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Carnival of Tomorrow 6.0

devo.jpgWe begin with John Hawk of the somewhat prosaically yet nonetheless accurately named John Hawk's Anthropology Weblog, who presents a fascinating essay on human evolution as it stands now. As he explains it, the ways in which we are evolving are changing:

For the most part, the kinds of selection that have been operating in the recent past cannot be shown to be effective today. How many people in Northern Europe are currently dying because of the inability to digest milk effectively as adults? How many Britons does smallpox kill each year? Even trends that currently exist in human health, such as the persistence of malaria and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, are active targets of medical research and public health efforts.

Today, with 6 billion humans, every one-off mutation from the human consensus genome sequence occurs in dozens of people. Many multiple-off mutations occur in some people. In a larger population, selection is more potent, because genetic drift is weaker. This means that the advantageous variants of the next fifty millennia are already appearing in the world today, and may inevitably be selected. The global population is exploring the entire mutational space, many times over, and novel mutations are no longer likely to disappear so rapidly due to genetic drift.

Sounds like evolution may be speeding up. Of course, a system that's easy on mutations across the board may allow many more bad mutations into the genome than good ones. Could we be looking at the beginning of de-evolution?

Let's see what our friends in the forward-looking blogosphere have to say.

Of course, there's more to the ongoing story of human evolution than that which comes from mutation and natural selection. Many of us see evolution as a major do-it-yourself project. The whole life extension movement is really an effort to evolve us into longer-lived beings.

With that in mind, FuturePundit Randall Parker comments on a recent essay by biogerenotolgist Aubrey de Grey which essentially tells us to stop apologizing for wanting to increase human lifespan:

...the purpose of biogerontology is, and should be declared to be, to defeat ageing. ...Hastening that advance, therefore, is a legitimate and honourable goal of which we have been ashamed for too long.

Randall sums up the argument thusly:

The desire to live is not dishonorable. The desire for youthfulness is not decadent. We should pursue the goal of full rejuvenation and defeat all human diseases in the process.

Well said, FP.

Glenn Reynolds also had some reflections on Aubrey's essay, as did Reason from Fight Aging!

Speaking of Reason, he has a bona fide scoop on mitochondrial protofection, which sounds technical but is actually...pretty darn technical! But it's definitely worth reading about. Reason provides links to some background information on mitochondrial research as well as to an explanation as to why mitochondria are essential to the war on aging.

So come on, don't be intimidated by the subject matter. Think of this as your big chance to evolve in a slightly geekier direction.

While we're on the subject of Geeks, Paul Hsieh has been very busy recently pointing out all kinds of evolutionary trends. Let's begin with the evolution of transportation, with the latest on teleportation research. Then there's the evolution of human society, being driven by -- of all things -- the mobile phone (second item). Finally, there's the evolution of food production, exemplified by meat that doesn't require killing any animals. (Something we discussed ourselves recently.)

For years there has been talk of using satellites to collect solar energy which could then be microwaved to earth, but the logistical problems in putting such a system in place seemed insurmountable. Now Ironman at Political Calculations has an evolved idea of how such a system could be implemented...on the moon.

In a similar vein, Eric (grumbling as he always does, before the grave) suggests that its time for space exploration to evolve beyond its dependency on the huge NASA bureaucracy.

He recommends a series of publicly funded X-prizes to energize the private sector.

deepimpact.jpgSam Dinkin observes a major milestone in humanity's evolution as a spacefaring species: the approval of a new spaceport (you've got to love that word) in -- where else? -- Oklahoma.

This comes just a couple weeks after another evolutionary milestone. Humanity has gone from being a species that cowers (or panics) at the site of a comet to one that smashes space probes into them.

And not that it's related at all, but we are also apparently evolving from being a species that swims with dolphins in the wild to being one that rides inside mechanical dolphins at great speeds.

Oh, and also one that stores information on its fingernails.

So all the available evidence would seem to indicate that evolution is going in the right direction. And here's the clincher: what else could possibly account for Virginia Postrel describing the new version of one of the cheesiest TV shows * from the 70's in such glowing terms?

Want to participate in the next edition of the Carnival of Tomorrow? Just write to us:

mrstg87 {@ symbol} yahoo {dot} com or
bowermaster {@ symbol} gmail {dot} com

Big news: Speculist.com has returned. And FastForward Radio now has it's own home page. Set those bookmarks, friends.

See you in the future!

* I just know that's going to get us in trouble. Frack!


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Carnival of Tomorrow 6.0:

» New Carnival of Tomorrow Up from Chinese Adventure Blog
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