The Ratchet

by Cadell Last

Everything evolves.

Read this first

Future of the Internet!

The Internet has clearly demonstrated the power of networked computing. You don’t need me to tell you that effects of the Internet’s emergence have been overwhelmingly pervasive. But the Internet is also very new and still evolving. So what is the future of this medium? How will it continue to shape our lives in the 2020s? 2030s? 2040s?

Let me know what you think: @cadelllast

Continue reading →

Is There Life On Mars?


I have always been fascinated by questions related to our biological uniqueness. We have no evidence that life evolved more than once in the universe. But of course our universe is vast and homogenous. We now have strong evidence that there are billions of planets in our galaxy and billions of galaxies throughout the observable universe. The odds that biology is an “Earth-only” phenomenon is highly improbable. At the same time, we would like to be able to demonstrate scientifically that this assumption is correct… and that requires evidence.

For most of the modern era, Mars has been an objective of particular interest in the search for life. In fact, for a moment I thought the Mars Curiosity Rover had discovered life late last year, only to be let down a few short weeks later. However, since our species quest for non-Earth life has so intimately involved Mars, I wanted to make a...

Continue reading →

Can We Live Forever?

LiveForever_Titlecard.jpg [Image credit / Alicia Herbert]

Transhumanism is the idea that we can (and should) use scientific knowledge to fundamentally transform the human form in order to improve human intellectual and physical abilities. These ideas are usually connected with discussion about radical life extension, or even dreams of some form of immortality. I’ve previously discussed how companies like Google are even getting involved in the transhumanist desire for radical life extension. The cultural pressure for longer life seems to be growing quickly. But can we actually live forever (or at least radically longer)? The answer to that questions is (sadly) unknown, but I wanted to make a video that contextualized our seemingly innate human drive to seek immortality or eternal youth. Even before the emergence of modern science, humans fantasized about eternity:

Hope you enjoy/ed the video. If you like it...

Continue reading →

Where and When Did Humans Evolve?


Humans are a species that permanently inhabit every continent on the planet. But of course, like all other species, we’ve evolved. So where and when did this take place? Figuring out important temporal and spatial questions related to our own evolution has been one of the central missions for evolutionary anthropology over the past 100-150 years. In order to gain satisfactory answers we had to learn a lot about our closest relatives, our fossilized ancestors, and our own genomes. In the video below I attempt to explain how our understanding of evolution has developed:

Hope you enjoy/ed the video. If you like it consider subscribing to The Advanced Apes channel! I’ll be releasing a new video about evolution once every two weeks!

Discuss this on hubski or let me know what you think on Twitter!

Continue reading →

Welcome to The Advanced Apes (on YouTube)!


I am beyond ecstatic to introduce a new venture for The Advanced Apes: an official YouTube channel! Here is our trailer:

Waaayyyy back on February 12th 2013 I released an animated video “Are Chimpanzees Cultural?” using The Advanced Apes channel. It was well received and a fantastic learning experience. Hopefully I learned a lot because now TAA animator Alicia Herbert and I are about to embark on a full 12-episode season in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios focused on the evolving story of science as well as where science could take us in the future.

If you regularly read my blog you know that I am someone who cares deeply about science and how science can help us understand where we are going as a species. I want to build on my progress as a writer and explore this perspective in a new medium. I hope you will find this series educational, but also entertaining and something to...

Continue reading →

Can Google Defeat Aging?

logo google astro 1.jpg

For most people, nothing seems as inevitable as the aging process. We are born, we grow old, and we die. It’s a fact of existence.

But also consider that aging is an evolved process. The human evolved aging average seems to be around 80, which is substantially longer than our closest relatives (i.e., chimpanzees and bonobos) average, which seems to be between 40-50. One of the leading explanations as to why we get so many extra decades of life is the grandmother hypothesis. This hypothesis proposes that ancient human infants lucky enough to have grandmothers to help feed and care for them were more likely to survive than those that didn’t. Since aging is primarily determined by our genes, this would have gradually selected for individuals with slightly longer life expectancy over evolutionary time.

However, remember that although you probably expect to live into your 70s and 80s,...

Continue reading →

Are We Observing Extraterrestrial Intelligence Without Realizing It?


Philosophy and the physical sciences have a long and interesting past spanning the entirety of human history. Philosophers have played the role of logically deducing the existence of certain physical phenomena that were untestable. Physical scientists have then either empirically confirmed or refuted the philosophical speculation proposed when the necessary technology and/or method were developed.

Sometimes the philosophical speculations failed to describe the nature of reality, like the Ancient Greek proposition that the heavens were composed of a fifth element: aether. However, on several occasions, the philosophical speculations turned out to be quite exact. For example, in the 4th century B.C.E. philosopher Democritus deduced that the universe was composed of indivisible units of matter known as “atoms.” This belief was substantiated over 2,000 years later by the theoretical...

Continue reading →

Pathway to the Global Brain (part 4/5)


Previously in the Pathway to the Global Brain blog series:

(Part 1/5): Introduction to Cybernetics

(Part 2/5): Waking Up

(Part 3/5): Agriculture and Industry

Global Brain

So we have travelled through 2 million years of human evolution and here is where we stand. It sure did take a long time to get out of the trees.

I have tried to show that challenge propagation as a theory can explain quite well how our system behaves, and why our systems structure is essentially identical to an actual brain.

Today, we live in a world that has just gone through (or actually is going through) a communication revolution with the development of the Internet. Francis Heylighen, the director of the Global Brain Institute summarized the importance of this communication revolution in 2012:

There is little doubt that the most important technological, economic and social development of the past two decades...

Continue reading →

Our New Communication Medium


Originally published by The Huffington Post

You don’t need me to tell you that the Internet has become a pervasive global network of people and machines that is beginning to mediate all human interactions. But, just for a second, think about how different the 21st century will be in comparison to the 20th century, simply because of the Internet.

As a digital native in 2013 with an academic background in human evolutionary science, our past seems extremely cold and isolating without a communication medium to bind our entire family together. For the large majority of time all of the human bands, tribes, chiefdoms, kingdoms, etc. were completely unaware of the actual extent and dispersion of all other humans on the planet.

Today we are not only aware of each other, but we are able to build and maintain social groups with each other regardless of geography. I don’t have to scroll very...

Continue reading →

What Is The Global Brain?


The Global Brain may sound like something out of a 21st century science fiction novel. But it is actually a concept that first emerged in the social and biological sciences during the late 19th century. A few evolutionary and social theorists were realizing that the entire human system was itself behaving. There were interesting underlying patterns that seemed to be structured and self-organizing in an analogous way to a biological organism. In a sense, a few scientists started to view our species less in terms of individuals, groups, cities, or nations, and more in terms of a superorganism.

The first interesting structure that alerted scientists to the possibility that we were a superorganism was metabolism. Individual organisms obviously have some type of metabolism (i.e., mechanisms for converting matter into energy). In fact, a metabolism is one of underlying fundamental...

Continue reading →