What does survival of the fittest mean in the future?
When we were just Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, our carnivorous diet was often served with a side of rock and dirt. Our trusty appendix served as our built-in food processor. While this and other once critical body parts are now considered vestigial structures, they are artifacts that testify to the symbiotic relationship between nature, human civilization, and our bodily equipment. For all of history, the human body has evolved along with environmental and social change. Natural selection is the feedback of human protoyping, a “survival of the fittest” in the most innate, animalistic sense.
However, modern citizens definitely confuse nature’s version control system. Armed with 3D-printed guns, infinite memory and knowledge a few clicks away, Googling goggles that make profound Googly-eyed contact with other goggles, networked heart monitorS, we humans can’t take all the credit for luxuriant convenience of modern life. We couldn’t imagine a society without technology, without the physical and intellectual assistance of our inhuman companions
So how/do we reconcile our instinctual humanity with our inhuman self-extensions, ie. technology? And what potential impact might these technological tools have on the future of human evolution?
First off, despite how much we depend and benefit from our machines, technology-driven culture is destroying our bodies. After existing for 500,000 years with few resources besides our physical bodies, human beings are simply not built or accustomed to crouch over bright screens for work and for pleasure and for survival all hours of the day. Even as I type this paper, I feel the familiar throb in my wrists, birthed from relentless, unnatural position of my hands over a keyboard. At this stage in human evolution, our cognitive abilities have designed tools that have rendered manual toil obsolete, and hinder the physical strength of our species.
Swiping and pawing away at glowing glass squares doesn’t feel natural, and illustrates the failure of interactive design to adapt technology to existing human behaviors and environments. New frontiers in virtual reality, such as the Facebook-acquired Oculus VR, strive to integrate natural human movement and lifestyle into life-like virtual worlds. Humans who wear the Oculus VR headset will engage in the human kinesthetic and physical experience neglected during most technological activities. And yet, paradoxically, our own isolation from this human experience encourages its simulation.
At the same time, in privileged, wired societies, “survival of the fittest” encompasses much greater socioeconomic complexities than just meeting our basic human needs. Even though technology may slowly deteriorate our physical bodies, we will get by with a little help from our cyborg friends. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller believes that developing strong relationships with modern technology might just be the special sauce that gives certain humans a competitive edge in the natural selection process. He purports “We’re also going to get stronger sexual selection, because the more advanced the technology gets, the greater an effect general intelligence will have on each individual’s economic and social success, because as technology gets more complex, you need more intelligence to master it.” In other words, this speculated unnatural process of selection operates on equating the sexiness of a human being with the sexiness of the technology he or she operates. In a final creepy thought, if Geoffrey is correct, technology, in essence, will also be bred to survive. If humans with the most intelligent and sexy technology have more babies, then they will also spawn popularity for their technological wing mate, initiating a symbiotic life cycle between tech and humanity, both perpetuating and existing because of the other.
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Manjoo, Farhad. “If You Like Immersion, Youâ€™ll Love This Reality .” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 Apr. 2014. Web. 2 Apr. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/technology/personaltech/virtual-reality-perfect-for-an-immersive-society.html>.
Owen, James. “FUTURE HUMANS: Four Ways We May, or May Not, Evolve.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 24 Nov. 2009. Web. 2 Apr. 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091124-origin-of-species-150-darwin-human-evolution.html>.
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