February 17, 2009

Ever thought about how it’s time for a homo sapiens upgrade?

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , at 8:35 am by myrlinn

Over dinner the other day, my friends were talking about how working life today is so stressful. Life is general really, with so much to do, and so much that you can do that it feels like you need more minutes in a day.  So much to experience, to learn, so little time.

As so often happens to me, I chanced upon a book in the library that sounded fascinating – Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio – and once I read it, I realised that it connected to what my friends and I had been talking about!

Darwin’s Radio explores the idea that our genetic code may be “upgraded” in response to environmental, social, physical and other stresses. That life has been stressful for quite a while now that it’s time we get an evolutionary response in the form of a new human species. Fascinating!

Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel Darwin’s Children

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4 Comments »

  1. ryanchadwick said,

    I don’t think we’re quite at that point yet. We would need the stresses to be so large that our existing population is unable to cope and starts dwindling. We’re seeing the exact opposite so it would seem our current population is well suited to it’s environment.

    On the other hand however I do think we are seeing a process of slow, gradual evolution. Our bodies have been slowly getting larger for instance over the last few centuries.

    If anything, the leap into space and the creation of low gravity villages may trigger a quicker evolutionary process but we are still a few generations away from that.

  2. myrlinn said,

    ryanchadwick, thanks for your comment.

    We may not be at that point, but isn’t it beguiling to imagine yourself as a member of a new human species — a species with a brain adapted to doing multiple tasks at the same time, for example? Or a physiology that needs less sleep now that we’re so connected globally, and important things are happening 24/7? Or to think of your children having such advantages?

  3. ryanchadwick said,

    Well maybe,

    How changed do we have to be before we’re classified as a new species though?

  4. myrlinn said,

    Hi ryan,

    As different as homo sapiens is from homo neanderthalensis (I hope I’m spelling this right).

    Going back a bit to what you said earlier, you’re arguing that the environment hasn’t changed enough for a giant evolutionary leap to happen (assuming that huge genetic changes can happen almost immediately under those circumstances).

    Consider though, how pollution has affected health in my countries. And in many countries, it also seems that we hear more often of people getting auto-immune diseases. And, I’ve also read quite a few articles citing research about how we’re not getting enough sleep, and therefore increasing our odds of getting various illnesses.

    The internet, TV, and other communications technologies have also made this world much more of a 24/7 place. A world where for some people it’s NECESSARY to stay awake to keep track of what’s happening in the stock market in another time zone, or where you have to stay late at work waiting for your colleagues in another time zone to get to work because you have urgent matters to settle. A world where it’s tempting to stay up to watch sports or entertainment events happening LIVE in another part of the world. It’s also a world where it’s easier to chat with friends in other parts of the world — and it’s much too easy to wake up early or stay up late doing so.

    This is a far cry from my parent’s days or even my childhood days, when you’d be hard-pressed to find something to do past 10 pm at night!


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