Technology Shaped Human Evolution – a Comment to a NewScientist article

Two posts a day is a rare exception, but when I published my today’s post my eye fell on this article and the interesting discussion, so I couldn’t help but compose a comment. I fully agree with the notion that technology shaped human evolution. Still I have some objections.

I believe they figured out how to carry their newborns using a loop of animal tissue.

How and why should they do this. It is a great problem with evolutionary thinking from Darwin till today, that scientists believe in huge leaps forward. Darwin believed that adaptation leads to new species and Timothy Taylor believes that ape females developed the sling to carry their babies out of the blue. This claim leads to a question similar to what came first egg or chicken. The female apes have to evolve the sling to let heir babies grow more brain, but they need the brain to invent the sling. Though I’m inclined to go along with his conviction that slings might have been a great invention, I don’t believe that some day in the past an idea struck the mind of a female ape and she took the skin of an animal to build a sling and every ape agreed that this is a great invention.

Some more reasonable intermediate steps could be made by the aquatic ape hypothesis. The buoyant force would help the apes to carry more brain and their children likewise. Moreover, accustomed to carrying their offspring on her back would automatically suggest the invention of a helping device when leaving the water, the sling. Following this hypothesis, one would assume that the first slings were made not of skin but of water plants that excellently suit the purpose.

Evidence shows that over the last 30,000 years there has been an overall decrease in brain size and the trend seems to be continuing. That’s because we can outsource our intelligence.

It is not that we outsourced our brain. It is that evolution is going on in a new fauceir embracing human individuals, society. It is exactly for these 30,000 years that societies evolved, and human individuals became only slaves to that master fauceir. Slave fauceirs usually show devolution. To put it more provocatively, less brainy human individuals better suited social needs. In other words, societies systematically got rid of individuals who were geniuses because they were quarrelsome and difficult to manage.

People like to argue that you can apply Darwinian selection to, say, industrial design. That led Richard Dawkins to propose and Susan Blackmore to develop the “meme” idea – cultural analogues of genes that are not biological but they are still replicators and follow the basic logic of biological evolution.

Not memes actually but fauceirs. It is too simple to transpose the behavior of genes to other evolving things. Genes are specialized fauceirs adapted to biological information transfer, genetic adaptation, and evolution. Other fauceirs show other types of adaptation, so the general rule is correct, the details don’t fit.

Will computers eventually be able to develop their own computers that are even smarter than them, creating a sudden acceleration that leaves the biological behind and leaves us as a kind of pond scum while the robots take over?

This is a loaded question, that everybody is inclined to answer: “We wont allow that.” But in fact, human already handed over their evolution to societies, and they feel comfortable with it. Societies provide food and shelter. As we have seen above, humans devolve, so they are no more at the top of the evolutionary pyramid. Humans are domesticated by their societies differently in different societies, but all the same domesticated. Thus there is no questions whether technology will replace humans, societies will replace humans, and they already do, see unmanned reconnaissance aircraft for instance. Conclusively, the most interesting question remains if sometimes in the future societies will be ruled by technology. I’m convinced it would. That’s the way evolution proceeds and how it can be interpreted by Fauceir Theory.

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