Special Issue "Humanity’s Future"

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A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2015)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Robert G. Bednarik

International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO), PO Box 216, Caulfield South, Vic. 3162, Australia
Website | E-Mail
Interests: pleistocene archaeology; epistemology; rock art; prehistoric art; cave art; dating methodology; archaeometry; pleistocene seafaring; human evolution

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues

This is a proposal for a special theme issue of Humanities. For a new journal to establish itself effectively, it is essential that it feature a theme that is of universal appeal and can attract wide attention not only in the scientific and humanities communities, but also in the wider public. One of the timeliest themes in this era of uncertainties about the sustainability of humanity and its demands on this planet is surely the question of the future of our species. One can either speculate about the developments of our technology and society, which has been done many times; or one can delve deeply into the human past and develop plausible trajectories of how humans got to where they are now, and then extrapolate from these known trajectories into the future, to see where they might take us. Naturally, in some areas such predictions would be subject to significant unknowns, but with the majority of variables, extrapolation would be perfectly reasonable to create credible scenarios. For instance the development of the brain and all it entails is likely to continue on its present course, as is the development of pathologies, human cognition, the genome, and of human physiology. In most of the factors that make up what we are and are likely to become, rationalizations about the future are perfectly reasonable, especially if the principal moderating influences can be accounted for.
On this basis it is proposed to explore the past trajectories of such aspects as human ecology, human biology, pathology, physiology, evolutionary biology, genetics (populations, molecular, behavioral), endocrinology, neuroscience and cognitive science, in order to determine the most likely future directions in their development. This should lead to realistic predictions of the future of our in many ways troubled species.

Dr. Robert G.Bednarik
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • archaeology
  • paleoanthropology
  • human evolution
  • paleogenetics
  • paleopathology
  • neuroscience
  • neuropsychology
  • cognitive science
  • human ecology

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle The Culture of Endings
Humanities 2014, 3(4), 711-739; doi:10.3390/h3040711
Received: 10 September 2014 / Revised: 8 December 2014 / Accepted: 8 December 2014 / Published: 17 December 2014
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Abstract
This article analyses the cultural state of mind characteristic of historical periods at some kind of endpoint: the end of a world or even of the world or, most hypothetically, of the universe. This is the idea of Last Days. In order to
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This article analyses the cultural state of mind characteristic of historical periods at some kind of endpoint: the end of a world or even of the world or, most hypothetically, of the universe. This is the idea of Last Days. In order to contextualize it, it is necessary to consider varying conceptions of temporality: a hunter-gatherer model, models of cyclical time and of linear time. At least in the West, this last may be understood as a product of Judaeo-Christian thinking, of which the article gives an account focussed on the motifs of eschatology, apocalypse and messianism. Finally the article proposes that the present moment in history, characterized as “Post-Modernity”, may readily be read as a time of endings, perhaps even of a conclusive end. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle The Progress of Science—Past, Present and Future
Humanities 2014, 3(4), 442-516; doi:10.3390/h3040442
Received: 19 August 2014 / Revised: 6 September 2014 / Accepted: 15 September 2014 / Published: 2 October 2014
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Abstract
Scientific orthodoxy based on the acquired authority of some scientists has seriously hampered the progress of the natural sciences in the past and continues to do so today because of new societal influences, such as directive funding and political interference in the setting
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Scientific orthodoxy based on the acquired authority of some scientists has seriously hampered the progress of the natural sciences in the past and continues to do so today because of new societal influences, such as directive funding and political interference in the setting of research objectives. Enhancing the progress of science must continue to be an important priority in order to meet the future needs of mankind. Yet priority setting between different branches of research is currently controversial because of the limited availability of funds and the political interference. For sound priority setting, an adequate level of scientific literacy is required among policy makers, a subject that will attract attention throughout this paper. The “introduction” gives an overview of the issues at stake. Prevailing pessimistic views of the future of our complex society are viewed as being similar to a medieval doomsday syndrome. Pathways to a new renaissance and age of reason are suggested. Three major recommendations are made: (i) Freedom of inquiry must be protected; (ii) The political misuse of potential environmental scares needs to be investigated before doomsday predictions alarm public perceptions and hence shape policies; (iii) The search for excellence in the leadership of science should be emphasized because it should not be based largely on acquired authority. The current controversy over possible impacts of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on climate is analyzed as a case study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle Evolutionary Medicine and Future of Humanity: Will Evolution Have the Final Word?
Humanities 2013, 2(2), 278-291; doi:10.3390/h2020278
Received: 29 April 2013 / Revised: 21 May 2013 / Accepted: 28 May 2013 / Published: 5 June 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (191 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Evolutionary medicine in its classical form assumes that since cultural evolution is faster than biological evolution, ailments of modern people are a result of mismatch between adaptations to the past environments and current situations. A core principle is that we, humans, having evolved
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Evolutionary medicine in its classical form assumes that since cultural evolution is faster than biological evolution, ailments of modern people are a result of mismatch between adaptations to the past environments and current situations. A core principle is that we, humans, having evolved for millions of years in a specific natural environment (environment of evolutionary adaptation EEA) are biologically adapted to this past environment and the ancient lifestyle. This adaptation to the past produces major mismatch of our bodies with the present, highly anthropic and thus “artificial” living conditions. This article provides two areas of possible future evolution, diet and physical activity levels which have been dramatically altered in industrialised societies. Consequently, micro-evolution is an on-going process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle The Speculative Neuroscience of the Future Human Brain
Humanities 2013, 2(2), 209-252; doi:10.3390/h2020209
Received: 3 March 2013 / Revised: 23 April 2013 / Accepted: 27 April 2013 / Published: 21 May 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (247 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The hallmark of our species is our ability to hybridize symbolic thinking with behavioral output. We began with the symmetrical hand axe around 1.7 mya and have progressed, slowly at first, then with greater rapidity, to producing increasingly more complex hybridized products. We
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The hallmark of our species is our ability to hybridize symbolic thinking with behavioral output. We began with the symmetrical hand axe around 1.7 mya and have progressed, slowly at first, then with greater rapidity, to producing increasingly more complex hybridized products. We now live in the age where our drive to hybridize has pushed us to the brink of a neuroscientific revolution, where for the first time we are in a position to willfully alter the brain and hence, our behavior and evolution. Nootropics, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and invasive brain mind interface (BMI) technology are allowing humans to treat previously inaccessible diseases as well as open up potential vistas for cognitive enhancement. In the future, the possibility exists for humans to hybridize with BMIs and mobile architectures. The notion of self is becoming increasingly extended. All of this to say: are we in control of our brains, or are they in control of us? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle Biodiversity, Extinction, and Humanity’s Future: The Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Human Population and Resource Use
Humanities 2013, 2(2), 147-159; doi:10.3390/h2020147
Received: 29 November 2012 / Revised: 19 March 2013 / Accepted: 21 March 2013 / Published: 2 April 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (66 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Human actions have altered global environments and reduced biodiversity by causing extinctions and reducing the population sizes of surviving species. Increasing human population size and per capita resource use will continue to have direct and indirect ecological and evolutionary consequences. As a result,
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Human actions have altered global environments and reduced biodiversity by causing extinctions and reducing the population sizes of surviving species. Increasing human population size and per capita resource use will continue to have direct and indirect ecological and evolutionary consequences. As a result, future generations will inhabit a planet with significantly less wildlife, reduced evolutionary potential, diminished ecosystem services, and an increased likelihood of contracting infectious disease. The magnitude of these effects will depend on the rate at which global human population and/or per capita resource use decline to sustainable levels and the degree to which population reductions result from increased death rates rather than decreased birth rates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability—What Are the Odds? Envisioning the Future of Our Environment, Economy and Society
Humanities 2013, 2(2), 119-127; doi:10.3390/h2020119
Received: 15 January 2013 / Revised: 21 March 2013 / Accepted: 21 March 2013 / Published: 26 March 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (258 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article examines the concept of sustainability from a global perspective, describing how alternative futures might develop in the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. The alternatives to sustainability appear to be (a) a catastrophic failure of life support, economies, and societies, or (b)
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This article examines the concept of sustainability from a global perspective, describing how alternative futures might develop in the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. The alternatives to sustainability appear to be (a) a catastrophic failure of life support, economies, and societies, or (b) a radical technological revolution (singularity). The case is made that solutions may be found by developing a global vision of the future, estimating the probabilities of possible outcomes from multiple indicators, and looking holistically for the most likely paths to sustainability. Finally, an intuitive vision of these paths is offered as a starting point for discussion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle From Human Past to Human Future
Humanities 2013, 2(1), 20-55; doi:10.3390/h2010020
Received: 22 October 2012 / Revised: 28 November 2012 / Accepted: 28 November 2012 / Published: 9 January 2013
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Abstract
This paper begins with a refutation of the orthodox model of final Pleistocene human evolution, presenting an alternative, better supported account of this crucial phase. According to this version, the transition from robust to gracile humans during that period is attributable to selective
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This paper begins with a refutation of the orthodox model of final Pleistocene human evolution, presenting an alternative, better supported account of this crucial phase. According to this version, the transition from robust to gracile humans during that period is attributable to selective breeding rather than natural selection, rendered possible by the exponential rise of culturally guided volitional choices. The rapid human neotenization coincides with the development of numerous somatic and neural detriments and pathologies. Uniformitarian reasoning based on ontogenic homology suggests that the cognitive abilities of hominins are consistently underrated in the unstable orthodoxies of Pleistocene archaeology. A scientifically guided review establishes developmental trajectories defining recent changes in the human genome and its expressions, which then form the basis of attempts to extrapolate from them into the future. It is suggested that continuing and perhaps accelerating unfavorable genetic changes to the human species, rather than existential threats such as massive disasters, pandemics, or astrophysical events, may become the ultimate peril of humanity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle Surprise and Uncertainty—Framing Regional Geohazards in the Theory of Complexity
Humanities 2013, 2(1), 1-19; doi:10.3390/h2010001
Received: 20 November 2012 / Revised: 17 December 2012 / Accepted: 26 December 2012 / Published: 4 January 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (593 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The paper analyzes the concepts of uncertainty and surprise as key variables of a socio-ecological system’s behavior in the context of the theory of complexity. Experiences from the past have shown that living with uncertainty is part of our daily life and surprises
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The paper analyzes the concepts of uncertainty and surprise as key variables of a socio-ecological system’s behavior in the context of the theory of complexity. Experiences from the past have shown that living with uncertainty is part of our daily life and surprises are only surprising because our perspective of system trajectories is basically linear and non-dynamic. The future of humanity is dependent on the understanding of the system’s behavior and needs a change in perspective of linearity to non-linearity and from the planning imperative to a management hedging uncertainty and surprise. In the context of humanity’s future, the theory of complexity offers a new perspective on system trajectories and their understanding of surprises and uncertainty. There is a need for a Gestaltwechsel—a change in perception—which helps to see things differently and fosters the search for new answers to emerging questions at the human-nature interface. Drawing on the case study of hazard management the paper will explain the necessity of analysis system’s behavior and the taking into account of multi-agent behavior on the micro level which led to emergent behavior on the macro-level of the system. Regional geohazards are explained as the regional impact of an uncontrolled risk based on a state of a natural feature that has a direct impact on a regional population being affected by the appearance of a hazard and its development into damage. By acting in space, time and connectivity, people construct hazardscapes and change risk into regional geohazards. This concept shows relevance for future mitigation and adaptation measures. The theory of complexity can help in engendering the necessary shift in perspective. What is non-linear dynamic thinking as suggested by the theory of complexity? Why is the consideration of the system’s behavior crucial and not just the number of system’s elements? What is the role of agents in these systems? In addition, there are practical implications too: What does this shift in perspective mean for future hazard management and the future of humanity? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle The Consequences of Human Behavior
Humanities 2012, 1(3), 205-228; doi:10.3390/h1030205
Received: 26 October 2012 / Revised: 26 November 2012 / Accepted: 27 November 2012 / Published: 10 December 2012
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Abstract
Human behavior is founded on a complex interaction of influences that derive from sources both extraneous and intrinsic to the brain. It is the ways these various influences worked together in the past to fashion modern human cognition that can help elucidate the
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Human behavior is founded on a complex interaction of influences that derive from sources both extraneous and intrinsic to the brain. It is the ways these various influences worked together in the past to fashion modern human cognition that can help elucidate the probable course of future human endeavor. A particular concern of this chapter is the way cognition has been shaped and continues to depend on prevailing environmental and ecological conditions. Whether the human predicament can be regarded simply as another response to such conditions similar to that of other organisms or something special will also be addressed. More specifically, it will be shown that, although the highly artificial niche in which most humans now live has had profound effects on ways of thinking, constraints deriving from a shared evolutionary heritage continue to have substantial effects on behavior. The way these exigencies interact will be explored in order to understand the implications for the future wellbeing of humanity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Open AccessArticle Alone in the Void: Getting Real about the Tenuous and Fragile Nature of Modern Civilization
Humanities 2012, 1(3), 178-191; doi:10.3390/h1030178
Received: 23 October 2012 / Revised: 12 November 2012 / Accepted: 19 November 2012 / Published: 28 November 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (466 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
It is estimated that roughly seventy billion human beings have lived out their lives on planet earth. It is very unlikely that any of the seven billion currently enjoying this planet will be living out the rest of their life any place else.
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It is estimated that roughly seventy billion human beings have lived out their lives on planet earth. It is very unlikely that any of the seven billion currently enjoying this planet will be living out the rest of their life any place else. Nonetheless, many of our movies and much of our literature envisions easy space travel that is scientifically unrealistic. On July 24th, 2012 Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled: Alone in the Void. This article posited that humanity (Homo sapiens) lives on a planet that is, for all intents and purposes, alone in a vast empty space. Reader comments to this editorial ranged from people who were very confident we were destined to colonize other galaxies to people who had little faith that humanity would even exist on the earth one hundred years from now. The reader’s responses mirror dominant and minority world views of economic theory. The dominant neo-classical economic paradigm is optimistic and growth oriented with faith in technological solutions to pressing social and environmental problems; whereas, the minority paradigm of ecological economics posits a need to move toward a steady state economy governed by the laws of thermodynamics as the preferred path for human progress. I side with ecological economics regarding what collective choices will result in a better future for humanity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)
Figures

Open AccessArticle Illuminating Our World: An Essay on the Unraveling of the Species Problem, with Assistance from a Barnacle and a Goose
Humanities 2012, 1(3), 145-165; doi:10.3390/h1030145
Received: 18 July 2012 / Revised: 27 September 2012 / Accepted: 8 October 2012 / Published: 15 October 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (524 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In order to plan for the future, we must understand the past. This paper investigates the manner in which both naturalists and the wider community view one of the most intriguing of all questions: what makes a species special? Consideration is given to
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In order to plan for the future, we must understand the past. This paper investigates the manner in which both naturalists and the wider community view one of the most intriguing of all questions: what makes a species special? Consideration is given to the essentialist view—a rigid perspective and ancient, Aristotelian perspective—that all organisms are fixed in form and nature. In the middle of the 19th century, Charles Darwin changed this by showing that species are indeed mutable, even humans. Advances in genetics have reinforced the unbroken continuum between taxa, a feature long understood by palaeontologists; but irrespective of this, we have persisted in utilizing the ‘species concept’—a mechanism employed primarily to understand and to manipulate the world around us. The vehicles used to illustrate this journey in perception are the barnacle goose (a bird), and the goose barnacle (a crustacean). The journey of these two has been entwined since antiquity—in folklore, religion, diet and even science. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanity’s Future)

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