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Is the Biological, Darwinian Phase of Human Evolution Over? Hawking Says "Yes" (Today's Most Popular)



In the past decade, we’ve examined our Solar System’s orbit through the Milky Way to ask whether there may be clues to periodic mass extinctions on our planet. We've launched missions seeking out habitable Alien Earths and the existence of dark energy and have migrated from wondering if there's life on Mars to searching out and studying myriads of exo planets in the Milky Way and infinite galaxies beyond.

Physicist Stephen Hawking believes 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.

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.

The Daily Galaxy via http://www.centauri-dreams.org/


We must start act like INTELLIGENT beings who want to see HAPPY FUTURE for all! We also must explore the COSMOS because that what we are here for.RELIGION shouldn't influence YOUNG generation with their primitive "knowledge" that confuses a lot of young people. Trust me on this!

Every generation has thought themselves the most advanced possible for thousands of years. Each generation then successively looks upon their children with amazement as they out-do their forefathers. While we may not be evolving different limbs, or different physical structure, every generation proves to be more advanced than the previous. Most will say something along the lines of "that comes with being taught what previous generations learned," and that is a good point, but our capacity seems to grow with each successive generation. Physically, we are getting larger and living longer, this cannot be denied. The average person today would have been a large person five generations ago. The average grandparent today would probably not have lived this long five generations ago. Yes, medicine and diet are a part of this trend, but can you prove that it's the whole? Remembering this, I cannot take anyone who states "we have reached our apex," in however many words, seriously. It just seems to be poor foresight to me.

Wasn't there a story just recently about how our brains are developing to become more efficient and compact, so it can do more work with less space? It may or may not have been on this site (I don't recall), but that at least is a direction in which we can continue.

Our use of technology to overcome our weaknesses may stop us from continuing to evolve in other ways, but as intellect becomes more and more important I do think this will continue to happen. Our distant descendants may continue to look like us, perhaps with only a slightly increased cranium, but they'll have brains capable of much, much more.

We already know how to modify intelligence in the sense that Hawking means. Consider SATs and professional school admission test such as LSATs or MCATs, Mensa will accept these scores as IQ test equivalents for membership. So we now have artificial selection favoring increasing intelligence. And no it won't take hundreds of thousands of years to be noticeable, a handful of generations will make it very obvious

Steven Hawking said that we should fear Aliens because they are al hostile and want to take our natural resources for their own. Now he believes that we have reached the height of human natural evolution, and that the only way we could evolve further is when homo sapiens merge with that of machines (We are Borg. Your uniqueness will be added to our collective whole).

What distinguishes us from our ancestors (modern humans vs primitive human) is that without the accumulated knowledge that has taken us thousands of years to accumulate. There has been an acceleration of the accumulation of knowledge, based on the Quantitative and Qualitative changes that has taken place during the course of our collective evolution; which leads to a Quantum leap in our development as a species. What will be the total sum of knowledge gained by the year 2110, as compared to the total sum of knowledge gained by the year 3110? Is is knowledge that only effects evolution or is it the conditions in the material world that effects evolution. Space is a harsh world for us to venture into, but why do we have so much fear in venturing into the night? We have plenty of time to develop the technology that will lead us to the stars, unfortunately, we want a ready-made planet for us to escape to. We can not hope for the stars that we can not reach in anybodies lifetime, so maybe we should settle for the ones we can reach in our life time; Mars,Saturn, Uranus, Europa, and Pluto. When we have accumulated enough knowledge and experience to create the technologies that will allow us to venture forth into the night; we will do it without cyborg technology or fear.

We will not go as the Conquistadors to colonizes the savages of the galaxy, but as explores and scientist astrologists and people of goodwill.

Very interesting concept.

Disagree with Dr. Hawking - Darwinian adaptation will continue except now ‘natural’ forces requiring adaption are supplemented by forces spawned from modern technology. One such ‘modern’ force will probably prove to be the cultural introduction of electronic devices, especially audio-visual, that are becoming pervasive. I believe this new adaptation pressure, especially on young developing brains, will lead to increasing anomalies (e.g., autism and related development ‘abnormalities’) that may come to be the ‘norm’.

I guess one could forgive a genius like Hawking for not noticing that most human beings are still quite stone age when it comes to reason and relationships, and frankly, I think we have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves evolved. As smart as we may be technologically (and there's no doubt of that), as a species, we are still barely better than animals in regard to how we treat each other ...and our home planet....sometimes not even as intelligent as animals.

Interesting article, but when (and where) did Hawking say this? Are you referencing you own 2009 article (http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/07/stephen-hawking-the-planet-has-entered-a-new-phase-of-evolution.html)? or the 1996 Hawking lecture?

The irony here is that if this sort of futuristic eugenics was available and accepted as the norm back in the 1940s, Stephen Hawking would not have been born due to his "imperfect" DNA.

On a global scale (evolutional scale) why is there so much war, divorce, push for extreemism? You can blame it on religion but that's an excuse. On an individual scale, mankind is still the same as one million years ago. Watching a movie or discovery channel doesn't make us better in our hearts, minds, or actions towards others. I changed when I gave my life to Christ.

I found a foundation for life in the solid rock of Christ. Science (which I excelled in and truely love) gave me a cold sholder.

Pete Tavis

Well, by his own admission, Mr. Hawking has been wrong before. Until we are able to transfer all that we are into machines, we will not have escaped Darwinian evolution -- and maybe not then. We are still organisms in the environment, subject to survival pressures. No matter how much quicker than genetics, it's too soon to tell if our external information exchange will thrive or become extinct. One good solar flare might devolve our digital age back to the level known to that erudite 18th century man.

It appears Stephen Hawking is among the growing number who recognize the nearing technological singularity. I wonder if he has a grody cardboard sign like Ray Kurzweil's. "The Exponential Information Explosion is NEAR!"

Yes, Darwinian/genetic evolution will continue, but it operates at such a slow pace compared to information evolution (see James Silva's videos featuring "ideas having sex"), that for all practical purposes it is standing still.

Today we can read any book, hear any song and watch any movie on a handheld device that even many third-world citizens are buying and using. It won't take until year 3000 or even 2100 for hugely more dramatic changes to take place. Human life expectancy is longer than it has ever been, and continues to increase at a month+ per year. If you can live a few more decades, you will be able to live indefinitely.

This is an intrinsically flawed perspective. It assumes that evolution only takes one path at a time. Look at the world. Not only is every species a different branch, a different path that mutation has taken, but look within our own species. Multiple races, different traits, all diverging evolutionary paths contained within a single species, technological evolution is merely another branch; a branch of human intelligence, consisting of many branches of its own. Even if some lines take that path, not all of them will, and will continue to evolve through the natural way of passing along traits through hereditary genetic mutations and multiplying, or dying...wash, rinse, repeat. Right now on this planet are over seven billion potential human evolutionary paths, created through exponential combinations of the already exponential potential combinations of chromosomes. It is an example of human egocentricity to expect to be able to predict such an inherently chaotic system. A childish assumption at worst, an impossibly complex, answer-less, calculation at best.

I agree with the solar flare. Plus the bullying, the disrespect towards people like me, born with deffects. Some people are not that mature/evolved.

Woah. Prof. Hawking finally managed to acknowledge what Ray Kurzweil has been preaching since the '80s. Well done, Professor, well done.

sadlyGod looks upon your infinite knowledge as futility, so much so that He will send Jesus Christ back here to keep your kind from killing each other off in the name of man.

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