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What will man become?


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Hi, I’m new here and I’m also starting to teach myself about different kinds of science (My favorites subject so far is dealing with animal life and Evolution)I am here in hopes that I can improve my understanding and knowledge on the subjects.

 

My first subject here is what do you think the human race will be like a billion years from now(Assuming our species has survived that long) what do you think evolution effect will have on the human race in the deep future?

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Hi LostLabyrinths,

 

First, welcome to SFN. I'm glad you've joined and decided to share your interest and excitement with everyone else. :)

 

 

Your question is a hard one, though. We can barely say with any confidence what humanity will be like 100 or 200 years from now, let alone millions or billions of years. We just don't know.

 

As far as I know, humans have only existed for roughly 70,000 years, so we're just a short blip on the time line of all life since the birth of the Earth 4.6 billion years ago.

 

If you think of the timeline of Earth as a calendar, then all life really didn't begin until November, and humans only on the that final day of December 31... Like this:

 

 

http://www.enviro-explorers.com/rocksandroads_122302/unit1/unit1a.htm

 

3r_r_calendar.gif

January 1 to November 19 represents the geologic time before the Paleozoic Era.

November 19 to December 13 represents the Paleozoic Era.

December 13 to December 27 represents the Mesozoic Era.

December 27 to December 31 represents the Cenozoic Era.

The portion of the calendar year representing when humans appeared on the Earth is equal to the last minute of the day.

 

 

The above was specific to Earth time, but you can also see more on that here at wiki's link on the Cosmic Calendar in terms of the whole universe:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_Calendar

 

 

...and here:

 

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schooladventures/universe/itsawesome/cosmiccalendar/page2.html

 

Imagine that the history of the universe is compressed into one year—with the big bang occurring in the first seconds of New Year’s Day, and all our known history occurring in the final seconds before midnight on December 31. Using this scale of time, each month would equal a little over a billion years. Here’s a closer look at when important events would occur when we imagine the universe in one year.

 

DECEMBER

decemberimage.jpg

 

 

 

As to what we'll become? I don't know. However, earlier this evening I watched a really interesting talk by an archaeologist named Louise Leakey. I enjoyed it, and you may too. Here is the link:

 

 

 

Again, welcome. Enjoy yourself. :)

Edited by iNow
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70,000 is a little short. I think most paleoanthropologists would go with 200,000 these days, what with the genetic evidence and the early fossil discoveries like Omo I/II and all. Still not a great deal compared with a billion, though, I'll allow.

 

As for what we'll be then... Well, probably long extinct, and our descendants too. The chances of any one species leaving a chain of descendants that long seems vanishingly small. I do think that we as a species will leave ancestors, though, being as widespread and resilient as we are. We tend to confuse the fragility of human civilization with the fragility of the human species sometimes. Yes, a nuclear winter would be pretty much it for our great global society, but humans as a species have survived much worse in small groups. What would happen in a civilization-ending scenario is the isolation of little pockets of humanity under enormous selection pressure to cope with the new environments. That's a perfect recipe for speciation. Humanity as we know it might well birth lots of new, little humanities that outlast it by millennia.

Edited by CDarwin
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The real question is will we change at all, the reason organism change is to better adapt to their own environment but if you control your environment such as in a house with the temperature then there is little too change for.

 

Also in the case of survival of the fittest, does that really apply to humans any more, in rare cases such as chronic or genetic disease but for the the general population it doesn't really, most people live in a society where when you get in a relationship you stay with the partner in a 1:1 ratio meaning there isn't a lack of the opposite sex to go around.

 

Then of course studies have shown people of the same attractiveness are attracted too each other in greater amounts than someone who is on the other end of the scale so everyone isn't after the alpha male of the group.

 

It would be hard to predict what humanity will evolve to become more intelligent, yes but will the individual be or will it just be that they started from a higher step on the ladder with a greater knowledge base.

 

What you really have to ask is in the 1st world such as Europe and America what traits are selected for and who is having the most offspring, then of course you then have to ask are the same traits being selected for in places like China and India or do they prefer other traits.

 

The film Idiocracy, give a humorous look at the whole idea with the storyline being scarily resemblant of what could happen at one extreme.

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The real question is will we change at all, the reason organism change is to better adapt to their own environment but if you control your environment such as in a house with the temperature then there is little too change for.
The very absence of change would itself be an important environmental constraint. However, I suspect it may be several millenia before we can control our environment - if ever. What we do is to modify aspects of our environment to make those aspects more attractive/comfortable/preferable. We have an abyssmal record of predicting the side effects those modifications will have. (Before we get into an irrelevant discussion on global warming, lets restrict it to something more like stresses in the workplace caused by the structure of the wrokplace.)
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My first subject here is what do you think the human race will be like a billion years from now(Assuming our species has survived that long) what do you think evolution effect will have on the human race in the deep future?

 

To make it that long we will have to be traveling in space and occupy other worlds. These different environments alone should result in changes, but we will also change ourselves both genetically and with robotics. What we think of as human now would probably no longer exist.

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The film Idiocracy, give a humorous look at the whole idea with the storyline being scarily resemblant of what could happen at one extreme.

I saw that not so long ago...

 

Horrible thought. Though I doubt we could reach that level of intelligence and the world still even closely resemble what it is today. :confused:

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This question throws us firmly into the realm of speculation, and there are no right or wrong answers. However, I enjoy speculation too.

 

My opinion is that in the medium term future (a few hundred years) humanity will change mainly as a result of our own genetic modifications. Once we have the capability, why would any parent allow a child to be born with the gene for multiple sclerosis? Or for that matter, why would a parent allow a child to be born fated to grow up ugly? In my opinion they would not, and we will see a new 'beautiful people' arising, with higher intelligence, greater athleticism, greater lifespan, and higher general health.

 

In about a thousand years or so (plus or minus one hell of a margin for error), we can expect humanity to begin exploring and colonising the galaxy. Since there is no theoretical way of exceeding the speed of light, this will result in a large number of genetically isolated communities. Whether through natural evolution, or deliberate genetic modification to adapt to the new environments, we can expect humanity to split into a vast number of new and genetically different populations. Eventually new species.

 

Having massive numbers of different and massively separated populations would be an exceedingly effective protection against extinction. And the separation makes any warfare between such populations also exceedingly unlikely. The logistics of war would be impossible.

 

The original query talked of a billion years. I see no reason why our descendents should not be around by then, but they will no longer be human.

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To bombus

 

If the human species can survive long enough to establish self sustaining colonies in a number of other star systems (a matter of a few thousand years), then we will become highly resistant to extinction.

 

Yes, but a big IF in my opinion. We'll have a nuclear war before then - or run out of the vital resources needed to make the jump to other planets...

 

The other question is when does one species evolve enough to no longer be considered the same as the original species...

 

I think, if we do survive, we'll end up as big skinny babies - like greys. In fact, my avatar is a human from the far future.

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To bombus

 

I dunno about a nuclear war. We got through the cold war without that madness taking over, and I have hopes we can do the same for long enough to get some colonies going.

 

Running out of vital resources seems much less likely to me. Very few vital resources are in any danger of running out (oil may be an exception). Instead, what happens is that high purity mineral ores get used up and we learn to exploit lower quality ores. Each time the potential resource increases in size. In addition, humans are very good at substituting. eg. Biofuel for oil.

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Very few vital resources are in any danger of running out (oil may be an exception).

I suggest water must be included in this list also. For a planet 2/3 of which is covered by water this may seem strange, but the issue is real and is imminent. If we can resolve our energy problems than desalination of sea water and appropriate transport mechanisms will provide the solution, but as we know that is a big if.

Water tables have fallen dramatically in many industrialised countries yet we continue to deplete subterranean reservoirs at an increasing rate. Where governmental controls are absent or planning inept we have major ecological consequences. The Aral sea is a classic case.

The problem has been recognised globally as critical issue for at least a decade or two, so I am surprised you did not include it.

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To ophiolite.

The reason I did not include water is simply that it is not in danger of running out, as oil is. Instead, we are faced with a problem based on people using the wrong techniques.

 

For example : world-wide, about 80% of water use is in agriculture, and most of that is wasted. Methods such as whole field flooding are common. Switching to efficient water use methods such as trickle field irrigation can at least double or triple the water resource.

 

Methods such as desalination will be great for supplying cities, but not agriculture where the economics are different. However, there are many techniques which can be used. The problem is not one of a resource running out. It is a problem of the wrong methods being used.

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I would argue, quite strongly, that the resource is not water, but freshwater and that is being used faster than it is being replaced. To me that constitutes running out, since the same applies to oil. More is being generated, just not fast enough. The difference between the two is quantitative, not qualitative.

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Running out of vital resources seems much less likely to me. Very few vital resources are in any danger of running out (oil may be an exception). Instead, what happens is that high purity mineral ores get used up and we learn to exploit lower quality ores. Each time the potential resource increases in size. In addition, humans are very good at substituting. eg. Biofuel for oil.

Using a more efficient method of extraction doesn't change the total resource available. For example, we might find ways to cheaply refine copper from low quality ores, but there is still a finite number of copper atoms on the planet.

 

I appreciate what you are saying about eking out resources, but we are discussing the long haul here and I don't understand why you would make the claim that 'very few vital resources are in any danger of running out' even though the thread is supposed to be looking at human affairs far into the future. Copper and lead are beginning to become problematic already yet demand is actually accelerating.

 

It may be that you simply underestimate just how many elements and compounds are actually "vital" for maintaining our present civilisation, much less a more complex civ of the near future.

 

I suspect that Man will become stuck in an evolutionary rut, since most all selection stresses have been removed. Weak, Fat, and Lazy springs to mind.

Intra-specific competition brings its own selection pressures which - as long as we are picking our own reproductive mates - will never go away.

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To Sayonara

 

In theory, you are correct. However, the numbers are so high that this 'correctness' is meaningless for any foreseeable future. Take the element you mentioned - copper.

 

The Earth's crust is about E22 kg in mass. Copper (as far as we can tell) makes up about one part per million by mass of the Earth's crust. That is a total of 10 trillion tonnes. That is way more than humankind is ever likely to need for any predictable future time - many powers of ten more.

 

Of course, it is a moot point to decide what fraction of that 10 trillion tonnes humans can ever exploit. Still - knock off a few zeros and we are still rolling in copper.

 

Currently we exploit high purity rich ores. There is a rough law of ten (not actually ten - it varies a lot) which says that each time you move from high grade to lower grade ores, the available quantity increases. If we move to two grades lower, the amount increases by 100 (although, as I said, this conversion factor is highly variable - depends on the mineral, and the kind of resource, but I hope you get the principle).

 

The oceans contain some 400 million tonnes of copper dissolved in seawater. It would be difficult and expensive to extract - but a future technology might be able to do it.

 

Short summary - we are not likely to run out. The worst will be an increase in price.

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Yes, that's all well and good when you are talking about copper, but if you consider other materials vital to complex technologies, such as platinum, iridium, osmium, and Greenockite, my point stands. I'm pretty sure I could go on with an extensive list of things we might like a great deal more of should we wish to expand beyond Earth.

 

I notice you chose to talk about copper, which is commonly known to be abundant, but ignored lead. With the current rate of increase in utilisation, lead production (which includes mining and recycling) will become insufficient in about 40-45 years. But perhaps when we want to send all those ships to other stars we will be able to collect up all the bullets and melt them down for the cause.

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To Sayonara

 

I have to tender an apology. I double checked my figure for copper, and it is, in fact, 50 parts per million in the Earth's crust. So you will need to revise my figures for copper upwards 50 fold.

 

Lead is 14 parts per million. This means about 150 trillion tonnes in the Earths crust. If we assume that only one part in 100,000 will ever be extractable, this means there is a potentially available resource of well over a billion tonnes of lead. Only a couple of million tonnes dissolved in seawater, though.

 

Of course, none of these resources are evenly distributed, and people will always seek out the highest concentrations. However, given a reasonable amount of technological progress, and the continuing ability to extract lead from lower grade ores, we should not run out in a hurry.

 

However, as before, I cannot guarantee the price will not rise.

 

One that interested me. Since I was looking up relative abundance in the Earth's crust, I noticed this. Titanium is amazingly abundant! It makes up a full 0.44% of the Earth's crust. Titanium is an incredibly useful metal, and once we learn to extract it more efficiently, it will no doubt become a substantial driver of human progress.

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I have to tender an apology. I double checked my figure for copper, and it is, in fact, 50 parts per million in the Earth's crust. So you will need to revise my figures for copper upwards 50 fold.

No apology necessary. You are quite right to point out the relative abundance of copper, and any increase in the figures is surely a bonus.

 

Lead is 14 parts per million. This means about 150 trillion tonnes in the Earths crust. If we assume that only one part in 100,000 will ever be extractable, this means there is a potentially available resource of well over a billion tonnes of lead. Only a couple of million tonnes dissolved in seawater, though.

The thing is, there is a difference between the metal being extractable, and being economically viable to extract. Assuming that technological advances will result in more lead (or copper, for that matter) becoming available from lower grade ores or seawater tells us nothing if we do not have an adequate picture of (a) how pressing the need is to extract from those sources, or (b) whether the benefit outweighs the cost.

 

However, as before, I cannot guarantee the price will not rise.

This is sort of my point, in that we can be assured that demand will increase while the total number of available atoms stays the same. So price will rise, even if increased extraction/recycling efficiency comes at no cost (which is in itself unlikely).

 

Although price is an issue, it is not the most on-topic aspect I was trying to consider. In the context of the thread, "what will man become", there is a real risk that metals and minerals vital to space technology will physically become so difficult to source that they may turn into a significant limiting factor should we decide to start reaching out to other star systems. Of course cost will play its part too, but there is no point worrying about the cost of something unless you know it is available.

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To Sayonara

 

I suspect I am more opimistic than you about the human ability to apply ingenuity, and I think we will, indeed, develop ways that are not too costly to extract lead etc from lower purity ores.

 

An alternative that always exists is substitution. I mentioned the incredible abundance of Titanium. That is an amazing element with enormous potential value.

 

Iron is another material of incredible abundance - the fourth most abundant element at 5% of the crust by weight. It should NEVER run out.

 

If we cannot get as much lead out of the ground, we will move to other materials. For example : as lead/acid batteries become unavailable, we will substitute with Lithium. Lithium is present in enormous amounts in the ocean. 25 billion tonnes of it.

 

The ability to extract Lithium from seawater has just begun and the first small scale pilot plant is now operating. OK. The amounts extracted are still very small (just a gram a day so far), but will grow as the technology improves.

 

http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-238828/Saga-University-institute-starts-extracting.html

 

The history of the past 500 years is one of continuous increase in abundance of materials to drive our civilisation. Technology will, if anything, accelerate its development over the next 100 years, and our ability to obtain the massive abundance of elements in the Earth's crust and in the ocean will just improve. Ok, call me a shameless optimist, but I cannot see that improving technology will result in serious shortages when the elements are so abundant.

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Sayonara

I understand your point. I just don't agree with it. The history of mineral exploitation has always followed the general rule that rich ores are first exploited, and then poorer ores. As time passes, poorer and poorer ores are resorted to.

 

The good thing is that there are a hell of a lot more tonnes of metal in the poorer ores than the richer, simply because poorer ores are far more abundant, and this means that, when we learn to exploit these poorer ores, the substance becomes much more abundant.

 

This is part of the reason that the modern world is so rich by comparison with any time in the past. We have enormously greater amounts of resources.

 

If your thesis is correct, then it means that a very long term trend towards exploiting poorer ores and finding we have more and more of the resource - well that trend will have to reverse.

 

I happen to believe that, because technology continues to get more potent, the long term trend will continue, and we will not run out of resources.

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