In the previous sections, human evolution has been outlined in terms of various biological and man-made models, where the last discussion started to link the importance of social developments to the progress of human civilisation. While such developments might initially be attributed to the evolution of human intelligence, research suggests that this intelligence may not have changed in any appreciable way over the entire period of human civilisation, i.e. the last 10,000 years, and possibly as far back as the earliest migrations out of Africa, some +100,000 years ago. If so, we might infer another manifestation of the nature verse nurture debate by questioning whether future human progress will be more dependent on the nurture of man-made developments than the nature of biological evolution.
So what differentiation might we make to separate evolution from development?
Generally, there is often the perception that ‘evolution’ is a relatively slow process associated with natural selection, while ‘development’ is essentially a man-made process, which can take place within a much shorter timeframe. As such, we might initially characterise ‘development’ as a process that has taken place around humanity, rather than within it. However, on further reflection, we might recognise that man-made developments within the field of genetic science has brought us to the point where we now have the potential to rewrite our own DNA, such that evolutionary change might also become man-made. Likewise, advances in computing, especially in the field of AI neural networks, highlights the potential for sentient intelligence to undergo another evolutionary development.
So how might we describe such developments: past, present and future?
First, in the widest terms, evolution by natural selection started some 3.8 billion years ago and dominated up until homo-sapiens appeared approximately 200,000 years ago. However, due to the slow nature of DNA change, the next 190,000 years might be seen as only a few minutes on the evolutionary clock being described. This said, approximately 10,000 years ago, we started to see the transition from slow evolution to fast development through the innovation and growth of various social models, which would lead to so much exponential change. Therefore, a number of development models will be outlined in the following discussions, which first delineate the past from the present in terms of the social, economic and political developments of the 20th century. Of course, any attempt to extend the developments of the past into the future must be seen as speculative, but might be aided by considering a transitional model, which extrapolates what we know of the present to a possible starting point of the future.
But what will really determine the future of evolution?
As outlined above, the future may highlight an increasing ambiguity between evolution and development, especially in terms of our humanity. For if humanity continues to develop technology that can change our DNA and our collective intelligence by way of advances in genetics and computing, we might have to face up to the fact that the result will no longer be homo-sapien.