Experts Tackle Question of How Humans Will Evolve


Here is another interesting article from Scientific American. In summary it considers whether human evolution has stopped, which is an interesting topic. All of us Sci-Fi writers imagine future worlds and many of our stories are about humanity in the distant future. Of course there are the stories about us developing huge brains or becoming ethereal in some sense. But what can it mean to the Sci-Fi community if we stop evolving?

The article talks about the historical mechanisms of evolution where populations that are separated will develop different characteristics and those that provide advantages are eventually spread to the other isolated populations.

In our modern world where we account for (and hopefully accept) people with differences and because of the travel and general homogeneous mix of the world population the pressures and mechanisms for evolution are less effective.

The article did mention that the greatest likely impact is the growth of the African population and over time it will spread and integrate with the world which will likely cause future generation’s skin to darken. Wow; that should shake up some people.

If someone writes about humanity 5,000 years from now they may want to think about what they will look like.  Or they might take the path described by neuroscientist Joe. Z. Tsien.

“Could it be that 5,000 years from now, we will be able to download our minds onto computers, travel to distant worlds and live forever in the network?” ––neuroscientist Joe. Z. Tsien of Georgia Regents University in “The Memory Code” [Scientific American, July 2007]

Ray Jay Perreault



3 thoughts on “Experts Tackle Question of How Humans Will Evolve

  1. “In summary it considers whether human evolution has stopped” …. hah hah hah!

    But from a science fiction perspective, is it even relevant? I mean, how many Sci-Fi writers are writing about humans 10,000 or 20,000 years in the future? Who is trying to imagine our species 100,000 years in the future? The vast majority of the science fiction I encounter deals with life only a few hundred years or so into the future, and on the extreme end many one or two thousand years into the future. Evolution on these scales isn’t noticeable regardless.

    Some things to consider:

    (1) Isolated human colonies will again emerge if we expand out into the solar system. Given enough time colonies on Mars, the Moon, or in Earth orbit might differentiate.

    (2) Genetic engineering might well result in changes to the population that would have otherwise required tens of thousands of years to appear through natural evolution.

    (3) If our machines (AI) were to replace us one day, would they count as our evolutionary ancestors? If we are the programmers and creators; if their intelligence is a reflection of our own intelligence, then I think an argument could be made that they are our descendants should they remain after we are gone.

    I haven’t read the linked Scientific American article yet, but I plan to do so.

    • Excellent comments. Your point, that writing about humans 100,000 or 1,000,000 years in the future, is well taken. Regardless of the validity of making assumptions that far in the future, the article has gotten tons of comments and feedback which is all I wanted to do. I think it’s an interesting topic and it got the writing juices flowing in a bunch of people.

      Funny that you mention machines being our ancestors. Surprisingly that is a topic of another story I’m developing which should be out next spring.

      • “Surprisingly that is a topic of another story I’m developing …”

        Not too surprising: It seems a natural extension of some of your other writing (e.g. SIMPOC).

        It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, actually. It seems to me that as we build better machines and develop more sophisticated AI, their intelligence is just an extension of our own intelligence. Should machines survive after humans are gone, it’s not too much of a stretch for me to imagine them as our “descendants.” That of course leads to all sorts of questions, like what does it mean to be human? It seems our intelligence and how we go about solving problems defines us far more than or biological and chemical makeup.

        Maybe that is a natural order of things elsewhere in the galaxy? Species arise, become intelligent, create AI, and the AI lives on as the descendant of the species that created it.

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