Wired.com had this article on the World Science Festival in New York City. I think all of us – at some point in our lives – questions who we are, what makes us different, or even why we’re “here”. But have you ever sat and thought to yourself, “what makes me human?”. Here’s my answer. I’m curious to know about yours.
We are unique in our ability of self-recognition. We know ourselves; we recognize ourselves as being unique; and we know that others around us are unique, too. We build upon that and communicate in a way that is different from every other creature. We look at the world in concepts and abstractions, rather than concrete “things”.
That is my answer. What’s yours?
New Scientist has a top-five run-down of vestigial organs that humans (arguably) no longer need.
(I imagine a number of readers will share in my vehement agreement that wisdom teeth (more properly known as third molars) are on the list … my unreasoning dislike of dentistry has been mentioned here before, and the consequences of an overcrowded jaw were a major contributing factor to that reaction.) [image by Lone Primate]
So, now we know which stuff we don’t need, how do we go about removing it from the human system? Permanently?
OK ladies and gents, please give a warm welcome to our second new non-fiction columnist here at Futurismic – Sven Johnson.
Sven is what I might call a philosopher of design (although I image he’ll hate me having done so in public). In his inaugural column he gets all eschatological on our asses and asks whether, as a species, we collectively design our own doom. Continue reading Designing for the Apocalypse
Thanks to the magic of the wire services, this story is all over the web like a rash – you can read the abstract of the paper that’s caused the hoo-haa on the blog of John Hawks, one its authors.
But the nutshell quote is this one:
“The massive growth of human populations has led to far more genetic mutations, and every mutation that is advantageous to people has a chance of being selected and driven toward fixation. We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals.”
As an early commenter points out on the inevitable MetaFilter thread, faster evolution doesn’t mean we’re improving as a species, because evolution selects for ‘reproductive fitness’ rather than any quality that we might describe as being ‘better’ from a rational point of view.
But it’s an interesting story nonetheless; I’d always thought evolution was a glacially slow process. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the implications are … not to mention the spin that the ‘Young Earth’ folk will try to put on it. [Image by KevinDooley]
[tags]human, evolution, anthropology, biology[/tags]
I’ve got an enduring interest in the use of technology to overcome deficiencies of the human form (as regular readers will doubtless already be aware), but I’m equally fascinated by the ways that the same problems can be overcome with what you might describe as the "vanilla hardware configuration" – in other words, working around the problem without any external assistance. The human body and brain are astonishingly adaptable – witness Ben Underwood, a blind teenager who has taught himself to "see" using echolocation.
[tags]human, senses, blindness, echolocation[/tags]