His Brain IBM

From Mr. Roboto by Styx.

In this post, I talked about how domesticated animals changed our evolution as primates and contributed to many of our cultural habits and skills. Not only did we literally evolve differently due to our relations with wolves (which became dogs) but we also probably learned things from them (and from birds, and a bunch of other animals).

My friend, in reply, sent me this on-point and interesting piece (thanks David). The point of this article is that now that our brains have reached a certain level, technology is replacing animals as the main drivers and funnelers of our biological progress. The simple example the article uses is our stomachs (this is a pretty common example) which have changed to become much weaker since we have found many ways to dice, cook, burn, bake, and boil our food to make it easier to digest. We have in essence created, using our minds, a second digestive process, and our bodies have adapted to fall in line with the availability of this method. A bunch of our current innovations will probably have evolutionary consequences as well .

This is contrasted with animals who have auxiliary tools endowed by genetics alone. In other words, hives or nests. These structures augments animals in certain ways, but are not created ex nihilo, but come about from genetic coding implacably moving the animals to build the right structures, etc. (I think the way termites build their nests is based on smell, which changes as different parts of arches are formed. The result is a bunch of haphazard arches being built resulting in the structure of the colony.)

The article then returns to humans, and has this nice sentence.

We have domesticated our humanity as much as we have domesticated our horses. Our human nature itself is a malleable crop that we planted 50,000 years ago and continue to garden even today.

Very true, but its important to remember that our latest and most explosive technology (industrial revolution, internet, etc.) have not yet had much of a chance to really alter us biologically. That’s why people get really fat, because they’re shopping in supermarkets with bodies built for hunting on the savannah (so cliche. Why does everyone use that description. I don’t know but I didn’t want to think of a better way to say it).

One caveat though.  Genetic change could come much more rapidly if it became driven by something other than natural selection. In natural selection, genes change as people die out due to not surviving, but there might not be too much of that since many people survive to have kids these days, though as many will rightly and quickly point out, there may be other mechanisms for genetic changes to spread other than outright death to those who can’t cut it. Also, how parochial of me to think only of Europe; plenty of people are still dying all over the world due to things like malaria etc. On the other hand, we did eliminate smallpox forever from humans (unless biological warfare comes back into vogue), which will have some lasting evolutionary consequences for sure.

Ok, that paragraph got long-winded, but what I wanted to say was that there is such a thing as MATE SELECTION. In very sexist and crude terms, girls have to decide who they want to get with. So, even if you’re SURVIVING great with a third arm, you may have trouble getting a girl to hook up with you.

But we can be more refined because it concerns men and women. This mechanism (mate selection) works not by the death of those who can’t cut it genetically, but just due to the fact that some people are so weird that no one will have sex with them. These people don’t get to pass on their genes, and this mechanism can get working really rapidly since who we have sex with is heavily linked with cultural and social factors. So if video game “athletes” become culturally powerful and popular, then they will see their sex shoot up, which will mean, if you buy into stereotypes, more DNA favoring eye-hand coordination, ectomorphic body shape, paleness, and pimples.

That’s where humanity is going.


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