Day 071 - The future of human evolution

Submitted by Sam on 31 July, 2011 - 01:32

There are three distinct possibilities for how technological and medical advancement will impact future human evolution. The first contingency is that the human species will undergo no further natural selection, because we may have already advanced to a position of evolutionary equipoise, where our technologies have artificially preserved genes that would otherwise have been removed by natural selection; evolution no longer has a chance to select. As a species we already control our environment to such an extent that traditional evolutionary pressures have been functionally alleviated – we adapt the environment to us rather than the other way around. Indeed, local mobility and international migration allow populations to genetically integrate to such a degree that the isolation necessary for evolution to take place may in fact already no longer possible.

The second possibility is that we will continue to evolve in the traditional way, through inexorable selection pressures exerted by the natural environment. The isolation necessary to allow the impact of any environmental changes to be selected for in the population will now be on the planetary scale, enabled by colonization of distant space.

The third possibility is that we will evolve in an entirely new way, guided not by unconscious natural forces but by our own conscious design decisions. In this neo-evolution we would use genetic engineering to eliminate diseases like diabetes, protect against strokes and reduce the risks of cancer. We would be compressing a natural process which takes hundreds of thousands of years into single generations, making evolutionarily advantageous adjustments ourselves.

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