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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Study Finds Humans Still Evolving, and Rapidly...

The LA Times had this fascinating article on the furious rate of human evolution over the last 40,000 years:

The pace of human evolution has been increasing at a stunning rate since our ancestors began spreading through Europe, Asia and Africa 40,000 years ago, quickening to 100 times historical levels after agriculture became widespread, according to a study published today.

By examining more than 3 million variants of DNA in 269 people, researchers identified about 1,800 genes that have been widely adopted in relatively recent times because they offer some evolutionary benefit.

Until recently, anthropologists believed that evolutionary pressure on humans eased after the transition to a more stable agrarian lifestyle. But in the last few years, they realized the opposite was true -- diseases swept through societies in which large groups lived in close quarters for a long time.

Altogether, the recent genetic changes account for 7% of the human genome...

It's a cliche of modern bio-ethics and human enhancement research that humanity now has the power to radically alter and accelerate its own evolution. But it would appear that our ancestors beat us to the punch millenia ago. Or to put it another way, the very act of forming settlements, raising food, domesticating animals and living together in large numbers has already dramatically impacted human evolution.

The real question is: How much more do we want to speed it up, if at all, and where do we want to direct it?

Do we want to be healthier, smarter, stronger, faster, better looking? Do we want to live longer, in the prime of our youth? But whatever answers we give to these questions, one thing we do know -- we will not be choosing to live in some "natural state of man" like our ancestors thousands of years removed. They weren't "natural humans" either. The only difference -- so far -- is a matter of degree.

But another question leaps to mind. Given how much humanity definitively altered its evolution over the last 40,000 years, how much have we altered ourselves in the last two generations? A mingling of the gene pools from all over the world, the transformation of human diet, the development of vaccines, the unbelievably rapid evolution of bacteria spurred by the overuse of antibiotics, the drugs and other chemicals in our environment -- and the social evolutionary pressures that impact procreation, such as ideals of beauty, masculinity, femininity, intelligence, strength of character and perceptions of wealth and power... how do all these things affect human evolution today?

Future Imperative