Home Technology40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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17. We Are More Fatigued

Getting enough rest has long been critical to the survival of humanity. Nowadays, we aren’t just not getting enough sleep. We are experiencing higher levels of fatigue. Why? Not only because of less sleep but also because we spend more time in front of screens instead of outside. The combination of disturbed sleep thanks to all of our various smart devices and the disruption of our circadian rhythm from blue light exposure creates a disastrous wave of insomnia and fatigue for the vast majority of adults and many children. Such reduced sleep has many associated and long-term health risks.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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When we spend time in front of screens, our brains feel drained and unable to cope with life tasks. However, when we spend time outside with people, we feel satisfied with life and rest without the distractions of smartphones. Since we have exchanged time outside for screen time, we are increasingly fatigued. Physical insomnia, once a reasonably unusual medication condition, is also plaguing most people. Whether it be from stress, constant blue light exposure, or the temptation to keep checking their phone for a dopamine hit, people are fatigued at unprecedented levels, despite physical labor being less performed than at any time in history.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
Kids are developing hearing problems. Credit: Shutterstock

16. We Don’t Hear As Well

Being able to hear things in the distance has long been a necessary skill for survival. Now, however, many people are developing hearing loss and the reason why isn’t old age. While we expect seniors to grow age-related hearing loss, it’s happening in younger and younger people. The reason why is how many people continuously have headphones in. They aren’t just unaccustomed to silence; they are continually blaring music into their ears and damaging their hearing. Kids at increasingly younger ages are experiencing hearing loss because of their headphones and using them dangerously.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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The types of sounds people are now exposed to are also vastly different than in past eras, where the sound of a jackhammer or jet engine would have been monstrous and unimaginable. Today you can easily listen to bass lower than people would have ever heart in nature, as well as treble that pierces more than a baby’s cry. While we have a wealth and diversity of sound today, many of them can permanently damage our hearing if misused. Unfortunately, few devices made today come with safety measures that keep you from listening to dangerous levels of sounds.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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15. We Have Muscle Aches

A generation ago, you probably had sore muscles from a hard workout, like an intense PE period at school. However, now, the amount of time we spend on technology is forcing our bodies into awkward positions for so long that we have more aches and pains. Posture and repetitive motion injuries, often associated with desk work, are prevalent sources of expensive workplace injuries. Carpal tunnel, which usually requires surgical treatment, is incredibly common now from bad computer station ergonomics. Back and neck problems are also expected from improper posture over the long eight or more hour workday.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Texting thumb” refers to people who spend so much time texting that their thumbs are perpetually sore. Furthermore, if you spend a lot of time on the computer, you are more likely to have a sore back. The problem extends beyond basic aches and pains – you are changing your musculoskeletal structure, which could set you up for more significant problems later in life. Spending too much time hunched over your phone can even cause permanent growths and deformations to your neck and spine. While we are spared many of the severe workplace injuries of earlier eras, a sedentary life has its own dangers.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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14. Our Hearts Are Weaker

Our sedentary lifestyles have caused our hearts to become significantly weaker than those of our forebears. Women who spend six hours or more sitting down in front of a computer are nearly 40% more likely to experience premature death. This notion is true even if they regularly work out at a gym and maintain a healthy weight. The heart cannot deal with hours spent at meager rates of activity. Furthermore, this is accurate since we’re a species that evolved running and hunting. Unfortunately, the sloth would have been a better ancestral relative for many of us today with busy yet incredibly sedentary lives that contain almost no physical exertion.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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The reason is that even with occasional workouts, our lifestyles are so sedentary that our entire bodies, including our hearts, are weaker. Throw in our poor diets, and you have a recipe for chronic health problems and premature death. Our diets are now high in sugar and artificial additives as well as heart-busting chemicals like trans fats. Daily life also looked very different as little as 100 years ago, with the vast majority of people engaging in physical labor for much of the day and taking long walks or horse rides to travel. The exercise was part of life, not a chore or hobby.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
Genetically modified food is actually creating new food allergies. Credit: independent.co.uk

13. GMOs Are Causing More Food Allergies

Historically, people who have food allergies had shorter life expectancies. Imagine someone with a peanut allergy before epi-pens. Should the person go into anaphylactic shock, there would be no way to reverse it. It would have been almost impossible for anyone with a severe food allergy to reach adulthood and pass any genetic risk for food allergies on to their children. There was also far less variety in foods available in eras past, especially for more impoverished people, so having a food allergy to any typical food would have been an absolute death sentence.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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However, the biotechnology that has led to genetically modified food has caused more and more people to develop food allergies. In fact, by altering a plant’s genome, bioengineers create new food allergies that did not previously exist. Food allergies have skyrocketed, particularly in the United States, where roughly one in 13 children, or two in an average classroom, will have severe food allergies today. This growth has had a massive impact on classroom activities, school lunch services, and more. School nurses now have to be continuously prepared to administer epinephrine and provide life-saving medical care.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
GMOs are part of the reason people are having fertility issues. Credit: ecosia.org

12. We Are Becoming Infertile

A few generations ago, infertile couples were few and far between. Perhaps it just seemed that way, as infertility was something that people didn’t discuss. Nevertheless, nowadays, more people are becoming infertile. The reproduction rate is dropping in many countries around the world. Fewer couples are having children. Also, the people who do reproduce have fewer children. Whether through personal choices or due to infertility, fewer babies are being born in many regions. Furthermore, some countries, like Japan, are falling below the replacement level of population growth. They are hitting a record new low reproductive rate each year.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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One reason is that GMOs are causing infertility. Avoiding GMOs in the modern world is incredibly difficult, as even the standards for labeling something as organic have changed. Studies show that over generations, GMOs do decrease fertility. In the United States, people attempt to label genetically modified food products, but such efforts have been met with resistance by the scientific community and food lobbies. Currently, there is no required messaging or labeling for products containing any amount of genetically modified organisms. The fight continues over its impact on health and the environment without any signs of abating.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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11. We Are More Sensitive to Gluten

You can blame this one on GMOs, too. Before modern technology led to the rise of genetically modified food, the number of people sensitive to gluten was small. Now, celiac disease and other disorders related to gluten are rapidly on the rise. People with gluten sensitivities have much faster and more complete recoveries when they eliminate GMOs from their diets. The simplest explanation is that modern technology has wreaked havoc on our health. Whether this is due to the loss and change of individual molecules or the use of new pesticides designed to complement GMOs is currently unknown.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Celiac disease means gluten is often the culprit. It causes miserable digestive symptoms for those affected. Furthermore, it can even cause systemic issues such as fatigue and difficulty focusing. Celiac disease’s symptoms are so wide-ranging in the body that they can imitate other syndromes. Some may think it is chronic fatigue and even neurodiversity like ADHD. For some who have celiac disease, their food even being in contact with a wheat product during preparation can be enough to cause severe symptoms. It is a difficult disease to manage; that is especially true depending on the level of sensitivity. Finding the root cause will save millions a great deal of suffering.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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10. We’re Living Longer

Many incredible scientific discoveries have combined within modern medicine to make longer lives a reality around the world. Only a little over a century ago, children still routinely died from contagious illnesses like Measles or from infections that couldn’t be treated without the discovery of penicillin. Many mothers and children also used to die in childbirth or shortly after, which dramatically lowers the life expectancy. Vaccines and the discovery of antibiotics have added decades to the human population’s life expectancy, a miracle that would have been unthinkable to people in ages past. Reduced infant mortality has also dramatically increased life expectancy.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Constantly evolving medical procedures are also keeping humans alive longer than ever and through illnesses that would have been a specific death sentence only decades before. For years, doctors could not find cancers, so they would go undetected. Now, they can find cancer the size of a grain of sand. Rare genetic disorders and deadly allergies can be managed. Furthermore, many more life-threatening diseases of bygone eras are now inconveniences at worst. There are threats to these gains through obesity, diabetes, heart disease, racial disparities in infant mortality rates, and suicide. Nevertheless, it’s still an incredible feat of modern science and medicine.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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9. Self-Diagnosis Is Increasingly Possible

While it used to be taken as a joke, diagnosing yourself through the internet is becoming increasingly possible. While basic symptom checkers like WebMD have existed for years, increasingly advanced online screening tools are continually becoming available. Telehealth, especially today, is increasingly available and even often offers a more affordable alternative to in-person doctor visits. Support groups on social media also provide a place where experts, patients, and those seeking diagnosis can convene and discuss their conditions. Scientific and medical journal papers are also growing more available through sources like PubMed, allowing for access to cutting edge medical and technical information.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Self-diagnosis has become especially common for disabilities like autism. Testing is costly. Furthermore, testing providers are busy and challenging to find. Also, the disability itself can be hard to diagnose or is often overlooked by medical providers. In a country with critical access issues within healthcare, the validity of self-diagnosis in the absence of access to care is rapidly growing within many health and disability communities. You need to visit your doctor to get prescriptions and some specialized medical treatments. Besides, having a potential label for your issues or suggestions for an eventual doctor visit can be invaluable.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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8. Gadgets Can Help Monitor Health

Smart gadgets like our phones and tablets are sources of many health problems. Some examples include eye strain, insomnia, and even spinal and muscular deformations and pain. However, they also offer a unique opportunity to monitor our health which was impossible in previous generations. While they may cause insomnia, devices like the FitBit and others can again watch our sleep and warn us of possible serious issues like sleep apnea. You can also tell if your sleep is disturbed. Thus, you can discover common ways you should alter your potential home or lifestyle issues. People can also track data over time to allow changes to be tested and measured.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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There are countless high tech gadgets available on the physical activity front. They can measure heart rate, blood pressure, miles run, body fat composition, “physical” health age, and more. These devices can monitor and store a wealth of biometric data analyzed at home or shared with a medical professional. These devices have the potential to detect heart issues like arrhythmias and alert medical professionals to underlying conditions. So, insomnia isn’t fun, but there is great potential in using gadgets to aid and monitor our health. Undoubtedly, this area will only expand in the future with ever more powerful devices that can track more factors.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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7. You Can Gamify Health

Alongside new devices that can aid and monitor our health on factors ranging from heart rate to REM sleep, there are now countless apps and programs that allow you to make your health fun. There are apps that train you for a marathon by narrating zombies chasing you on your run. Some programs award you achievement points and medals by reaching certain checkpoints of training and endurance. These apps gamify monitoring your health, which helps make dopamine the brain’s reward chemical. By making health rewarding, people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and stay on top of their own health.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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These apps may play a significant role in helping the human population’s health in the future. Furthermore, parents introduce them in childhood. Gamification is a meaningful way children learn. Moreover, it could instil a lifetime awareness of health that is currently lacking in many school curriculums. As health tracking gadgets improve, many of them will likely begin integrating gamify-ing programs that make monitoring your health. Furthermore, it should be a fun activity instead of a hassle. Does this seem futuristic? Integrated health tracking on smart devices will likely be a standard practice in the future that could help us live longer.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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6. New Medical Treatments Are Possible

Cancer may have killed a young man in his prime by being undetectable until the last stage of development can now be routinely detected at sizes like a grain of sand or even smaller. Cutting edge medical treatments are making more and more diseases into mere problems instead of certain death sentences. That allows many people who would have otherwise died prematurely to thrive and potentially reproduce, impacting humanity’s gene pool.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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In addition to unpredictable medical events like cancer, some routine illnesses associated with aging are also gaining improved treatment. It could drastically increase the quality of older life and further increase life expectancy. Like ligament tears and broken bones, common injuries often overlooked now as minor inconveniences once would have led to a lifetime of suffering and poverty from a lack of ability to work. Many illnesses we view as serious today may be more treatable in the near future. In turn, it may allow for increased life expectancy. Also, allowing more people to pass on diverse genes.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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5. Immune Systems Are Growing Weaker

Compared to a century ago, we live incredibly sterile lives. While most adults, and even many children, worked outside performing physical labor every day, they were exposed to dirt and all sorts of materials that we couldn’t imagine today. Even the primmest Victorian woman would have been exposed to more soil and smog than a typical person today. We live and work in increasingly clean environments. However, people use strong and often anti-microbial cleaners that weren’t available in earlier eras. It affects us due to the lack of exposure to common microbes and our clean environments. Therefore, our immune systems show signs of collectively weakening.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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While we have been well protected from many historic diseases thanks to the advent and continual development of vaccines, novel communicable illnesses may be able to run wild thanks to a lack of natural immunity. As more people shift to working from home, combined with the rise of social media as the dominant form of human interaction, people may also lose some beneficial protection from exposure to other people. While the chickenpox parties are a bygone era, there is still value for our immune system in contact with other people. As we lose that, our immune systems may lose something as well.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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4. Our Muscles Are Atrophying

It is already well documented that modern humans’ jaws are considerably weaker than our ancient hunt-gatherer ancestors due to our processed diets. We simply don’t need the strength of chewing that our ancestors did. Thus, we lost muscle, and our heads got smaller. Similarly, our muscles are expected to atrophy. Our bodies get overall less toned as we become increasingly sedentary due to the internet, sedentary office jobs, long commutes, and other modern daily life forces. Even with daily exercise, we simply don’t move as much as humans did even a century or two ago.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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The Wall-E vision of humans having to fly around on sedan chairs isn’t very likely. However, we may overall become a slightly more Hobbit-like people. We could develop smaller bodies that are prone to a bit of flabbiness. You might not be made for feats of strength. While this may seem grim, the change to our heads and jaws shows that some changes are just a natural response to how we live our lives, and changes to our muscles would be no different. Our diets may also change in response to the reduced need for calories to support less muscle mass.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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3. We’re More Lactose Intolerant Than Ever

Lactose intolerance isn’t a serious condition. Apologies to everyone lactose intolerant who’s had a nasty run-in with a cheese pizza. However, this condition did likely have a strong impact on people in past eras when digestive health wasn’t as easy to treat. Supplements like Lactaid were not available to make milk digestive. When food diversity was far lesser than today, the inability to consume valuable calcium, fat and other nutrients in milk products may have been a serious issue. This is especially true in impoverished populations. Babies born with lactose intolerance would have been at particular risk if their mothers couldn’t nurse.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Compare that to today, when not only is lactose intolerance incredibly easy to treat, but there are countless healthy alternatives available to dairy products. People make kinds of milk from the seeds of flowers to ground nuts to oats. They can make cheese and yogurts from soy and almond milk and several other alternatives. Not only is it possible to live with lactose intolerance, but it’s also relatively easy to thrive. It should come as no surprise then that lactose intolerance is proliferating, including in cultures where milk has historically been consumed. The easier it is to find alternatives and treatments for a condition, the more prevalent they could become.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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2. Surgeries Are Less Invasive and More Survivable

The invention of laparoscopic technology made a vast array of medical procedures incredibly less invasive and, therefore, less likely to have complications that lead to death. Before may have required cracking the chest open, it can now be handled through the insertion of a small catheter. Surgeries in the abdomen, in particular, have become safer due to the reduced risk of damaging an intestine and causing sepsis. While still risky, brain surgeries have also become safer thanks to the creation of specialized tools that minimize invasiveness. As surgeons themselves become better trained and used to this technology, surgeries continue to evolve safer.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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Safer surgery for such a wide range of conditions means that illnesses and congenital disabilities that may have killed people in their youth are now treatable at a much lower risk. More people can survive heart defects, cancers, and more thanks to laparoscopy. Furthermore, they are far less likely ever to develop complications. These people being able to survive thanks to modern medicine will, like many other advances, allow a more diverse crop of genetic material to be passed on to future generations. It also means that we will continue to narrow the list of illnesses that are certain death.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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1. Fixing Our Own Genes

The concept of altering our own genes is still incredibly controversial, but it’s on the horizon nonetheless. Scientific missions like the Human Genome Project, overseen by the Human Genome Organization, continue to map the incredible complexity of the human genome, finding more and more genetic causes for a wide range of illnesses and disabilities from ADHD to diabetes. As we discover the role of genetics in more and more diseases, we may someday find a way to treat those diseases before they ever even develop by altering the genes of the person affected. Genetic testing kits are also allowing people unprecedented access to their own genetic information.

40 Ways Modern Technology is Changing Natural Selection
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If it becomes possible to treat genetic illnesses before they ever develop symptoms, it is entirely possible that genetic conditions will cease to trouble humanity. There are also fears that we may use such science to edit specific genes. Why? To stop their ever expressing or, at the worst, stop certain people from reproducing to wipe genes out entirely. While these procedures and medical guidelines will be the earnest debates of medical ethicists and scientists alike, what is clear is that molecular and genetic medicine has the potential to vastly impact natural selection and health in humans in the not-too-distant future.

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“10 Ways Modern Technology Is Destroying Natural Selection,” by Oliver Taylor. Listverse. July 13, 2019.

“The Real Effects of Technology on Your Health.” Everyday Health. November 15, 2017.

“How Do Genetically Modified Foods Affect Your Health?” by Rachel Mount. O Magazine.

“7 Ways GMOs Affect Your Health,” by Alana Marie Burke. Newsmax. February 9, 2015.

www.foodallergy.org

“Japan’s birth rate hits another record low” by Emiko Jozuka, Jessie Yeung, Jake Kwon, CNN December 29, 2019.

“The Impact of Technology on the Human Body” by Jet Khasriya. Apetogentleman.com 

“Technologys Effect on Our Health the Good the Bad and the Ugly” by USF Health Information

“7 Ways Modern Technology May Be Affecting Human Evolution” by Joe McGauley, Thrillist August 19, 2015

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