Saturday, February 28, 2009

Evolution or Devolution?

Feb this year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the English naturalist, Charles Darwin.

In 1859, his book 'On the Origin of Species' established the theory of evolution. His works were seen as both revolutionary and revolting, depends on your moral beliefs, core values and guiding principles.

His theory sparked critics from many as it was tough for some to accept the link between man and apes. Amidst the arguments and discussions, the term 'Darwinism' was born. Today, the term is used to mean philosophies about biology as well as society evolution. The idea of "survival of the fittest" is an offshoot of "Darwinism".

Darwin's works were controversial but highly influential. When he died in 1882, he became one of the few non-royal persons who were given a UK state funeral during the 19th century.

Now, lexicographers are also getting involved in evolution. They studied the evolution of English words and have identified some oldest words. They claim that "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Using a supercomputer, the researchers found out how rapidly words evolve and are replaced through time. Their computer model can also predict which words are likely to become extinct in the future. For some reasons, words such as "squeeze", "guts", "stick" and "bad" stand a high chance of being the next casualties.

Today, every other thing is going through evolution, not necessarily in the biological sense. Among all, the fastest evolution must have come from the technological arena.

If we trace the history from the time of the British Industrial Evolution in the 18th Century, the speed of technological evolution appears to be going towards an exponential rate. Today, new technology hits the street everyday.

New terms and ideas such as 'screenless display', 'genetic engineering', 'nanotechnology' and 'bio fuels' are just some mind boggling emerging technologies. Before you know it, emerging technologies soon become passe leaving us to wonder what comes next.

Homo sapiens, aka, human, evolved 200,000 to 400,000 years ago. I take it that we have become better through evolution to get to where we are today. If that is the case, we indeed have taken a very long time.

Human evolution will not stop here. What is interesting to ponder is how technology might interfere in the natural pace of evolution. Will we evolve at a faster rate simply because we are now good at using technology to hasten and modify our bodily capabilities?

With technology, we may one day think like computers, run like antelopes, live a long life like the giant tortoises, have eye sight of eagles and hearing of dogs.

I am not sure if all these sound exciting to you but I am not particularly looking forward to any of them. There are probably many reasons and partly it could be due to my lack of ability to adapt fast enough. Besides, I feel sick just picturing us turning into humanoids.

Right now, I am sleepy. I hope that one day, human can stop relying on sleep as a way of energy renewal. When that time comes, sleep will just be a pastime, a luxury and a lifestyle.

For now, sleep is a necessity and I am signing off to do just that.

Good night.

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