How Humans Are Shaping Our Own Evolution

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Max, D. T. Illustrations by Owen Freeman. "How Humans Are Shaping Our Own Evolution" ("Like other species, we are the products of millions of years of adaptation. Now we're taking matters into our own hands.") "This story appears in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine."[1]

Opening of the column: "When I met the cyborg Neil Harbisson, in Barcelona, he looked like any local hipster," followed by the apparently SF-confirming, "except for the black antenna arching impressively from the back of his skull over his mop of blond hair": cf. and contrast the Army of Mars in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan (1959). The un-augmented Mr. Harbisson cannot perceive colors, and the antenna is associated with a "fiber-optic sensor [that] picks up the colors in front of him, and a microchip implanted in his skull converts their frequencies into vibrations on the back of his head. Those become sound frequencies, turning his skull into a sort of third ear," and allowing color perception beyond that of normal humans. Mr. Harbisson "persuaded the British government to let him wear the antenna in his passport photo," thus becoming, the article asserts, "the world’s first official cyborg." But not the last; the article alludes briefly to other modifications, including in/of Harbisson's friend Moon Ribas, "a cyborg artist and dancer," who "followed him into what is sometimes called transhumanism by having a seismic monitor in her phone connect to a vibrating magnet buried in her upper arm. She gets real-time reports of earthquakes, allowing her to feel connected to the motions of the Earth and interpret them through dance." Mostly, though, the article looks at the promise of genetics, which has brought about useful changes in humanity the last few thousand — through surprisingly fast natural selection — and bioengineering in the future, leading to what "Ray Kurzweil in his well-known book The Singularity Is Near calls 'the vast expansion of human potential.'"

See also Vernor Vinge's "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in a Post-Human Era."

Thom Dunn and RDE, 01Nov17