Technology

Evolution into Hominid Evolutis

What are human beings evolving into?

I watched an incredible talk by a guy called Juan Enriquez a week or so back, in which he talked about the “next species of human”. Fair enough – no one can stop us evolving. But Juan blew my mind when he laid out some pretty convincing reasons why the next phase of human evolution will happen over the next 200 years.

He explained that technology is advancing at such a blazing pace that as well as being able to grow brand new organs, these organs will be, in some cases, improved beyond their natural state. For example, a blind person will be able to undergo surgery to enable them to see light. Then soon after that, black and white outlines. Then colour vision. Then they will have the same standard of vision normal human beings possess. Then, in the not too distant future, humans will have the option of infra-red vision, as well as zoom capability and nightvision.

Juan calls this evolution the latest in a series of 22 evolutions of Hominids. He then goes onto predict that we, as Homo Sapiens, will evolve into Homo Evolutis; “Hominids that take complete and deliberate control over the evolution of their species… and others”.

This prediction really excites me. I think it will scare a lot of people – but to me it seems inevitable and something that should be embraced. It’s already evident across the globe – look at the couples who are choosing the sex of their babies, or those who are undergoing sex changes or having cosmetic surgery. This is exactly what Mr Enriquez is talking about!

I strongly advise you to watch the video of his presentation at TED below.

Olsoweir

A new race to space

Did anyone else ever play the strategy game Civilisation? I became obsessed with the second version as a kid, but every time I played it my ‘strategy’ was to build as many military units and cities and pursue technologies that allowed for ever more advanced weaponry. That was what won me the game, after a while – world domination.

I had a little go at the fourth version, and instantly found myself doing exactly the same thing. I Googled strategy guides for the game and discovered that you need to pay close attention to a huge variety of various factors to succeed. Territory and big cities were crucial.

Anyway – to the point.

This weekend there was a long article in the Guardian by the paper’s science correspondent Ian Sample all about a “new space race” that many fear could result in the militarisation of an area that no state has or is able to lay claim to.

Stars and Solar systems

Going to visit the bright lights

Then I remember my brief game of Civilisation – what happens when human life is no longer sustainable on this planet and we are forced to hop planets? Or even Solar Systems?

While Mr Sample writes about the implications of competition and tension between countries such as China and India, looking further into the future space is a whole new and vast territory to be explored. And, I must add, not only explored but colonised in a characteristically human way.

Lego spaceship

Not SO far away… coming to a store near you soon!

International collaboration and smooth diplomacy will be critical, but as everyone knows money is power. If China forges ahead with its space programme, the likelihood is that it will be on the same level, if not ahead of the United States and Europe in terms of technology and capacity for space exploration.

Who do you think will rule the unknown, and what do you think the ramifications will be?

Olsoweir

(Images courtesy of Sweetie187 and legoz tourist 328)

… MY Life on Camera? What?!

So everyone is going bananas about the intelligence Big Boys in the US and UK basically having the access to everything we ever thought was private and off limits to the state. Call me passive (I am, a bit), but I’m not that fussed.

Hands up who’s got a Facebook account? Yeah, thought so. The most popular social network has 1.19 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2013. This is one reason why I’m not that bothered that the NSA has access to all the conversations I have and have had. There’s so many people to spy on! Why would they bother looking at me? Go ahead, look through my texts, phone calls and whatever else you have. Do me!

But then I think about what the future may hold, and I start to really think. Where are we headed as a human race? 20 years ago mobile phones didn’t exist. Now the Google Geeks over in Silicon Valley are preparing to sell a pair of glasses that can take videos and pictures at the tap of a finger, a voice command – and thanks to some unknown digital fanatic – the blink of the wearer’s eyes.

The Economist hit the nail on the head in an article a few weeks back and discussed the ramifications of a device that over time could become unobtrusive and the norm, just as glasses, watches and even clothes became the norm over the history of humans. In the Briefing section, the article documented the life project of an Irish computer scientist who, for the past seven years, has been taking a photograph of his immediate surroundings with a wide angle lens hung around his neck every minute. Yes – EVERY MINUTE. Check out the video:

A search engine for the self

So, in light of this, I started to think about some really scary things:

  • What if, in the future, in the same way as everyone is required to own some sort of ID or proof of who they are, everyone was forced to wear one of these in the interests of say, preventing crime?
  • What if cameras with face recognition could cross reference with a future social network similar to Facebook, leading to a complete stranger knowing exactly who you are, where you work and the full name and address of your partner?
  • What if someone was able to hack into your (compulsory) wide angle camera and watch you having sex with your partner?

The number 1984 springs to mind, or rather explodes in my mind, showering my frontal lobe with metaphorical glass in the process.

The thing is, I really do believe that this is the future. In the UK, we are already the nation with the most CCTV camera’s per person. That’s all well and good – but do I want people taking pictures of me while I’m buying a tuna crunch baguette from Greggs? Do YOU? F***, I hope you don’t, because I certainly don’t.

Olsoweir

Map of the world

Saving the planet

One thing I never cease to find fascinating about life on this planet is that in the grand scheme of things, human beings (and life as a whole) are only a flash in the pan relative to the age of this planet and the universe. Currently at the ripe old age of 4.57 billion years, scientists estimate that the Sun is still only around half way through its life. Whenever I think about this I realise that in reality, as I’m sure a lot of you do, as a 1 million year-old species living on just one out of an unimaginable number of planets, we form such a small part of existence it’s laughable.

Famous scene from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'

A famous scene from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. Are we alone? And did that film scare you when you were a kid?

Thinking about it further, I start wondering how unlikely it is that we are alone in the universe. It doesn’t take a scientist to have such doubts. Am I right?

Films, books and computer games all regularly deal with the subject of extra-terrestrial beings and guess at what they would do if they landed on Earth. More often than not, in these fictional works they come with lasers and bombs to wipe out humans.

I recently read in the National Geographic that scientists have opined that if aliens did come to blow up Earth, they might do so to ‘protect the galaxy’. Optimistic in my reckoning…

Just as the UK government has decided to allow the culling of badgers to protect farmer’s livestock, our penchant for pollution and unsustainable living on Earth might be seen by more eco-friendly aliens as a danger to the galaxy – time to sell the Humvee and buy a bike, maybe?

The growth of the human race has changed the face of our planet permanently, and I (among many) would say for the worse. While those in developed countries continue to devour the world’s fast-disappearing natural resources, the world population continues to rise.

Countries like China and India are becoming rich very quickly, and with the increase in wealth comes all the expectations of ‘Western’ living standards. Chinese people are eating more meat; Indian people are buying more luxury cars. Our planet already has trouble sustaining the meat-loving petrol heads in Europe and America – once Indian and Chinese consumers can afford it the pressure on the ecosystem will become intolerable.

Third World and Climate Change

The Third World is to suffer the most from the catastrophic effects of climate change

In the science fiction movie The Matrix, one of the guards of the computer system that has enslaved the human race offers his opinion of us as a species. He argues that we in fact aren’t a species, but a virus. I think this is one of the more interesting parts of the film. Whereas other species have found a way to live in harmony with their natural environment – not taking too much but enough to survive – humans are fundamentally different. This is all because of our lovely big brains. It’s why we tend to have an urge to explore unknown places, an urge to better social causes that will benefit the whole of society rather than just us and those around us.

Back to the point. I think it could prove beneficial to take a step back and evaluate what we are doing to our planet from a very different viewpoint. Maybe if we were able to fly into outer space and see another race we could see things from another perspective – the future! Maybe it would be helpful for purposes of illustration if we landed on a planet and found evidence of a civilisation that had choked itself to death on fossil fuel fumes. At least maybe we would be forced to partially withdraw our heads from the sand.

Olsoweir