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How Human Evolution Might Destroy Us

11 Mar

I read a few things this week that might get you thinking about where we might be going as a race.

I read the classic sci-fi novel ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G. Wells in which a scientist builds a time machine and travels 800,000 years into the future. Given the time scale, the Time Traveller naturally expects a world very different from our own. Like most people, he expects a highly advanced society with unimaginable technologies. Wells, on the other hand, wrote a very different future.

Timemachinebook

He describes how the human race has split into two species, neither of which are anything to look forward to. One species, the Eloi, essentially pushed the other, the Morlocks, underground to work for them. Over the generations, in the absence of any need for physical exertion, as diseases are eliminated and with the Morlocks providing for them, the Eloi gradually lose the need for strong bodies and intelligence in everyday life. As a result, they evolve to become almost childlike in both appearance and mentality. They have become victims of their own success by eliminating the problems that keep their minds and bodies active.

Then I read an article by Stephen Baxter in the BBC’s Focus science magazine (Apr, 2013) in which he discusses the possibility of human subspecies evolving. He mentions a few different ways in which this might happen such as colonies on different planets or genetic engineering. Regardless of how it happens, the most likely result of developing two human subspecies is war.

It is hoped that future humans will have the intelligence to avoid conflict but, looking at the state of the world today, this is debatable. Baxter references ‘On The Origin Of Species’ as saying that similar species, i.e. from the same genus (Homo for us humans), are in fact more like to conflict with each other as they are more likely to compete for the same resources. This is one of the most common explanations given for contributing to the demise of the Neanderthals.

neandertallica-art

Even today, this strikes a chord as conflict between human races and nationalities are often over competition for resources. For example, immigrants are often given a hard time for ‘taking our jobs’ or ‘our women’, sometimes leading to conflict.

Given the fate of the Eloi in ‘The Time Machine’, is it wise that we can have food delivered to our door, use machines to carry us on long journeys (and short ones) or that we depend so heavily on electronics to do much of our thinking for us such as remembering important dates and relying on them to remind us of them?

By using technology to make our lives easier, are we slowly making ourselves dumber and weaker as a race?

And if there is ever another species to compete with, will we have the capacity to outsmart them? Or will we go the way of the Neanderthals – into the history books? Or the way of the Morlocks – into slavery?

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3 responses to “How Human Evolution Might Destroy Us

  1. davidnfisher

    March 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Memory is definitely being harmed by smart phones doing it for us, but then I wonder if early man thought our natural ability to withstand the cold was being harmed by the first clothes? As long as Google doesn’t end up owning all my memories i think it’ll be ok!

    Also I would’ve thought that if the human race were to diverge into sub-species it would’ve happened before the age of cross continent travel and stuff making gene flow between populations so easy? Interesting idea though, as a ginger I worry about going extinct..

     
    • The Gazebo Effect

      March 11, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      You make a good point. I remember reading somewhere that it might be the polar opposite of genetic divergence. With all the global travelling and inter-racial breeding, we may be heading towards a situation where the entire human race have one generic tanned look.
      Not good news for the ginger minority. I hear extinction might be on the cards for your people.

       
  2. Alex Autin

    March 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Interesting post! Isn’t evolution and extinction inevitable? If we do go the way of the Neanderthals, wouldn’t it be more due to an inability to adapt rather than a direct reliance on technology? In order for technology itself to advance we have to be capable of developing it which implies adaptation. Yes, human evolution may destroy ‘us’, however, I’m not sure this is such a bad thing. Loved the Neandertallica illistration!

     

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