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Are Humans Becoming Less Intelligent?

Humans may be gradually losing intelligence, according to a new study.

The study, published today (Nov. 12) in the journal Trends in Genetics, argues that humans lost the evolutionary pressure to be smart once we started living in dense agricultural settlements several thousand years ago.

“The development of our intellectual abilities and the optimization of thousands of intelligence genes probably occurred in relatively non-verbal, dispersed groups of peoples [living] before our ancestors emerged from Africa,” said study author Gerald Crabtree, a researcher at Stanford University, in a statement.

Since then it’s all been downhill, Crabtree contends.

The theory isn’t without critics, with one scientist contacted by LiveScience suggesting that rather than losing our smarts, humans have just diversified them with various types of intelligence today.

Life or death situations

Early humans lived or died by their spatial abilities, such as quickly making a shelter or spearing a saber-toothed tiger. Nowadays, though almost everyone has the spatial ability to do ostensibly simple tasks like washing dishes or mowing the lawn, such tasks actually require a lot of brainpower, the researchers note.

And we can thank our ancestors and the highly tuned mechanism of natural selection for such abilities. Meanwhile, the ability to play chess or compose poetry likely evolved as collateral effects.

But after the spread of agriculture, when our ancestors began to live in dense farming communities, the intense need to keep those genes in peak condition gradually waned.

And its unlikely that the evolutionary advantage of intelligence is greater than it was during our hunter-gatherer past, the paper argues.

“A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his/her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate. Clearly, extreme selection is a thing of the past,” the researchers write in the journal article.

Intelligence genes

Anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 genes determine human intelligence, and these genes are particularly susceptible to harmful changes, or mutations, the researchers write. Based on knowledge of the rate of mutations, the team concludes that the average person harbors two intelligence-stunting genetic changes that evolved over the last 3,000 years.

The hypothesis is counterintuitive at first. After all, across the world the average IQ has increased dramatically over the last 100 years, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect. But most of that jump probably resulted from better prenatal care, better nutrition and reduced exposure to brain-stunting chemicals such as lead, Crabtree argues.

But just because humans have more mutations in their intelligence genes doesn’t mean we are becoming less brainy as a species, said psychologist Thomas Hills of the University of Warwick, who was not involved in the study. Instead, removing the pressure for everyone to be a superb hunter or gatherer may have allowed us to evolve a more diverse population with different types of smarts, he said.

“You don’t get Stephen Hawking 200,000 years ago. He just doesn’t exist,” Hills told LiveScience. “But now we have people of his intellectual capacity doing things and making insights that we would never have achieved in our environment of evolutionary adaptation.”

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Science & Technology

20 scientific predictions for the next 10 years

We are lucky to be born and live in an incredible time of development of science and technology. We know the approximate rate of development of both, but we have no idea what this rate will be by the end of our life. Things that have long been considered science fiction are becoming components of our lives every day. In the next ten years, the world may present us with gifts that cannot be refused.

The amazing thing about all these scientific discoveries is that they give rise to technologies that further accelerate technological progress. Our ability to innovate grows exponentially as the years go by. 

To give you an idea of ​​the significance of this progression, here are 20 scientific predictions that should occur by 2030.

1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will pass the Turing test, or in other words, the machine will prove that it can think independently.

2. Hyperloop (Elon Musk’s vacuum train project) will start passenger transportation.

3. Biosensors will go on sale, which will call an ambulance if the wearer suddenly becomes ill. In addition, they will remind you to take certain medications, assessing the current state of the body.

4. The level of air pollution will rise, but scientists will come closer to an effective solution to this global problem.

5. Self-driving car will remain a luxury.

6. The world average cost of solar panels will drop sharply, the transition to solar energy will be very rapid.

7. People will return to the moon and begin its consistent colonization.

8. Robots-killers (drones with weapons) will appear. Crime will reach a fundamentally new level. Investigations will come to a standstill.

9. In developed countries, life expectancy will rise sharply. Cancer will cease to be a fatal problem.

10. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be launched, which will help discover hundreds of new earth-like planets and partially learn the chemical composition of their atmospheres.

11. Rapid development of the multi-billion dollar space tourism industry.

12. In the public domain there will be “sources” for printing clothes on a 3D printer. Tens of millions of workers from poor countries will be left without even this low-paying job.

13. If breast cancer is detected on time, the chance of cure will be 100%.

14. The United States will actively grow organs from stem cells from patients themselves. The donation will in fact be liquidated.

15. We will not find extraterrestrial life on Mars. We will probably find it on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

16. SpaceX regularly brings people into lunar orbit in preparation for a manned mission to Mars.

17. Global warming will release the oldest viruses. The Chinese coronavirus will seem like a childish joke.

18. The Internet will completely replace television and print media.

19. Tesla cars will become the world’s best-selling cars.

20. Mass DNA editing experiments will begin. Thanks to this, children will be born with “built-in” protection against a huge number of diseases.

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Designer has created a concept for the electric bike of the future

Futuristic motorcycles have become part of popular culture, associated with the concepts of the near future. They appeared in the film ” Tron: Legacy”, the anime “Akira” and in many video games from the “cyberpunk” genre. Recently, Russian designer Roman Dolzhenko presented his version of the bike of the future.

Russian designer has created a concept for the electric bike of the futureromorwise.com

MIMIC eBike – the concept of an electric superbike – originally existed as a sketch on a paper napkin. Later, the designer made the idea more realistic by rendering in 3DS max.

Minimalism prevails in motorcycle design. It lacks straight lines and protrusions. The dashboard of the bike is completely digital, and consists of a solid display showing basic information (speed and battery charge status).

Superbike MIMICromorwise.com

There are very few details about the superbike. Social network users are most often concerned about the question: how to turn the steering wheel with this design? The front wheel fairing and handlebar structure appear to be inactive. In an interview for InceptiveMind, Dolzhenko answered this question: the front of the motorcycle turns completely, but at a slight angle.

Superbike MIMICromorwise.com

There is no information on the cost of transport, capacity and production, which is not surprising. MIMIC eBike is just an extremely realistic concept art of the motorcycle of the future. Perhaps in a couple of years, some Elon Musk will adapt the MIMIC design for a real electric superbike.

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Genes work differently in men and women

All of our cells have the same genes. They can have mutations, however, both in the muscle cell and in the neuron there is a gene for the globin protein, an insulin gene, an acetylcholinesterase gene, etc. But is it worth reminding that a muscle cell is not like a nerve cell? The point is that genes work differently in different cells.

… although these differences should not be exaggerated – even the end sections of chromosomes, which determine biological age, look the same in men and women.

More than ten years ago, a large international team of researchers launched the GTEx (Genotype-Tissue Expression) project, the goal of which was to determine the activity of all genes in all human tissues and organs. Samples of 49 tissues were taken from 838 donors – dead healthy people, mostly elderly. First of all, the DNA was read from each of the donors. Second, the amount of different RNA was analyzed in each tissue. As you know, genetic information from genes in DNA is first read into the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule, and then proteins are already synthesized on the mRNA molecule (for simplicity, we are not talking about a large class of RNAs that do not encode proteins and which themselves perform various important functions in the cell). The more active a gene is, the more mRNA is read from it. Therefore, by the level of different mRNAs, one can understand where which genes are more active,

The activity of a gene depends on special regulatory sequences, which are also recorded in the DNA – that is, some sections of DNA affect others. By comparing the genetic text in DNA with the amount of different RNAs in different people, one can understand which regulatory regions in DNA affect a particular gene. Such regions (or loci) in DNA are called eQTL, expression quantitative trait loci, which can be roughly translated as loci that determine the level of activity.

As a result of the work, a whole bundle of fifteen articles was recently published in Science , Science Advances , Cell and other journals. Now, using the map of tissue genetic activity for each gene, you can check how it should work in a particular organ or part of it (because several samples were taken from each organ). On the other hand, by looking for a regulatory region (eQTL) in a person’s genome, one can estimate how certain genes will work. It’s genes – because each regulatory eQTL affects more than two genes.

Another important result concerns telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division. Telomeres are often used to assess biological age: the shorter they are, the older the body is. But usually blood cells are taken to measure telomeres. What if different fabrics age differently?

The researchers estimated the length of the end sections of chromosomes in 23 tissues, and came to the conclusion that blood does indeed provide an indication of age in general: telomeres in blood cells shorten in proportion to telomeres in other tissues. At the same time, earlier studies were not confirmed, in which female telomeres were on average longer than male ones – that is, neither women nor men have telomere advantages. Which is curious in its own way, since it is believed that women generally live longer than men . This is probably because telomeres are a significant, but not the only indicator of age. In addition, it was not possible to see a strong shortening of telomeres in smokers (here it is worth noting that lung cancer can occur without telomere shortening).

By the way, about women and men. Gender differences are hard to ignore, and we all know that men and women have different sex chromosomes and that men and women have different hormones. Obviously, this should affect the work of genes. Indeed, researchers have found that 37% of our genes work differently in men and women in at least one tissue. Moreover, some genes, relatively speaking, “work” only in one sex. For example, men with different DPYSL4 gene variants will have different body fat percentages. But in women, the DPYSL4 gene does not affect body fat – this does not mean that the gene does not work, just the amount of adipose tissue depends on other genes. Similarly, in men with different variants of the CLDN7 genethere will be different birth weights. In women, birth weight is linked to another gene, HKDC1 .

Many genes, whose activity depends on sex, are associated with diseases, but their “sex” differences were still unknown. Obviously, this information is useful in personalized therapy, when the patient is being treated according to his individual genetic characteristics. However, the authors of the work note that although a lot of “sex-dependent” genes were found, their activity itself does not change very much. In general, the gender genetic differences between men and women are not very large. We emphasize that this is precisely if we take it as a whole – because the genes on which, say, primary and secondary sexual characteristics depend, work in men and women in very different ways.

What else affects gene activity? For example, age – but here there is a gap in the received data. Above we said that the samples were taken mostly from people in years; in addition, more material is needed to analyze age differences across the entire genome. (By the way, it is possible that sex differences are manifested in different ways at different ages.) Some experts, according to The Scientist portal , generally strongly doubt the reliability of the results, because samples were taken from the dead, and not from living people. On the other hand, where can we find healthy volunteers who would allow them to take a piece of tissue from the bowels of their own brain? Subsequent studies are likely to greatly adjust this map of tissue gene activity, but, one way or another, the new data will have something to compare with.

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