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      CommentAuthorJohn Skylar
    • CommentTimeAug 28th 2010 edited
    Maybe that's not quite true:

    It's almost definitely not true. The last 10,000 years have been a period of profound evolution for humans. Not in terms of our body plans, but definitely in terms of certain genes that are expressed in our brains. "Race" variations are also pretty young, but they're also basically superficial.

    We're a genetically young species. I won't be surprised if we have an adaptive radiation sometime in our future.
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeAug 28th 2010
    Hey Bl00

    If we're going to talk about the difference between transformative and extending tools, the question cannot be about the tool in and of itself, but about its impact on society. There is a simple reason for this: there are many tools which are barred from public use, but which have radically altered society. For example, the world after the nuke is a different environment than the world before the nuke. We may look at ourselves and our lives as essentially unchanged, but the political and social structures that resulted from this technology have changed the way governments interact with each other irreversibly. We are inextricably linked to society, and thus a change on one level has unpredictable effects.

    That, however, is a somewhat disingenuous broadening of the term. I will narrow my search options. It isn't the use of tools by people that is of interest to transhumanism, nor is it the impact of tools on society, it is the interaction between tool and user. Moreso, it is the interaction of an individual or small group to a tool, rather than a population. In that way, Transhumanism has much in common with humanist philosophies, placing the actions of the individual as central to the betterment of society. Which is good and noble.

    This issue is that technology follows its own vectors. This isn't some wooly headed 'meme' throwaway, like saying 'technology evolves' (I'm looking at you, Kevin Kelly), its a simplification of a very simple truth. Technology spreads faster than the knowledge required to use that technology does. This is because language takes a lot of time to convey complicated ideas, whereas anyone with a lick of sense can think of a use for a screwdriver, even if it isn't for screwing things in. Humans adapt to the tools around them, and when those tools fall short in their utility, either abandon the tool or hack it.

    Tools solve problems, and in doing so, redefine the problem itself. This is the intrinsic back and forth that has followed humanity since (if some of the articles I just read hold up) literally before the beginning of the hominid line. In point of fact, it may be the reason we are a clever lot as is. But what this means is that the end use of a tool may be utterly unpredictable from its initial inception-- and to the concern to people, may have disastrous effects on society, wholly unintentionally. Case in point: global climate change, failed nation-states, and Robber Baron Capitalism.

    The question I put to the Transhumanists -- how do you ethically account for unintended consequences?
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeAug 28th 2010
    The last 10,000 years have been a period of profound evolution for humans ... in terms of certain genes that are expressed in our brains.

    "Citation required"? What evidence/authority were you paraphrasing when you said this? Can you point me towards more about this topic?
      CommentAuthorJohn Skylar
    • CommentTimeAug 28th 2010 edited
    "Citation required"?

    A quick search of NCBI's PubMed reveals the following recent open-access paper:

    Entitled, "Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution." This paper focuses mostly on the evolution of the skeletal and dental systems of our species in the last 10,000 years. There are other papers that deal more with neurological evolution that I have read and could probably find for you, but I believe we're mostly just talking about the idea that there's been evolution in humans in the last 10,000 years.

    If you will direct yourself to figure 1, you will see that the ascertained age of selected alleles peaks at around 8000-5000 years ago, which is comfortably within the last ten thousand years by my estimate of the age algorithm's accuracy.

    We are still exploring our genetic space as a species. Technology is a relatively new influence on our selection, as is modern medicine. Speaking about our subspecies in particular, which is between ten and five thousand years old, the influence of these things on our normal genetic evolution is minimal thus far. They're whippersnappers by two orders of magnitude (100 years vs. 10,000).

    If you wait another 10,000 years and then look back, the effect will probably be even clearer. Remember that even 10^4 years is a proverbial drop in the bucket for genomic evolution. Our genes are patient.
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2010
    Thank you for the citation (although I hardly understood any of it).
  1.  (8811.26)
    You're quite welcome, and as it comes to understanding...that is entirely the fault of the paper's authors. Biologists have a language to our papers that I am convinced exists only to make easy concepts harder to understand. It's crap and I don't like it. I believe science should be accessible. In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to have a fancy education to be an informed person. It's ridiculous how many artificial roadblocks academia puts in the way of understanding to maintain its monopoly on the production of knowledge.

    Whitechapel: PLEASE FEEL FREE to email me at the address in my account profile should you ever need to be pointed in the direction of accessible biology. I am not half as smart as my credentials would suggest, but I'm acclimated enough to the culture of research to at least send you sources that make the understanding step a lot easier.
  2.  (8811.27)
    @ John Skylar

    It's the same with all academia. You have to spend 3 years learning to decode the language successfully, at which point they ask you to either contribute or fuck off. I work in music theory at postgrad level, and no-one except other academics have any idea what I do, and even then only a small handful. Open source academia was a great idea apart from they made up more words and made it harder to read without an accompanying wiki... etc etc.
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2010
    Can you specify anything that has changed in the (any) human brain/mind, at the genetic level, at any time within the last 10,000 years or so?
  3.  (8811.29)
    "Perhaps the most incendiary aspect of the fast-evolution research is evidence that the brain may be evolving just as quickly as the rest of the body. Some genes that appear to have been recently selected, Moyzis and his collaborators suggest, influence the function and development of the brain. Other fast-changing genes—roughly 100—are associated with neurotransmitters, including serotonin (a mood regulator), glutamate (involved in general arousal), and dopamine (which regulates attention). According to estimates, fully 40 percent of these neurotransmitter genes seem to have been selected in the past 50,000 years, with the majority emerging in just the past 10,000 years..."

    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeSep 5th 2010
    Thank you, Warren.

    That article is impressively lucid for a non-specialist reader: I understood in the first 3 paragraphs of page 3 what I hadn't understood in the whole of the other article cited previously (about whether there's mutation, how much there is, when did it happen, and how they can tell/guess when it happened).

    It also has an impressively long list of recent mutations, which is what I had asked about, including mental as well as physical ones.