TED Conversations

Ahmed Ben Yaghlen

Student, Youth & Science Association of Tunisia

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Does evolution destroy us?

Evolution occurs when a mutation is beneficial to survival right? Well with us humans, we have civilizations and surviving in our time means being educated and getting a job and making money. Well could the next stage of our evolution be us merging with technology to make us more efficient? Or on a scarier thought, could we create computers and robots that surpass us, take us all out, and those robots continuously build more robots that surpass the last in an exponential growth of inteligence?Could that be the future of human evolution?


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  • Jun 20 2013: I think it's naive to say humans stopped evolving. As long as we don't start eating rocks or stop inhaling air, we will always be a part of nature. And nature is not confined within earth either. Yes we can protect ourselves from earthquakes, floods and diseases for now, but that doesn't mean we will always be able to. Yes we may have taken giant leaps in technology in a short period of our existance but a quasar nearby or explosions in the sun can well alter our atmosphere and our style of living. Whatever nature gives us, we can find a way to survive, but that also changes us in the long run. We can reach singularity where a human consciousness can be transferred to a non-living thing (ie robot) and we'll be out of natural evolution but then we'll cease to be humans, we'll be something else. Believing we're no longer evolving now is the same as people believing 2000 years ago that humans were perfect beings created in the image of some god. Only constant thing is change.
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      • Jun 21 2013: Thanks for the links Juan, watched em long time ago :)
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      Jun 21 2013: It depends on how you describe our evolution, physical and/or mental. There are many scientists who openly state we are no longer undergoing a physical evolution, suggesting that our current human form is the final pattern locked within our DNA, all other mutations being insignificant. It is often stated that we don't use our full brain "potential", not to be confused with a percentage of some physical quantity associated with the physical brain.

      Example, not all of us are super math wizards, even though we may conclude that we all have that potential. I tend to confer with this assessment until something better comes along.
      • Jun 21 2013: Not true. Every cold you catch, every flu you go thru leave a mark on your DNA, as long as you survive them. These genes are passed onto your offsprings making them less prone to those illnesses. But different strands of flu comes out every year. We evolve with them. Why do you think most of our 3 million pair of genes is junk? It is a history book of everything your ancestors've been thru.

        And the bra┼čn capacity thing..brain is not some magic organ that would allow us to bend spoons or fly if we could use 100% of it, it is simply a network of nerves & neurons. Oh, and we do use 100% of our brains, just not at the same time. It's like you can't read a book while watching tv. Different areas in the brain are responsible for different tasks, simple as that.
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          Jun 21 2013: That is incorrect. It has not been established that the DNA records every incident that occurs in our life. DNA is a Molecule, a chemistry set for life and how to interact within it.To my knowledge no one has done a study to see if the DNA in each cell of our body were changed after a bout of the flue. Where did you get your information? I would be interested in reviewing it.

          The DNA structure is very stable and not so easily disturbed. It is also self-repairing and self-replicating.

          It has been established by laboratory experiments that the brain can cause very real physical conditions within our bodies. We can increase the heat emitted from our hands and this has an influence on the environment, small but detectable. People have been known to do extraordinary feats of physical strength in times of stress that defy the bodies ability to endure weight and force. No, we don't use all our brain's "potential". If we did we would all be a clone of Dr. Michi Kaku. :) I know I would. (note: see changes in previous post).

          And no, you can't read a book and watch TV at the same time. You eyes scan the environment and bring the window of focus to the forefront of you mind. You can read the book, then watch the TV but not both at the same time.

          I don't know what the 3 million pairs of junk genes are and neither does anyone else.

          You might find it interesting to know that some people are born with a brain condition and their entire brain is located in a mass the size of a tennis ball. Some have a smaller area. You would never know because they don't exhibit any symptom and can be very intelligent. Such people make brain scientists scratch their heads when reviewing their Brain Scans. I understand there are some scanning experiments going on concerning these people. It will be interesting to read the results.

          I edited my previous post to deal with your objection to the brain potential statement. I hope this meets with your approval. Did I leave anything out? :)
        • Jun 23 2013: "Every cold you catch, every flu you go thru leave a mark on your DNA, as long as you survive them. These genes are passed onto your offsprings making them less prone to those illnesses."

          Sorry, no, that's not how evolution works.
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          Jun 26 2013: John -- can I get a link to the 'tennis-ball-brains." I might be one. At least that's what my wife tell me! All jokes aside, that is a link I'd like to see. I want to learn about that!

          Also John, mother's who breast feed pass antibodies to their offspring that protect them during the time of their mild dependency. That actually helps educate the immune system of the baby and this makes it stronger. Most pediatricians will tell you " always Breast FEED if you can!" That is, if you are female w/a child. Not all of us are equipped to breast feed.

          Oh, & John, I'm going to sign up w/Udacity. There is also another competing sight that was discussed in a TED talk. I'll pass that link (to the Ted Talk a least) in a reply/note later. I"m at the library right now. The browser here doesn't have all my links in it.
      • Jun 22 2013: "I don't know what the 3 million pairs of junk genes are and neither does anyone else."

        But they are still there, and they are being discovered one by one. They just have no function. They're inactive. Sometimes these inactive genes become active and birth defects occur where a baby is born with a tail or is covered with hair.

        "The examples of human vestigiality are numerous, including the anatomical (such as the human appendix, tailbone, wisdom teeth, and inside corner of the eye), the behavioral (goose bumps and palmar grasp reflex), sensory (decreased olfaction), and molecular (junk DNA). " You can do a lookup on junk DNA on google.

        You brain has areas for every limb and organ you have. If you lose your left arm, for example, your left eye vision could improve a lot because the areas that control them are pretty close. When you lose a limb the area that is tasked for that particular organ is of no use anymnore and other tasked areas start using this area of the brain. Sometimes this area is never used, as if the limb is not lost, causing you to still feel your lost limb, like how people who lost their legs say their legs are itchy sometimes.

        And about the brain causing real physical conditions within our bodies...Did I say anything contradictory? Of course it does, because brain controls every limb and organ, is the control center of your sensory network. There is no magic potential here. Just because some people can still use their vestigial traits (ie being able to move ears, raising body hair upon wish, or even locally increasing blood pressure) does not make them have greater potential than other people. Everyone has these traits, but the genes are inactive.

        And about external forces changing our DNA...Our bodies is a conglomerate of many different organisms. We have billions of bacteria in our body,our cells are different. Bone cells are different, skin cells are different. Our body even contains the DNA of the food we eat. You can google it.
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          Jun 22 2013: Good Job Bora.

          I did more than Google it. I studied at Udacity University. They have a nice course there on Evolution and Genetics. You appear to have an inquisitive mind. I think you would enjoy it. It's free. Check it out. From your questions, it appears you have recently discovered something about our bodies.

          Ernest Rutherford discovered that atoms were mostly empty space, he was afraid to get out of bed for fear he'd fall through the floor.

          Earlier, you said it was naive to think we have stopped evolving. But, the top scientists in the world state that we have stopped evolving, because evolution is a function of environmental pressures. Many species of plants and animals stopped evolving many millions of years ago. Human beings are relatively recent players in the evolution game.

          Have a look at this video featuring Dr. Michio Kaku, talking about human evolution to get a real good picture of just how little the pressure is for us to evolve.

          The evolutionary pressure that existed far back in our past is no longer a function of our evolution. According to Dr. Kaku: in the future, we will look pretty much the same as we do now.

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          Jun 24 2013: @ John Moonstroller
          That is seen too simply in my opinion, while it is true there is no real environmental pressure yet. You don't include technological evolution.
          I don't think the contemporary human form is the most ideal one in every environment.

          When we are able to properly engineer and enhance organisms, we are only bound by ethics and our creativity. Some social groups will want to distinct themselves, think of races in fantasy films.
      • Jun 22 2013: John,

        I've seen every Michio Kaku video out there :P

        But as I've said earlier, environmental factors are not confined within this earth. Humanity, it it doesn't end soon, will go to space. Space has different environment. If Humanity settles on another planet, environment will be different there too. Humanity will evolve. We are even different than the people 2000 years ago. Even today average height of people is higher than 100 years ago. Baby steps. Evolution doesn't necessarily mean mutation of genes and changing into some other species in time. Who knows environmental factors won't change in the next 200 years on earth? What if earth enters an ice age that will last 100,000 years? I'm pretty sure there will be physiological differences between people now and people 100,000 years from now.

        Will humanity be even taller next millenium? More obese perhaps? Less fertile? Even the underwear we use, the drinks we drink, the food we eat affect our fertility. Sure, we can have artificial insemination but that is also due to changes in human physiology, and that is evolution. (living things don't necessarily evolve to a "better" state).

        Factors constantly change. In recent history, humanity has created its own factors. But they are factors nonetheless. This is why I said it is naive to think humanity has stopped evolving.
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          Jun 22 2013: Oh... Okay. I understand what you mean now. I still disagree from a basic evolutionary standpoint but space is a different horse to ride. I guess we'll see when we start cruising around out there.

          And, yes, I hope there are some serious physiological changes in people. Hopefully, I'd like to see them within the next ten years or so, myself.

          All things remaining the same, I doubt the human race will be here in 100,000 years.
      • Jun 23 2013: "There are many scientists who openly state we are no longer undergoing a physical evolution"

        No evolutionary biologists say that.

        "It is often stated that we don't use our full brain "potential""

        Not by educated people.
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          Jun 23 2013: I'm educated. I say that. Dr. Michio Kaku said that. He's educated too.
          Are you an evolutionary biologist?
          "Question: Have human beings stopped evolving? Will humans look any different in the future? (Submitted by Kiran Uttarkar)

          Michio Kaku: Kiran, if you read science fiction you might think that humans in the future will be slender, short, bald, with big heads and big eyes that sort of the stereotype that you get from the comic books. However, you have to realize that as far a gross evolutionary pressure is concerned; there is none anymore on the human race. For example, in the old days, when we lived in the forests, there was enormous selection and pressures placed on us to develop a large brain, to understand how to use tools, to run, to be able to navigate, to survive in the forests. Enormous pressures on us because if you were not fit to live in the forest, you died. And so your genes are not here today..."
          ~ http://bigthink.com/videos/mankind-has-stopped-evolving

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