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Stephen Hawking: "Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution"

Microsoft_surface_touchscreen_table1 Although It has taken homo sapiens several million years to evolve from the apes, the useful information in our DNA, has probably changed by only a few million bits. So the rate of biological evolution in humans, Stephen Hawking points out in his Life in the Universe lecture,  is about a bit a year.

"By contrast," Hawking says, "there are about 50,000 new books published in the English language each year, containing of the order of a hundred billion bits of information. Of course, the great majority of this information is garbage, and no use to any form of life. But, even so, the rate at which useful information can be added is millions, if not billions, higher than with DNA."

This means Hawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. "At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information."

But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.

"I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race," Hawking said.

In the last ten thousand years the human species has  been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."

The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, has collapsed to about 50 years, or less.

Stephen-hawking Meanwhile, Hawking observes, our human brains "with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written."

But we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls "self designed evolution," in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. "At first," he continues "these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression."

If the human race manages to redesign itself, to reduce or eliminate the risk of self-destruction, we will probably reach out to the stars and colonize other planets. But this will be done, Hawking believes, with intelligent machines based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules, which could eventually replace DNA based life, just as DNA may have replaced an earlier form of life.

Casey Kazan

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Immense Journey



i love you stephen

intelligent machines based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules, which could eventually replace DNA based life---I believe this refers to our own cybernetic and nano technological upgrades. We are growing as a species in a technological perspective so much faster than natural Darwinian evolution. I for one revel in the idea that the barbarism of cutting someone open to "fix" them is nearing an end. Having survived a myriad of major surgeries and having personal perspective that modern surgery is not an exact science and the complexity of biological design cannot be matched by human hands. I personally would be happier getting a tune up and updates whilst losing my extremities than deal with the aftermath of multiple surgeries and constant pain. Please don't take my opinion as ungratefulness, I am happy to be alive 100 years ago I would not be, or I would be a gnarled writhing husk. I am just of the opinion that our next steps in evolution will not be natural, we are at the cusp of controlling our own destiny as a race. This is what I believe the above statement was referring to.

It's pretty funny people are saying this notion was developed by Ray Kurzweil or Juan Enriquez or even Steven Hawking. That "Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution" has been a staple of cultural anthropology since long before any of them were active on this topic. The "New Stage" of course meaning the period of human history, and arguably also pre-history, during which culturally transmitted technological change vastly accelerated human evolution in comparison to physical change.

That is such an old notion that I first learned it from a class in Introductory Cultural Anthropology in 1978, following a textbook by Marvin Harris first published in 1971. I don't recall, but I doubt it was even Harris' observation first. The idea itself, as interesting as it is, really became obvious at the moment cultural anthropology diverged from physical anthropology. Who encapsulated the notion in this way first, I have no idea. But it certainly wasn't anyone already listed here.

The only other separable thought in this article is the idea of humans adopting a third stage of evolution, using technology to tinker with our own DNA. That has been discussed in innumerable science fiction articles, probably from at least the 1950s, after Franklin and Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA.

As time goes EVERYTHING changes....from our biology to our universe. call it physical or spirituual Evolution. The dynamics of these CHANGE is d very topic of debate between the scientific and religious worlds, the pragmatic and dogmatic, etc. Terminologies thus seems to be the major obstacle to truce between these debating schools...e.g chemical messenger = angelic messengers, hell=nuclear-war-torn-environnentally-polluted-resource degraded envrinmentally unfeiendly communities and worlds, heaven=new world space colonies smart cities resource controlled environmentally friendly life enhanced communities...... readers can fill in the remaining correspondences. i believe tomorrow man will not look the same as humans of today just as we are different from Neantherdals.

I note theories on evolution and assumptions but, more importantly, the present.
Scientists are presently smashing hadrons composed of neutrons, protons, electrons and other subatomic particles.
It is suggested the result will be mind blowing as they eagerly await results.
What they find may settle many beliefs and certainly answer many questions postulated.
Hard to discuss the past when it is today that we are developing and conducting some very complex research. This applies to many facets of research in so many different disciplines.
I enjoy the articles submitted but feel, in some cases, riddles are predominant

In my opinion there is no evolution from one species to another type
  (Such as those who say there evolution from ape to man)
Development will be in the same type (such as a bird had a long beak and evolution over time to become his beak Short)

My healty Website :

While working at the University of Sheffield, Medical School back in 1984 I have submitted an article titled "External vs. Internal Evolution", but was not published. In this article I have discussed the human evolution (internal) and how this might be transformed to computers and machines (external). Today, this issue with the progress in AI and robotics is very much alive.

This article (as submitted) can be downloaded from the following link.

Dr Ahmad A. Assaf
Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

Nice WebLog.
Thank you.

Stephen Hawking is bitter at God and harnesses a grave unforgiving anger inside of him.

Some people have blue eyes because they are acendants of vikings or scandanavians there is a particular gene that represents Eye color and it has been identified for like a hundred years they have an entire science built on something that you don't agree with, evolution is the the scientific law of biology, evolution makes sense of the most complex of realities when applied. if you are a god lover, coming to fight the satanist evolutionists

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