For Homo Sapiens, This Is as Good as It Gets

By Bill Andrews | December 8, 2017 11:40 am
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(Credit: Shutterstock)

Well, that’s it.

Pack it in, boys.

Show’s over for us as a species: We’ve peaked.

At least, we might have, according to a paper in Frontiers in Physiology. If anything, it looks like we might be going downhill, with climate change and other environmental effects taking our bodies away from their current idealized forms.

Fastest, Highest, Strongest

First, the findings themselves. In the paper, “Are We Reaching the Limits of Homo Sapiens?”, the authors looked at 120 years worth of data to see how humans have improved over time. The team of transdisciplinary French scientists tracked three proxies for physical prowess: athletic records, lifespan and adult height. They saw a steady progression of improvement in all of these throughout the 20th century, but a marked slowdown, or plateauing, in recent years.

By their measurement, we’ve basically stopped getting better. It’s possible that today’s healthiest people are just about as good as it gets: a max lifespan of about 115 to 125 years, a height of 74 inches or current sports bests. No matter how much better nutrition and medicine gets, the human body may have just reached its biological limits.

Knowing Our Limits

So, nowhere to go but down, right? Perhaps that’s one of the consequences of knowing that, as the authors put it, “We are the first generation to become aware of these limitations.” First off, they point out, we should expect it to become increasingly rare for a sports record to be broken. It also means we should be pretty darn skeptical of claims that we could live for hundreds of years.

And since we’re doing so great, any major calamity that results in worsened conditions for more people (e.g. climate change or nuclear warfare) will only serve to lower our stats, and make it harder for humans to regain their current state or nearly fulfilled potential.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s still possible to improve our species’ average height and lifespan by increasing the number of people allowed to reach their limits. It turns out growth and improvement for humanity are always something to work toward.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    There are some 7.6 billion people. Suppose we remove North Korea, largely unpopulate Africa, Central and South America, Muslim Middle East and West Asia; US Inner Cities; half each of India, China, Malaysia, and the US Congress; a quarter of the EU.

    What a wonderful world it could be. There are no limits to human achievement if we stop subsidizing what we least desire.

    • http://dianachaplin.com Diana

      Um… you mean what you least desire? Pretty egotistical to assume someone else’s life has less value than yours, or that someone in these categories is less capable of greatness. Overpopulation can definitely be addressed by global access to contraception. I’d like to stop subsidizing white men who lack compassion and common sense.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        …egotistical to assume someone else’s life has less value than yours” If you have had root canal or a cataract operation, likely my work is inside you to your great advantage. European Patent EP0438043 “Intraocular Lens with High Strength Haptics” (1996).

        …someone in these categories is less capable of greatness.” OK, I hope my work isn’t inside you. Good luck with diversity technology. !أَنْتِ طالِقٌأَنْتِ طالِقٌأَنْتِ طالِقٌ

        • Jim Speidel

          Al, Right on ! Thanks for the lens.

          “Somethin’ happnin’ here, an’ what it is ain’t exactly
          clear” –
          OW, let me clear it up for you. What is happenin’ is this planet is very over populated. Our Planet has been trying to kill us since we showed up. It is reacting to a virus, (us), that uses up all it’s resources and pollutes the air and water in the process. What this planet needs is a good shootin’ war or a more effective disease to lower the number of humans to under two billion and KEEP it there. The animals, would be very happy and air and water quality would improve quickly.

          • OWilson

            What a beautiful world it would be without people?

            For whom, or what, exactly? :)

          • Jim Speidel

            Perhaps the surviving crocodiles and cockroaches will get to find out what a world without people would be like. pretty soon maybe….

      • OWilson

        Presently abortion is keeping the population down (60,000,000 U.S. babies lives ended by the abortionists forceps, since Roe vs Wade).

        Oh, the humanity! How many Einsteins and Madame Curies are sacrificed will never get to debate Bill Nye and Hillary? :)

        While the progressives are killing the innocent indiscriminatey, they are bound and determined to bring in illegals, who’s first act in the U.S. was to to break the law!

        Go figure!

        “Somethin’ happnin’ here, an’ what it is ain’t exctly clear” -Buffalo Springfield.

      • Jim Speidel

        Pretty egotistical to assume someone else’s life has less value than yours,

        I spent some time working in a prison, (30 years ago), and I met many people who were COMPLETELY worthless and always will be. This is not my ego; this is the common sense you were referring to.

    • Sommertider

      Lets start by getting rid of white trashy Al.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        You might look up the definition of White Trash, though such would threaten your privileged position of tender ignorance. Your cohort pushes homes down the road to kick start their furnaces in winter.

      • OWilson

        Ah the dirty underbelly of REAL racism rears it’s ugly head, once again! :)

    • Jim Speidel

      Amen !

  • Geoff Kieley

    easy come, easy go

  • OWilson

    Today’s Kardashian IPhone narcisisstic folks really do believe they are so special that not only has man reached his peak, this entire planet will die in their paltry lifetimes, after some 4,500,000,000.00 of managing nicely without them!

    They have also run out of phony awards to give each other!

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      That’s it! Psychology must intensely study the formulation and award of optimal trophies to flood the world with happiness, ending war, imprisonment, and inequality of inequalities.

      I demand diversity, gender identity, otherableness, not being left behind, Yu-Gi-Oh! safe zone extreme victory, social promotion, Affirmative Action, equality, ontogenetic liberation, cultures, the validity of all voices, disintermediation, tolerance, Standpoint theory, cultures, transtheoretical models, beliefs, programs, learning environments, advocacy, protected speech, meaningful vocabulary and symbols, talking sticks, families of choice, rainbow flags, emergence, broken window validity, identity spheres, weightless economy, two spiritism, the Society for Individual Rights, challenges and experiences, behavioral economics, conceptual decompression, having allowable opinions, backwardation, confronting prejudices, engaging process, drum circles, empowerment, Ally programs, personal growth, liberation of oppressed populations from dominant cultures, de-ideologized reality, metal foil millinery, first perspective, conditionality, methodological eclecticism, critique of political economy, psychopolitical validity, adaptive expectations, social activity matrices, concientización, erasing history, rhetoric of therapy, marginalizing objectivity, automatic experts, liberation from historic Christian patriarchy, bounded rationality, heteronormatism problematizing homosocial othering, and continuous revolution.

      All your trophies are belong to me.

  • TLongmire

    If the war on drugs (especially performance enhancing drugs and nootropics) was ended then the human potential would increase by 20 percent in no time. Granted some drugs would consume the users the majority of people could benefit greatly by them. Uncle Al is right.

  • Michael Cleveland

    Who defined “better”? Bad assumptions yield bad science.

  • Sankhyo Halder

    Oh please. All this study shows is that the low hanging fruits have been picked, and guess what? Humans can still reach for the higher ones, we build ladders…

    A bit less abstractly, this study fails to account for research into anti aging therapies, gene therapy, germ line modification and prosthetic augmentation.

    The genes that most of us have are having the time of their life, with abundant nutrition, you can’t really expect them to know what to do with radical abundance our ancestors never dreamed of.

    So it’s on us to edit ourselves, fix the cruft, add a few tweaks, and until the limits of fundamental physics stops us, we can go a long, long way.

    • OWilson

      You gave a sound rebuttal to a proposition not worthy of serious debate, only humor! :)

      • Sankhyo Halder

        Haha, thank you, the problem is that these days the inmates are running the asylum, so it doesn’t hurt to hedge my bets!

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