A doctoral student and evolutionary anthropologist has some ideas about where the current state of humanity is headed…and that's toward longer lives and fewer children.
Cadell Last recently published an article in the journal Current Aging Science where he wrote that humans are undergoing an "evolutionary transition," which could be complete by 2050. This transition would create a type of human that is no longer focused on biological reproduction and who has experienced a "radical life extension."
"Throughout primate history there have been three major life history transitions towards increasingly delayed sexual maturation and biological reproduction, as well as towards extended life expectancy," Last, a researcher with the Global Brain Institute in Brussels, wrote in the article.
Last observed how monkeys reproduce later and live longer than prosimians (animals like lemurs), while apes reproduce later and live longer than monkeys. Humans follow the same suit.
"Since the industrial revolution socioeconomic development has led to even more energy being devoted to growth over current biological reproduction," Last wrote. "I propose that this is the beginning of an ongoing fourth major primate life history transition towards completely delayed biological reproduction and an extension of the evolved human life expectancy. I argue that the only fundamental difference between this primate life history transition and previous life history transitions is that this transition is being driven solely by cultural evolution, which may suggest some deeper evolutionary transition away from biological evolution is already in the process of occurring."
In his article, Last described how this demographic transition is characterized by the population having fewer children and living longer.
"Both trends are universally associated with socioeconomic development (i.e. 'modernization') and a transition from a pre-industrial to an industrialized economy. Reduced fertility primarily results from the further extension of 'childhood'. However, it is probably more accurate to state that reduced fertility results from continually delayed biological reproduction post-sexual maturation. The continued trend towards delayed biological reproduction was again accompanied by a further intensification of parental investment, and parents choosing to invest time and energy in the 'quality' of offspring as opposed to the 'quantity' of offspring," Last wrote.
"Many experts expect the full realization of the demographic transition to manifest globally by the year 2050, as long as current socioeconomic industrialization trends continue," Last added later. "As far as the developed world is concerned, the two trends associated with the demographic transition are expected to continue accelerating (i.e. reduction of fertility and mortality) as improvements in socioeconomic conditions only serve to intensify these processes."
Last wrote that experts believe this transition could "manifest globally by the year 2050, as long as current socioeconomic industrialization trends continue."
Helping this transition along, according to Last, will be artificial intelligence that will replace humans for "low-skill, low- education jobs."
"The removal of low-skill, low-education jobs should increase individual opportunity to explore cultural reproduction-as-vocation (e.g., music, art, science, engineering, etc.). Artificial intelligence systems becoming embedded in operating systems and apps should also increase our ability to do ever more complex jobs that require ever-more advanced degrees," he said.
All this Last believes could lead to radical life extension and thus a "postponement of current biological reproduction in favor of current cultural reproduction."
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