human evolution 2.0
Space will change what makes us human. Here's how it will happen.
The headline of a recent Space.com article asks if continued space exploration will be a driver for human evolution. But surprisingly, it focuses on technology and the two views of how we should go about exploring space rather than the biological changes we could see in generations of humans who will be doing all the exploring. Evolution is hardwired into our cells and when generations at a time start spending more and more time beyond the Earth, the environments of outer space and alien planets will start to act as natural selectors, encouraging certain mutations while making it harder to survive with others.
Individuals who are more resistant to radiation, who lose bone mass slower, who have a larger heart to help maintain their stamina and who have a stronger immune system to stave off the myriad of dieses breeding in confined environments of spacecraft and alien outposts are the ones with the best chance to live longer and produce more healthy offspring. Even if we make space travel as comfortable as possible, the environment outside our planet is very harsh and if we want to live on other worlds or traverse the cosmos, we’re going to have to adapt.
Now normally, with evolution we would have to wait for generation after generation until there are enough genetic changes to help us deal with alien worlds and the vacuum of space. It’s not just a matter of waiting though. Because the mutations are random, we might adapt quickly or we may never adapt. However, who says that we need to wait for evolution rather than taking a few shortcuts and using our understanding of the human genome and robotic technology to make certain upgrades though gene therapy, robotic implants and nanobots? We won’t bypass evolution completely. Our genomes will continue to mutate for better or worse. What we would be doing is compensating for the random nature of our genetic flux, making changes that will help us adapt to alien environments faster.
Maybe what we’re talking about is a pivotal point in a civilization’s technological advancement; using our newfound knowledge of what makes us tick and how we can remove at least some of our limitations to try and take evolution’s steering wheel.