Dave R
  • Dave R
  • Toronto , Ontario
  • Canada

This conversation is closed.

Can an evolutionary path be altered by technology development?

Ok.. Time to hypothesize.. Let's say that humans were slated to evolve wings and the natural ability to fly in 100 million years. However, since we have developed flying technologies (airplanes, helicopters, balloons) and no longer need the natural ability to fly, will our "evolutionary destiny" be altered or will we still get wings in 100 million years (as if the evolutionary development is hard-coded in our genetics)??

  • Jun 29 2013: If "evolutionary path" has any meaning at all, it is strictly into the past, never into the future.

    Evolution has no specific destination or destiny.
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    Jul 28 2013: Yes, just asked some recently extinct species.
  • Jul 27 2013: Evolution is a result of environmental factors that determine the natural selection of genes favorable for survival. Nothing is pre-determined. Evolution happens as a result. Have you actually completed your college education yet?
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    Jul 4 2013: Sure, just introduce brain washing!
  • Jul 1 2013: I think that evolution occurs due to environmental changes and evolution is NOT pre-destined. If humans were to slated to develop wings 100 million years in the future, this would be because as humans we need some form of flight to occur... (ancestors needed to jump from trees to trees?, or building to building? then somehow developing large slabs of skin over the armpits and armpit hairs to evolve into some form of feathers).

    But this is contrary to your statement of evolutionary destiny. IF you were correct that evolution IS PREDESTINED... then why presume that airplanes/balloons can alter your predestined evolution? If it is predestined.... my friend you will develop wings 100 million years in the future!! No doubt about it!!
    But by then this would NOT be evolution in action.... If this were true then I don't think science has a word for it yet.

    My point in this argument being is that what you are proposing cannot exist based on what we know currently about evolution. It is a good question though because your query explores into another idea regarding what evolution can and cannot achieve (at least for me).
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      Dave R

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      Jul 1 2013: Ok, well let's ask the question this way- Can technology development remove potential evolutionary tracks?
      • Jul 2 2013: Dave, If you rephrase it that way.. I would say yes. But going back to one of those post i can't recall i answered...

        Because evolution is in response to an environmental change.... technology use may also potentially sprout NEW evolutionary tracks..
        • Jul 15 2013: I agree, the way that I see it is that the use of technology disrupts Hardy-Wienberg Equilibrium by removing the environmental selective pressure. Physically desirable genes give an organism an increased fitness and the technology artificially increases an organism's fitness. Thus, we see the expression of what were once unfavorable genes in higher numbers because because the technology meets the demand and you no longer need 'favorable genes' to survive.

          I can see what Dave R is saying, and I agree to an extent that technology can prevent or "remove" evolutionary tracts such as flying, as long as the demand for that ability is met by the technology. However, I agree with what Jeff says in that evolution is subject to your environment and while I don't personally think that the technology could potentially sprout new evolutionary tracts, but I would be interested to find out what they might be.
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    Jul 1 2013: Yes. Its a selective process by women who choose the most desirable traits.
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    • Jul 1 2013: I agree but I also believe that all creatures evolve regardless of the presence of a stressor. I take it you presume technological development will stop evolution but I see technological development as another "stressor" to drive evolution.. just presume something like this hypothetical and speculative scenario: we no longer need to walk/run far because we drive. We might no longer need to drive because we have the internet. will evolution push us to loose our legs soon? It is a stupid presumption i know, but its just that i believe technology can potentially affect our evolution(?) as well.. its not a stressor. Its... i don't know what to call it... .
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        • Jul 2 2013: I didn't quite get that part of your statement previously so I missed it, but I see we both agree on the potential evolutionary change technology can offer.

          I find this statement interesting "...other devices and the competition factor may be a stressor that will cause a mutation and evolution towards skills...." you seem to imply that evolutionary mutations can be influenced by an individual... meaning an individual can somehow change(?) his genes? Ii think the concensus is that evolution is driven by natural selection...But Im trying to explore the idea myself that evolution may be played by something else rather than just mutations. There is something in epigenetics in curious about as a driving force in evolution. But i think its a relatively new topic you might be curious. I have little understanding in that topic myself. Thanks for your discussions.
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    Jul 1 2013: As you have seen already, TED Conversations is a tough venue for hypothetical arguments. You fantasize about a winged, flying, homo sapiens and ask if the existence of aircraft will prevent such a development from happening via the evolutionary mechanisms of natural selection of beneficial mutations from a common ancestor over eons of time. Have I stated your question accurately?
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      Dave R

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      Jul 1 2013: I used flying humans, because it is a simple example that most people would be able to understand. So, no, you have not stated my question correctly. My question is whether technology development would affect HUMAN evolution.
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        Jul 1 2013: Sorry Dave, I still don't get it. By "HUMAN evolution" do you intend something different than Darwinian Evolution?
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          Dave R

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          Jul 1 2013: Nope, I was just trying to phrase the question as simply as possible. Another way to ask it more simply would be- Can technology development remove potential evolutionary tracks in humans?
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    Jun 30 2013: Yes. Have you seen dairy cows with impossibly large udders? They are not normal. Their evolutionary path has been altered by selective breeding. These cows will not last a week outside of controlled environment.
    Same goes with 'chickens' of KFC, seedless dates or pest resistant eggplants by Monsanto.
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      Jul 1 2013: Pabitra, your conclusion regarding the topic is what?
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        Jul 1 2013: I think it is clear from my comment above. Still since you insist, I conclude that evolutionary path can be and is altered by technological intervention.
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          Jul 1 2013: Thank you for clarifying that for a myopic old man. Technology is a human construct. Darwinian evolutionary processes are not a human construct. Which of the two processes, if either, has dominant control of the eventual outcome? Which is the horse and which is the cart?
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        Jul 1 2013: Evolutionary process is the horse and Technology is the cart now fitted with Mercedes Benz engine. Lately the petrol is running out. The outcome is a fair guess.
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          Jul 1 2013: The horse is passive and only goes where it is directed by voice command, or reign manipulations. The horse left unhitched will sit, stand, run, romp, or sleep as it pleases. It will certainly not design and build a cart and a hitch and then hitch itself to that cart and move a load on its own. How does such an arrangement explain the unfathomable complexity of life on Earth? How does a benign, unintelligent, uncontrolled component drive a vast, hyper-complex machine? Explain please, with more detail than "a fair guess", how that incredible "horse" does it.
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    Jun 30 2013: .
    Yes!
    The "evolutionary path" is altered by the environment.
    However, today's technology environment changes too fast to alter the "path".
    .
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    Dave R

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    Jun 28 2013: I, personally, think that the evolutionary process is heavily environmentally dependant and so NO WINGS!!
    I think a good relevant example would be the difference in aquatic animals to land animals. Two completely different environments, so the water creatures evolved the ability to swim and breathe while underwater and the land creatures evolved to run and breathe air and some evolved to fly.
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      Jul 1 2013: In the relationship between the evolutionary process and the environment, which is the horse (cause), and which is the cart (effect)? Also, once the executive decision was made to change from air breathers to submarine creatures, how did the life form exist underwater BEFORE designing, developing, manufacturing, and implementing the ability to breathe water? Did they have SCUBA gear to use during the R&D transition period between air and water breathing?
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        Dave R

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        Jul 1 2013: Didn't happen the other way around?? Life started in the oceans then some creatures crawled onto the land??
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          Jul 1 2013: I don't see the difference from air-breathing to water-breathing or vice-versa, my question stands.