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All rights reserved. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published years ago Tuesday, opened the book on our evolutionary past, which has since been traced by scientists back to fossil apes. But where is evolution taking us?

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Will our descendants hurtle through space as relatively unchanged as the humans on the starship Enterprise? Will they be muscle-bound cyborgs? Or will they chose to digitize their consciousnesses—becoming electronic immortals? And as odd as the possibilities may seem, it's worth remembering that, years ago, the ape-to-human scenario in On the Origin of Species struck many as nothing so much as monkey business. Natural selection, as outlined in On the Origin of Species, occurs when a genetic mutation—say, resulting in a spine suited to upright walking—is passed down through generations, because it affords some benefit.

Eventually the mutation becomes the norm. But if populations aren't isolated, crossbreeding makes it much less likely for potentially significant mutations to become established in the gene pool—and that's exactly where we are now, Tattersall said. Homo sapiens is densely packed across the Earth, and individuals are unprecedentedly mobile. Steve Jones, a genetics professor at University College London, put forward a similar scenario during a recent lecture series marking the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the th anniversary of On the Origin of Species at the University of Cambridge. The human population will become more alike as races merge, he said, but "Darwin's machine has lost its power.

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Instead, intentional action by humanity is necessary. It is as if the evolution of life on any planet is a developmental process that has a very unusual characteristic: evolution will continue to develop successfully beyond a certain point only if it produces a sentient organism that: i awakens to the possibility it is embedded in a developing process; ii realizes that this developing process will continue successfully only if it chooses to intentionally drive the process forward; and iii commits to doing whatever is necessary to achieve this.

On this planet, humanity is that sentient organism. The existence of such a key evolutionary role for humanity is capable of providing humanity with meaning and purpose in a larger scheme of things. For individuals who commit to driving the process forward, the nature of the trajectory has immediate consequences for what they should do with their lives, here and now.

Doi: Save to Library. This dynamical barrier prevents un-managed This dynamical barrier prevents un-managed autocatalytic networks of molecular species from individuating into complex, cooperative organizations. As a result, the barrier seriously impedes the emergence of individuality, complex functionality and the transition to life. This barrier is analogous to the cooperation barrier that also impedes the emergence of complex cooperation at all levels of living organization.

Management implements a system of evolvable constraints that can overcome the cooperation barrier by ensuring that beneficial co-operators are supported within the organization and by suppressing free-riders. In this way, management can control and manipulate the chemical processes of a collectively autocatalytic organization, producing novel processes that serve the interests of the organization as a whole and that could not arise and persist in an un-managed chemical organization. Management self-organizes because it is able to capture some of the benefits that are produced when its interventions promote cooperation, thereby enhancing productivity.

Selection will therefore favour the emergence of managers that take over and manage chemical organizations so as to overcome the cooperation barrier. The managed-metabolism hypothesis demonstrates that if management is to overcome the cooperation barrier comprehensively, its interventions must be digitally coded. In this way, the hypothesis accounts for the two-tiered structure of all living cells in which a digitally-coded genetic apparatus manages an analogically-informed metabolism. View on link. Adaptability is of central importance to the evolutionary process.

It is through adaptation that organisms are able to survive in changing environments, become better suited to their existing environment, or expand into new environments It is through adaptation that organisms are able to survive in changing environments, become better suited to their existing environment, or expand into new environments. In general, organisms that are more adaptable can be expected to be more successful in evolutionary terms.

A major improvement in adaptive ability is a major evolutionary advance. Humans are the most adaptable organism to live on this planet.

We use our rapidly improving science and technology to survive and satisfy our adaptive goals in a wide range of environments. Whatever adaptive problem we put our minds to, we can generally find a solution. We have proven far more adaptable than organisms that evolve by gene-based evolution. It took millions of years for genetic evolution to discover how to produce reptiles that fly, while humans developed the technology to achieve this in a few thousand years.

The massive adaptive improvements seen in human capacities over recent centuries are significantly greater than could be achieved by genetic evolution over hundreds of millions of years.

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Whatever our wants, whatever our needs, we are very effective at finding ways to manipulate our environment to achieve them. But we are very poor at achieving things that we do not want. We don't use our creativity to find better ways to achieve things we are not motivated to achieve. In evolutionary terms, this turns out to be the central limitation in human adaptability.

Typically, we do not see this as a limitation. It does not prevent us from doing anything that we want to do. It does not stop us from living happy and fulfilled lives. We do not feel restricted because we have no desire to do what we have no desire to do. If we evaluate our adaptability by asking whether it enables us to satisfy our needs and wants, we continue to see ourselves as being highly adaptable.

But if we measure our adaptive ability in evolutionary terms, we reach a very different conclusion. What if our continued evolutionary success demands that we adapt in ways that conflict with the satisfaction of our existing needs and wants?

What if our existing motivations and needs do not produce the behaviours that are best in evolutionary terms? These sorts of conflicts between our needs and evolution's needs seem highly likely to emerge during our evolutionary future.

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It is improbable that the needs and wants implanted in us by our evolutionary past will produce the behaviour that is also optimal for our future. This means that our adaptability is seriously limited in evolutionary terms. There is an enormous range of behaviours, life styles and technologies that we would not want given our current needs and motivations. But these might be critically important for achieving evolutionary success in the future. We have a very large evolutionary blind spot.

We are not motivated to explore an immense variety of adaptive possibilities, no matter how useful they may be in evolutionary terms. Until we overcome this limitation, we will continue to use genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and other technological advances to satisfy our past evolutionary needs and conditioning, rather than to achieve future evolutionary success.

John E. Stewart, The Trajectory of Evolution and its Implications for Humanity - PhilPapers

Enlightenment and the Evolution of the Material World more. What is the evolutionary significance of enlightenment? To what extent are capacities that are enabled by enlightenment essential to the evolutionary survival and flourishing of humanity into the future? This article argues that key This article argues that key capacities associated with enlightenment are of critical importance: they can significantly increase the ability of human individuals and societies to adapt and evolve.

Two of these capacities are: i self-evolution: the ability of an organism or organisation to free itself from the biological and cultural dictates of its evolutionary past so that it can choose to evolve in whatever directions are necessary to benefit its evolutionary future; and ii meta-systemic wisdom: the capacity of an organism or organisation to develop mental models of interactions between itself and its complex environment and to use these models to identify actions that will serve its evolutionary future.

The development of these two capacities is essential if the living processes that emerge on any planet are to participate successfully in the future evolution of life in the universe. Humanity is rapidly approaching circumstances that are demanding the development of these capacities individually and collectively. Fortunately, the world's religious and spiritual traditions possess much of the knowledge and techniques needed to develop these abilities.

What potential exists for improvements in the functioning of consciousness?

If the World Started Over, Would Life Evolve the Same Way?

The paper addresses this issue using global workspace theory. According to this model, the prime function of consciousness is to develop novel adaptive responses According to this model, the prime function of consciousness is to develop novel adaptive responses. Consciousness does this by putting together new combinations of knowledge, skills and other disparate resources that are recruited from throughout the brain.