Saturday, April 14, 2012

Voluntary Evolution

Since 1850, Charles Darwin's scientific publishing’s on vestiges and natural selection has stirred-up a lot of controversy. And, while Darwin's theories pertain to naturalism and organic species, researchers continue to edge closer to the borders that separate artificial and natural.

Classical selection, as presented in Biology textbooks, is divided into artificial and natural. However, I see artificial selection as a misnomer. How can we state that humankind evolved and still not acknowledge that our industrialization and technological advancements are not extensions of that evolution? How can we alter the natural environment from which we evolved and label it as an artificial selection process? Biomimetics and molecular nanotechnology are not any more artificial than our own biochemistry. What is termed "artificial" is not artificial at all. Why would it be any different for our cells to engineer proteins and biochemicals from raw materials absorbed by our intestines, than for humankind to engineer molecular systems?

The harsh reality is that humans and molecular technology are co-evolving. Endosymbiotic theory suggests that mitochondria, and other organelles, were once separate single-cell organism that co-evolved with eukaryotes and eventually became integrated biological systems. Molecular technology will also become integrated with biological systems as we continue to evolve.

The harsher reality is that the human population engineers their own selection process. If we want to live longer we extend the length of telomeres, if we want to cure blindness we undergo corrective lens surgery. We are constantly manipulating our genetic code, our environment, and our evolution.

Where is this leading?

As technology becomes more intricate (such as nanotechnology and picotechnology) we will be able to voluntarily control our own genotypes, phenotypes, bulk materials, and our own evolution.

Three postulates on advancing technology

(1) First-world countries will advance technology more rapidly (as a population) than poorer nations with limited resources.
(2) The development of technology occurs exponentially (log e) as an extension of human evolution.
(3) Humankind will integrate organic technology into our own biological systems and this will become the evolution process of post-humans.

Evolution of post-humans

Our post-human population should strive for the ultimate benchmark which is the manipulation of materials by thought-controlled devices. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. On March 31, 2009 - Ian Rowley wrote an article in Businessweek about how Honda Corporation has programmed Asimo (their humanoid robot) to respond to human thought [1]. Therefore, I propose that post-humans will be somewhat like shape-shifters who can control their surrounding physical environment by thought-controlled nanotechnology. This will affect all industries: we will be able to write computer programs, change the color of our wallpaper, and genetically-modify our own chromosomes via thought.


In conclusion, technology is an extension of human evolution that is constrained by Charles Darwin's ideas of selection. I view all human technologies as a part of the evolution process. While, there are no lineages on the evolutionary tree that stem from homo sapiens, there will be an era when biologist must face the controversy between artificially designed organisms that have reached singularity and those produced by mother nature.

Timothy Franklin Montague

[1] Rowley, Ian. From Honda, a Mind-Reading Robot. March 31, 2009. BusinessWeek.