Saturday, July 23, 2011

Evolution's Failures

I think it's hilarious to imagine evolution's failures.

Think of how our digestive systems are able to function no matter which way we're sitting or lying, carrying food to the right place in a peristaltic wave, even if it's going against gravity. Think of the pre-human who didn't get that gene. He's all like, "check out this handstand!", then as soon as he's upside-down, all the wooly mammoth he ate earlier is pouring out of his face. He suffocates, dying before he ever had a chance to procreate, and his shitty genes never get passed on. Hilarious.

Thing is, one day that guy will be us.

Evolution is not only biological, but technological. We already pity the people of the past—most of human history—who didn't expect to live past the age of thirty. Technology has doubled our lifespan just by tuning up our default biological hardware from the outside. Think of what we can do once technology moves inside.


It's a near certainty that we will merge with technology. We already rely on it, and there's gotta be a better way of interacting with it than through our fingers. When our brains and bodies are made more of bits and bytes than nerves and leukocytes, the people of today will be the pre-humans.

Looking back, we'll think that our squishy biological way of doing things was hilarious. "That's right son," we'll say, to our sons. "We had computers we plugged into walls, but our own method of recharging was—hah, it's so gross, but get this—we mashed up other living things with our teeth then let them slide down our throat. There were actually people who couldn't find things to eat, and they died. Forever! They didn't even have a backup."

And our sons, they probably won't even understand how (or why) we managed to get through the day.

Evolution makes failures of us all.





See also:

  • Transcendent Man on Netflix. This documentary about futurist Ray Kurzweil will change your life if you even half believe his predictions are correct.
  • ...


8 comments:

Tatiana said...

Funny I just watched that movie last weekend. Despite the inevitability of merging with technology, I think there will be large groups of people that will resist the change for philosophical or religous reasons. Evolutionary paths may diverge in the future. I also think it's interesting how his whole schtick is driven by fear of death and mourning for his father, issues he may well want to explore with counseling not cryogenics.

Simon McNeil said...

My concern with Kurzweil is that a lot of his predictions smart of religion.

I'd love to see a technological singularity, but I'm not holding my breath.

Martina Lavoie said...

So, this topic is really not all that futuristic for me, having had parts of my body replaced by plastic and metal. No, seriously. I have 2 artificial knees. I had the left one replaced in 02 and the right in 07. I have had more than my share of serious existential internal debates about what it means to be alive and "human" knowing that part of what makes me able to live the life that I have is due to technology.

Although, this isn't really a new issue: ask anyone with a pacemaker. Or anyone who has ever had dialysis... we have been relying on technology for health for some time. What Phronk is suggesting really doesn't seem that far-fetched.

------------
Going through airport security is fun, let me tell you. Can the rest of you please hurry up and get some implanted technofied parts so that I will stop being the only robo-freak walking among you?

Thanks,

Martina

amanda said...

I guess I'm a luddite, but I so wholeheartedly disagree with everything you just said. Well, except the part about the mammoth-puking guy being funny--that really is hilarious.

I don't think our bodies are meant (biologically speaking) to be merged with technology in the way that you're suggesting, and I think it would make them LESS functional and actually impedes a true evolution. For example (not suggesting I think this should have happened) but when prime baby-making age got passed teenage years, juvenile diabetes could have been completely wiped from our genetic code, but coincidentally, the right medicine came along at just the right time to make it possible for people who carry the gene to live long enough to procreate.

I just don't think there are too many examples of how fusing our bodies with technology has actually made them work better than a normal properly-functioning human body.

I guess I don't have a lot of evidence to back my position up, but I think the human body is already as perfect a machine as you're ever going to get, and messing with it on a large scale is as likely to spell the end of humanity as to improve it.

The Real Hipster said...

shoot. when i saw the name of this post i thought it was going to be about the new season of jersey shore.

RooPlusTwo said...

Umm, I just laughed my face off. You are most excellent.

A Panopticon Sky said...

The increased lifespan of the average modern human is actually mostly thanks to easy access to clean water, not technology. With clean water we avoid most of the diseases that kill us off before we get 'old.'
Without clean water there would not even be the technology to help repair our squishy bits when we DO fall ill.

Nice article otherwise though.

Phronk said...

Oops I forgot to respond to comments here.

I'm skeptical of increased lifespan being mostly due to clean water. You could probably argue just as forcefully that it's due to decreased infant mortality, which is itself due to a variety of improvements. And I think that's closer to the truth - that it's a large number of changes that allow modern humans to live longer. Most of those changes (water included) are because of technology.

Thanks for the rest of your comments too! Except Amanda who is totes wrong.