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Is Human Evolution Over?

Future Is Here speaker Briana Pobiner is a Smithsonian research scientist and an expert in human origins. In this video she explores future directions and dangers to human evolution.


Conversation Club

  1. Briana Pobiner’s talk starts with some big numbers: How many species are part of our deep evolutionary history? How long did she say Homo sapiens have been around? And, what is our current population?
  2. Enormous brains are one thing that makes us uniquely human. What is the part of the brain that has expanded the most and what is it responsible for?
  3. Pobiner explains why, in the past, there was a checks-and-balances system that prevented brains from become even larger. What was it? How is modern medicine changing this?
  4. What are the reasons Pobiner gives for why more babies are now being born? What are some of the consequences of this population boom in terms of human evolution?
  5. Pobiner talks about the interplay between population size and types of diseases. For example, she describes how larger populations tend to favor more virulent parasites. What reasons does she give for this?
  6. Pobiner describes our present-day predators. What are they? And, why, in some cases, have our past evolutionary successes made us more vulnerable to them?
  7. Why, in the future, might humans be vulnerable to viruses like smallpox, especially if smallpox has already been eradicated?
  8. Pobiner explains that a rare trait is often an appealing one. She uses facial hair as a short-term, cultural example of this. Do you think that rare traits are favored? Are there other examples of rare traits that you can think of that either support or challenge this view?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Education. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Expanding College Opportunities
Expanding College Opportunities
Is Human Evolution Over?
Is Human Evolution Over?
Voice of Witness
Voice of Witness
A Passionate Educator
A Passionate Educator