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    Thread: Is technology technically natural evolution?

    1. #1
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      Is technology technically natural evolution?

      Many scientists in this day and age make the claim that humans have reached the pinnacle point in evolution and have simply stopped evolving. Everything we need is now catered for and it could even be argued that we are biologically devolving. However, what many people fail to take into account is the development of technology.

      The way we have evolved has been shaped by technology for a very long time, right back to the first people to discover fire and use tools to the very computers that we have today. This means that technology has always had a rather prominent role in the evolution of mankind. Now we are getting to the point where our technological capabilities have advanced so much that we can create machines that carry out logical processes without even needing any assistance from a human being.

      Smart phones, for example, are a great way to compare the tools of ancient man with the modern man. Billions of people around the world are reliant upon smart phones to manage things such as calender dates, time management, calculators and many more nifty features. This could be thought of as an extension of a human being, almost like an extra limb and could even be classed as one of the ways in which we are "cyborgs" (a person with mechanical elements built into the body).

      Although it is not as impressive as the kind of cyborgs you may be imagining from films and the media, this is a very true fact. Humanity is moving ever closer to actually merging with technology, and not just with things such as pace makers and stents in the heart. I'm talking about full blown bionic eyes, limbs and possibly one day even bionic hearts.

      The question is this: is this a product of natural evolution or have we steered away from the path of evolution completely? You could argue that evolution is a process that happens naturally as a response to the environmental factors in an animal's life. However, if we are at the pinnacle of natural evolution, doesn't that mean that anything that comes from our thoughts is also a product of natural evolution meaning that technology, no matter how complex or seemingly artificial, is the next stage of evolution of life on Earth?

      Last edited by Raen; 08-19-2013 at 10:34 AM.
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    2. #2
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      Semantics. No offence.

      I mean, 'technically', 'natural' evolution concerns the physical changes that take place in biological organisms from generation to generation. This happens too slowly to have anything to do with modern technology. In that respect, everything is just the result of the 'natural' adaptations such as language and creativity which occurred tens of thousands of years ago.

      In the wider sense, where the memes are scientific and technological ideas, rather than genes, then sure, 'evolution' is occurring amongst technological artefacts.
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      This video does a perfect job of explaining what I meant. It's a great youtube channel as well, he does many more videos like this if you're interested.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Araishu View Post
      Many scientists in this day and age make the claim that humans have reached the pinnacle point in evolution and have simply stopped evolving. Everything we need is now catered for and it could even be argued that we are biologically devolving.
      What scientists say that? Without really thinking about this topic before, it's obvious to me that we'll keep evolving as long as the following conditions hold true:
      - Certain types of people will always reproduce more than others. Ex: More physically attractive people, or people who tend to believe in religions that don't allow contraception.
      - Even if everyone reproduced at an equal rate, random genetic drift would change that eventually.

      Quote Originally Posted by Araishu View Post
      The question is this: is this a product of natural evolution or have we steered away from the path of evolution completely?
      'Evolution' is just a word we've invented, so in some contexts it might be useful to use the word that way. But in most contexts, probably not. Evolution normally refers to a specific type of change that a species goes through: random mutations which for one reason or another end up being passed on and being incorporated into the entire species. Technology isn't like this. Even if technology changed our DNA until we became a different species, I wouldn't consider that evolution because the mutations would no longer be random.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Evolution normally refers to a specific type of change that a species goes through: random mutations which for one reason or another end up being passed on and being incorporated into the entire species. Technology isn't like this. Even if technology changed our DNA until we became a different species, I wouldn't consider that evolution because the mutations would no longer be random.
      In a way though the changes are still random. Look at video technology for instance - when videotape first came out inthe late 70's there were several possible formats, Beta and VHS emerged as competitors in the consumer market, and then VHS won out and Beta faded into obscurity. For consumer use anyway. Then came Laserdisk, which was amazing and considered the pinnacle until DVD came out. Then all of a sudden there's Blu-Ray and HD DVD and Blu-Ray won the competition. So market competition does provide something like the pressures of natural selection, but on an economic/market level rather than biologically. Of course, these factors (market competition, economics etc) are a part of human society and would cease to exist if the human species went extinct or became bereft of technological capabilities. So this kind or pressure isn't really self-sustaining outside the context of human society.

      But even if robots started making robots in the absence of humans, some models would doubtless survive better than others. So it would become a sort of non-biological natural selection.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      What scientists say that? Without really thinking about this topic before, it's obvious to me that we'll keep evolving as long as the following conditions hold true:
      - Certain types of people will always reproduce more than others. Ex: More physically attractive people, or people who tend to believe in religions that don't allow contraception.
      - Even if everyone reproduced at an equal rate, random genetic drift would change that eventually.
      Mankind Has Stopped Evolving | Michio Kaku | Big Think
      There's basically not enough divergence or any evolutionary pressure for us to have a dramatic evolution again.
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      I'll be watching the video in a minute, but I wanted to say real quick - I agree with Dianeva that natural selection still does play a part in today's society, but I think it can only provide small changes. Now, when the environment changes drastically again, then I guess we'll start to see some real evolution again. Like if society is demolished (many ways that can happen and leave a surviving human population). Ok, off to watch Michio!

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      I'll be watching the video in a minute, but I wanted to say real quick - I agree with Dianeva that natural selection still does play a part in today's society, but I think it can only provide small changes. Now, when the environment changes drastically again, then I guess we'll start to see some real evolution again. Like if society is demolished (many ways that can happen and leave a surviving human population). Ok, off to watch Michio!
      Yeah, there will be small pockets of evolution shown in very small towns and populations like that. That would include things such as average height of the people living there and frequency of certain hair colours, but nothing too major. It would certainly be interesting to see the effects of societal collapse on evolution. But for our sake, I hope that doesn't happen in our lifetime, haha (unless of course we become immortal with cyborg technology but I'll not get too carried away).

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      when the environment changes drastically again, then I guess we'll start to see some real evolution again.
      Quote Originally Posted by Araishu View Post
      There's basically not enough divergence or any evolutionary pressure for us to have a dramatic evolution again.
      I may be wrong and I don't know about the actual time frames, but I've been under the impression that evolution takes a lot of time, millions of years, thousands or something to cause any drastic noticeable change to a species. Why are you all expecting it to happen fast enough for us to notice? In any individual's lifetime, it isn't going to appear that their species has changed at all.

      Actually now that I think about it, I remember hearing something about some biologists believing evolution may have happened in short bursts followed by large amounts of time where nothing happened, rather than continuous gradual evolution. But I don't remember where I heard that from.

      It seems like people are forgetting that evolution isn't just about survival. A higher rate of survival is just one factor that leads to a greater likelihood to pass on genes. So even though we're all surviving better, that doesn't mean every type of person has an equal chance of passing on genes. For example, there may be a pattern of "intelligent people > more likely to be educated > more likely to dedicate lives to school/work (and more likely to be smart about sex and use contraception) > less likely to have kids", so evolution may be favoring stupid people. I have no basis at all for believing that's true besides a hunch... but even if that example is BS, it's an example of the type of evolution that could continue to happen in society, perhaps even rapidly.
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      "Is technology technically natural evolution?"

      naturally

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I may be wrong and I don't know about the actual time frames, but I've been under the impression that evolution takes a lot of time, millions of years, thousands or something to cause any drastic noticeable change to a species. Why are you all expecting it to happen fast enough for us to notice? In any individual's lifetime, it isn't going to appear that their species has changed at all.

      Actually now that I think about it, I remember hearing something about some biologists believing evolution may have happened in short bursts followed by large amounts of time where nothing happened, rather than continuous gradual evolution. But I don't remember where I heard that from.
      We have enough evidence to suggest that evolution has happened even in just the past 2,000 years or so in the human race. People have become taller, sleep cycles have changed and various other things you could find through a quick google search. This is not an extensively long period of time considering how long we suspect evolution to take. None of us are expecting it to happen fast enough for us to notice and no posts here really imply that.

      Your paragraph about evolution favoring stupid people doesn't really seem to have that much relevance though, no offense. Intelligence is not set by genetics.

      Quote Originally Posted by Blackfox
      "Is technology technically natural evolution?"

      naturally
      Nice input. Glad to have you on board, Blackfox.

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      I do see technological progress as the same trend of evolution. Evolution builds on it self, and leads to technology, and the technology then builds on it self. I think most planets that have life, and have time to evolve will eventually have technology, because it is just a step in the process. That said I don't think it is evolution, and I think we have for the most part stopped evolving in any practical sense.
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      I'm not sure getting taller constitutes a significant evolutionary change, at least not on the order of spawning a different species (well, obviously ). I consider it more one of the small changes. But then I don't know how scientists classify that stuff. Yeah, to give rise to a different species would take millions of years, and personally I don't think the human race will be around in a million years.

      I also didn't mean that we'd be seeing evolutionary changes as individuals, I meant 'we' as a species would be seeing evolutionary changes if the environment changes significantly. And since our technology currently shields us from the impact of environmental changes it would either have to be a big enough change that technology we currently have can't defend us from it, or the change would have to occur after we lose our technological abilities (actually I suppose that in itself would be a huge environmental change that would either end us or cause some pretty drastic evolution).

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      Quote Originally Posted by Araishu View Post
      Your paragraph about evolution favoring stupid people doesn't really seem to have that much relevance though, no offense. Intelligence is not set by genetics.
      I just just using it as an example. And you're wrong, intelligence is almost surely connected with genetics. There have been many studies done on this.

      It isn't 'set' because it is more complicated than determining the genes for eye color. 'Intelligence' can mean a lot of different things and there are many sub-abilities which make it up, probably more than we realize. But at least some of those abilities are passed on genetically.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I just just using it as an example. And you're wrong, intelligence is almost surely connected with genetics. There have been many studies done on this.

      It isn't 'set' because it is more complicated than determining the genes for eye color. 'Intelligence' can mean a lot of different things and there are many sub-abilities which make it up, probably more than we realize. But at least some of those abilities are passed on genetically.
      There are people who seem to be born with naturally high intelligence, but the point I'm making is that it can be earned.

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      I think the evolution of technology is an expression of the evolution of the human brain in its 'unique' ability to adapt. Some of the earliest species of fish had parts of their body evolve hundreds of millions of years ago and the result was that some of them could live in both water and land. I see it the same way for humans: a harmony of parts of the brain involved with creativity, imagination, focus, self-awareness, knowledge etc. allows human beings to survive in almost any environment on the planet...with the possibility of survival off the planet. People could live in areas of the globe that are -50 because the human brain can build a home and a fire. People can explore the depths of the oceans with submarines, move into the sky with hot air balloons, and explore the moon with rockets, suits, and captured air --to put simply. All of the technological inventions that allowed humans into environments that would otherwise be inhabitable or impossible to reach are the result of the development of the brain, which is --unlike the inanimate objects which it commands--directly subject to natural evolution..in my opinion.
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      I believe technology is an expression of the universe''s evolution.
      We humans are the direct result of our universe, the final, finest product of this evolution.Naturally, all our creations are the universe's way of expressing this creativity.What we do is natural, because in nature there is room for decay, death, suffering as much as for growth, stability, healthiness.
      If something bad happens, it's because this universe allowed it and set the conditions for it to happen.
      I'm not debating if technology is bad in helping our biology, I'm saying that technology, from cars to sky-scrappers is a branch of evolution.We are the universe experiencing itself and constantly changing itself to reach a better state.If we need more science for this is up to debate and this is what we all are trying to find out now.The industrial age, atomic age, information age, all appeared because the earth and the laws and of the universe allowed it, because we evolved to it like birds flying to warmer places.You could argue that nests are an example of technology.
      If what happens to us is bad then we die and we become extinct, just like most of the species, if not we carry on in and endless process of self-actualization.
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