The Evolution of New Human Species: Upward and Outward
...one of [Enriquez'] most revolutionary ideas, which he discuses in the book New Human Species, is the expected evolution of a new hominid species in near future. The homo evolutis, which he said he speculates will be the most adapted hominid, endowed with tremendous mental capabilities, he said, “Twenty thousand species have gone around and become extinct,” Enriquez said. “I believe that we’re going to move into a homo evolutis, and our grandchildren will begin to live it.”
What will set apart this hominid from us, he said, is what he labeled “the ultimate reboot.”
“This hominid could take direct control of his species, this species and other species, and that of course, would be the ultimate reboot,” he said. _globalist
Juan Enriquez is an author visionary of life technologies, and a venture capitalist. He founded Harvard Business School's Life Sciences Project, and has worked with Craig Venter on a number of projects. So when Juan Enriquez says that humans are evolving a new species, he is likely to have good reason for saying so.
What does it take to make a new species?
We're beginning to see that it's an accumulation of small changes. Scientists have recently been able to compare the genomes of Neandertals and modern humans, which reveals just a .004 percent difference. Most of those changes lie in genes involved in sperm, testes, smell, and skin.
Engineering microbes alone might speciate us. When you apply sequencing technology to the microbes inhabiting the human body, it turns out to be fascinating. All of us are symbionts; we have 1,000 times more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. You couldn't possible digest or live without the microbial cells inside your stomach. Some people have microbes that are better at absorbing calories. Diabetics have a slightly sweeter skin, which changes the microbial fauna and makes it harder for them to cauterize wounds.
One concern about human enhancement is that only some people will have access, creating an even greater economic divide. Do you think this will be the case?
In the industrial revolution, it took a lifetime to build enough industry to double the wealth of a country. In the knowledge revolution, you can build billion-dollar companies with 20 people very quickly. The implication is that you can double the wealth of a country very quickly. In Korea in 1975, people had one-fifth of the income of Mexicans, and today they have five times more. Even the poorest places can generate wealth quickly. You see this in Bangalore, China. On the flip side, you can also become irrelevant very quickly.
Scientists are on the verge of sequencing 10,000 human genomes. You point out this might highlight significant variation among our species, and that this requires some ethical consideration. Why?
The issue of [genetic variation] is a really uncomfortable question, one that for good reason, we have been avoiding since the 1930s and '40s. A lot of the research behind the eugenics movement came out of elite universities in the U.S. It was disastrously misapplied. But you do have to ask, if there are fundamental differences in species like dogs and horses and birds, is it true that there are no significant differences between humans? We are going to have an answer to that question very quickly. If we do, we need to think through an ethical, moral framework to think about questions that go way beyond science. _TechnologyReview_Juan Enriquez
The video above gives you an idea of how Enriquez expresses his ideas to the public, and reveals some of the things that he thinks about.
His ideas about the evolution of a new human species -- and the great need for humans to face the important genetic differences between different populations of humans -- sets him apart from ivory tower academics, politicians, and media skanks. In his day job, he has to think clearly and make good decisions -- unlike academics, politicians, and journalists, who rarely have to pay for their own mistaken thought processes.
When a venture capitalist makes decisions involving large sums of money, he cannot afford to wallow in political correctness, affirmative action, groupthink, or other modern dysfunctional aberrations of thought. He must be honest with himself and with his backers. In this case, it is likely that Enriquez is being honest with the public, based upon his intimate association with advanced biotechnological projects.
But something that not even Enriquez may be willing to say publicly, is that not all humans population groups will evolve in what is seen as a favourable direction. New genes are evolving and affecting the human brain, but not all population groups are sharing equally in the benefits of these changes.
The evolutionary history of Ashkenazi Jews is a useful, small-scale illustration of what is happening. These Jews of European descent possess the highest average IQ of any distinct population group known. This difference can be seen in terms of accomplishment at the highest levels of science, math, and other areas of scholarship and life achievement. This group has paid a price for this advantage, in terms of inherited disease. But for the group as a whole, the tradeoff appears to have been worth it.
As humans get better at tweaking the genome and epigenome, they should learn better how to acquire more of the advantages of superior adaptation without too many of the disadvantages. Then slowly, but surely, perhaps over dozens, or even hundreds of years, new human species will diverge from older human species.
To many people, this idea of diverging coexisting human species is a new one. To others, not so much. Anyone who has deliberated over the difference between the accomplishments of Australian aboriginals and the descendants of the English transportees to Australia, must have considered the possibility of divergent evolution.
As Enriquez points out, it is critical for humans at this juncture in time to be honest about our broad genetic heritage -- and what this breadth means in terms of aptitudes and behaviours. And what it means for our future selves.
Previously published on Al Fin blog