when will humans evolve the ability to fly? -- 1/29/20

Today's selection -- from A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford. When will humans evolve the ability to fly?:

"A television producer once took me to lunch to ask me a very important question: 'When will humans evolve the ability to fly?' A new superhero series was coming to television, with muta­tions in the characters' DNA that were gifting them uncanny comic-book powers of flight, telekinesis, time travel, mind control, and so on, rather like Marvel's mutant X-Men, but definitely not Marvel's mutant X-Men. The producers were interested in a sci­ence program that might sit alongside the drama, about the real science of incredible human abilities, and the real-world possibili­ties of the evolution of these types of superpowers.

Seconds into the first airplane flight, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; December 17, 1903. Photo first published in 1908.

"My answer was quicksilver fast: We already have. I love comics, and read them to this day, and have spent (arguably, wasted) much of my free time over the last thirty years considering the possible realities of superpowers. But the answer doesn't rely on strange tales or amazing fantasy. So, I made a great grandstanding speech about how we have evolved massive creative brains, capable of planning and predicting the future, of invention and creativity, and this had helped us extract ourselves from many of the historical shackles of natural selection. We have externalized the stomach with the invention of cooking, so we don't have to digest a whole range of chewy molecules, because they are already partly broken down by our unique control of elemental fire. We have bypassed many aspects of a life of nomadic sustenance, as well as hunting and gathering, by settling and domesticating all manner of beasts of the field and plants of the ground. This also has changed our culture, technology, and even our genes. We have radically eliminated diseases that scythed down ancient popu­lations with casual indifference -- plagues, malarias, cancers, pesti­lence. Smallpox once killed hundreds of thousands every year. Since the 1980s, as a result of vaccination, there have been no cases of smallpox. Polio looks set to follow soon as a disease only of inter­est to historians. These sorts of evolutionary pressures have been radically altered as a result of invention and science and the tech­nology that has come about through our own evolutionary trajectory.

" 'How long before we fly? We do it all the time.' I waxed lyrical.

"We invented airplanes and helicopters, and rockets to explore space, and even hoverboards and jetpacks are not far off. We've walked on the Moon, and soon, a son or daughter of this planet will walk on another, just as Kal-El, the Son of Krypton, came to Earth. 'We are superhuman already.'

"He looked pleased, and impressed. And then said, 'So you think we'll evolve how to fly within the next couple of centuries?'"

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Adam Rutherford


A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes


Orion Publishing Group


Copyright 2016, 2017 by Adam Rutherford


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