As a big fan of both TED: Ideas Worth Spreading and the Amazon Kindle, I immediately hopped online as soon as I heard about the Kindle Single Homo Evolutis by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. I immediately purchased this book, hoping to (at least partially) satisfy my lifelong fruitless wondering about the future of human evolution.
Homo Evolutis was a quick and highly entertaining read. The format, with different font sizes and indents, added a lot to the presentation of potentially tedious material. The facts presented were not just fascinating, but presented in an extremely excited way. The conclusions drawn in Homo Evolutis were a bit harder to buy.
Maybe this hypothesis would be more solid in a longer book format (which is on its way, hinted this Kindle Single) but I found this story/essay/presentation to be no different than any other emerging scientific work: it sees what it wants to see.
And there is nothing wrong with that. The ideas presented here are exciting to think about. There really are scientists working on creating microbes and DNA altering pills. Body modification (in every sense of the term) is becoming more prevalent and mainstream. As stated in the book, this is science, not science fiction.
However, a connection between these scientific advances and human speciation are not really fleshed out enough in Homo Evolutis. We’re given a brief history of evolution, along with a synopsis of some amazing scientific advances, but the fact remains that a solid connection between these two elements and evolution is still fairly weak.
The thought of a not-to-distant future hosting multiple humanoid species is not only incredibly appealing and exotic to many people, but also completely scientifically reasonable. After reading Homo Evolutis, I see this as a perfectly sane theory.
During the book’s overview of evolution, we are presented with the fact that it is the historical norm for multiple humanoid species to inhabit the earth at any given time, and that we are living in an unprecedented time where the earth only houses Homo Sapiens. From this fact, we can draw two conclusions. The first being a return to multiple humanoid species (as presented in Homo Evolutis). The second being a future with only one humanoid species (something brought us into this situation in the first place, right?)
Therefore, it is completely unknown what will happen next. Will scientific breakthroughs and body modification lead to speciation? Or will it serve to cement the existence or demise of a single humanoid species? While the book presents the former (without discounting the latter in any way) the evidence was not linked strongly enough to be completely convincing. Unless, of course, the scientific definition of “species” continues to evolve and begins to encompass many minor changes (mostly unseen) that are already happening today.
Either way, Homo Evolutis was worth every penny and is an extremely thought provoking read. I can’t wait for TED to continue releasing such quality material.
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