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January 03, 2011

Anthropologist claims prehistoric man was stronger and faster - I claim gene therapy and transhuman technology can fix it

An anthropologist McAllister delving into a wide range of source material finds evidence he believes proves that modern man is inferior to his predecessors in, among other fields, the basic Olympic athletics disciplines of running and jumping. Anthropologists love to make the claim that our ancestors were superior. I was in a class in University where the professor boasted of the superior sharpness of flint knives. Sure one offs were sharper but could they make them by the billions ?

An analysis of the footsteps of [an Australian aboriginal from 20,000 years ago], dubbed T8, shows he reached speeds of 37 kph on a soft, muddy lake edge. [World record holder Usain] Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42 kph during his then world 100 meters record of 9.69 seconds at last year’s Beijing Olympics. With modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kph.

Turning to the high jump, McAllister said photographs taken by a German anthropologist showed young men jumping heights of up to 2.52 meters in the early years of last century.

Modern soldiers are expected to be able to march 25 miles in a day with a 55lb pack Roman soldiers walked nearly 40 miles a day with fifty pounds of supplies.



Why the decline?

“The human body is very plastic and it responds to stress. We have lost 40 percent of the shafts of our long bones because we have much less of a muscular load placed upon them these days. We are simply not exposed to the same loads or challenges that people were in the ancient past and even in the recent past so our bodies haven’t developed. Even the level of training that we do, our elite athletes, doesn’t come close to replicating that.”

Of course there is no need to stop with prehistoric man, we are also far weaker than the apes and slower than many animals.

Chimpanzees have been estimated to possess five times human strength and gorillas supposedly have 10 times human strength. Some gorilla's are believed to be able to lift 2 tons and can tear up trees.

So this is good news because it shows that gene therapy and other performance enhancement methods have a lot of room to provide physical improvement.

The biggest societal gains would come if we can understand the brain and genetics enough to make safe and effective genetic and biological interventions to greatly boost cognitive performance. If an IQ point increase given to all people results in a 2% increase in GDP, then a 500 IQ point increase for everyone would provide an almost 20,000 times boost to GDP and a 1000 point increase would be almost 400 million times increase in GDP (if the one IQ point for 2% increase rule held all the way)

Craig Venter has discussed the possibility of increasing cognitive faculties by ten times using genetic engineering. Genetic engineering, stem cells, mind machine interfaces, virtual reality training and other high potential cognitive enhancement might enable such radical leaps in capability.


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