Evolution

Assessing the Future of Human Evolution



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It is all but impossible to assess the future of evolution as we cannot say for sure which mutations and genetic variations will prove advantageous and get a foot hold in the population.

Perhaps though we can draw some ideas from looking at our recent past. Last December the Proceedings of The National Academy of Scientists (PNAS) released a study suggesting that human evolution has increased pace in the last 5,000 years - indeed they estimate that over this period it has moved over 100 times faster than in the past.

It should be noted that wider science circles currently hold the belief that human evolution has slowed over this period, to an almost stand still.

It could be argued that human evolution must speed up, due to the increased population their are many more opportunities for genetic mutation or genetic drift; which could bring around the next steps in our evolution.

To me the most likely steps in our evolution will be internal - we will not be growing wings or extra legs - instead with our booming population and with living in close quarters the biggest threat we may face will be disease and like the insects resistant to DDT - when the next epidemic hits, those immune to it will survive and repopulate continuing on the species who are mostly immune to said disease. (we can see this in small pox or our ability to digest cows milks)

We do know that some mutations that appear to have started between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago are now in up to 40% of the population - this shows just how fast mutations can travel in what is, in evolutionary terms - the blink of an eye.

Of course, without getting to Sci-Fi, we as a species are in the strange situation where we may influence or own evolution. With advances in medicine, genetics, AI it opens up our future to avenues not 100% natural selection.

On the other hand if the worst happens and climate changes worst fears are realized perhaps those who evolve with a high UV protection or perhaps they will gain some aquatic features - who knows.

The only thing we do know is that evolution will continue, when a mutation occurs that gives a member of a species a telling advantage and this is passed on to their offsprin - we can see that this quickly propagates and that whatever happens, we will evolve to adapt to our environment, whatever that may be.

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