Evolving in a Weightless State

A lot has been made of evolution in the past hundred and fifty years or so, but I got to wondering what’s likely to happen in the future.  What will humans look like, say, a thousand years from now?  What will our lifestyle, our scientific advances, our political structure affect how we evolve?  It’s an interesting–and not unimportant–question.  What we do today will affect how we look in the future because that’s what evolution really is, the adaptation of living organisms, plant and animal, to their environment.  As the environment changes–say an asteroid smashes into Earth and produces a thousand-year global winter–then the organisms that wish to survive must adapt to the new environment.  Stands to reason because we’ve seen it happen over and over again.

But translating that into the future, what will humans look like in 3000 A.D.? [<—Is that the right way to use the question mark?]  By then I expect we will be spending a lot of time in space, travelling around the solar system, going to the nearest star, visiting other nearby stars and taking a close-up look at the planets that orbit around them, watching supernovas in real time.  We’re going to be spending a lot of time in a weightless state, and I suggest that will have a profound effect on the evolution of the human body.  Unless spaceships of the future have some sort of artificial gravity such as by putting the spaceship into a spin and using centrifugal force as a gravity substitute, or by some undefined force that traps people to the floor like the vague force used in the Star Trek shows.  No one ever explained how Captains Kirk and Picard and all the others could walk around in outer space as though they were flat on Earth.

But anyway, in the absence of a gravitational-like force, I predict humans will succumb to the weightless state by adapting.  We already know that weightlessness (or more properly, microgravity) has pronounced effects on the body, loss of calcium and phosphate from the bones, elongation of the spinal column due to the absence of gravity, loss of muscle mass, etc.  These effects will certainly continue as people spend more and more time in space.  Eventually someone will be born in space and grow up never having touched a planetary surface.  (As an aside, that is an astounding prospect.)  Our bodies will grow longer because gravity won’t be pulling on them, but our arms and legs will also grow in length, the muscles will be considerably reduced due to disuse, especially the legs which will wither and become skeletal-like.  All we will be able to do in microgravity is reach for things, and we may not even do that very much.  So many things will be done for us.  Robots and computers will be doing most of the work.  We humans will simply enjoy the activities of these mechanical servants, not having to do anything except think of what we want.  Computers will read our brains and give us what we want, in many cases before we even realize we want it.

We’ll look like monkeys, especially spider monkeys with long slender arms and legs that will seem–by today’s point of view–way out of proportion.  Bones may be far more delicate and fragile than now, and such a creature wouldn’t be able to live in a gravity field at all.  He couldn’t even walk around.  Trying to stand will crush his legs and spinal column.  This will be the true spaceman, not Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker, adapted to space, living in space, at home in space to a degree we can’t even conceive of now.  At least not until I wrote this commentary.

Aren’t you glad you’re still living in a gravity field?

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