aspects of a romantic relationship, there simply aren’t social networking apps for this… yet). As time has shaped societies and culture, technology has continued to mold us by virtue of the conveniences afforded us. Although there is no doubt that we can speculate on how our culture will change us decades (or even centuries) from now, it is arguable that humanity is still fairly in the dark about what kinds of technology might alter our “expected” progression hence forth. If we factor in the unexpected innovations of tomorrow, we might still fail to resemble “grays” in future decades… but we certainly won’t be the same humans we are today.

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  • Anonymous

    Kaku has wandered from his subject knowledge and looked pretty foolish. His interviews and books about physics and the mysteries of M-Theory have been fascinating. Evolution and natural selection are another matter! Maybe he was too busy building that particle accelerator at 14 to attend his biology classes?

    As you point out, we might not be getting chased by short-faced bears, but our environment is constantly changing. Decreasing Western sperm counts, increasing populations and climate change for example. Hell, we could get hit with something like the Black Death whereby those selected for immunity to plague survived the 1 in 3 who weren’t.

    Whatever happens there, I won’t be around to make the distinction.

  • Anonymous

    Natural selection only matters if it affects your reproductive efficiency. I fail to see how social media could do that, unless someone was particularly adept at “hooking up” online and carrying through, or one was so engrossed in the internet that they felt no need for live human companionship.

  • Wendy Collins

    Idiocracy becomes more like a documentary with each passing year.

    It’s got electrolytes.