Losing Your Nails: How Technology will Shape Human Evolution

An interview with Timothy Taylor in a recent issue of New Scientist highlights how, contrary to Darwin’s theory, human evolution is more complex than simply “survival of the fittest.”  In fact, many of contemporary humanity’s physical features are “weaker” than the earlier model due to the technologies used by our ancestor hominins (australopithecines) and early Homo sapiens.  Examples of accumulated biological deficits include soft nails, hairless bodies and weak jaws.  It is also now clear that the use of primitive tools to create slings (to carry young infants) may have been a key facilitator allowing for our big brains, as development could continue outside the space-restricting womb.

This is not a new concept, but once again it is interesting to consider how the evolution of the physical human form may change with the advent of new technology.
The next steps in human evolution?
●    A complete loss of nails.
●    Change in pregnancy duration.  Pregnancy is likely to get shorter as more premature children survive with intensive care.
●    No eyes? It’s a fact that eyes are among the last features to be disposed of by evolution, even when environmental pressures do not discriminate between those that can see and those that cannot (see the cave fish Astyanax mexicanus).  But with the advent of visual neuroprostheses, the eye is a strong candidate to be knocked out. X-ray vision and infrared may well become the norm.

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