Unnatural Selection

Why the Geeks will inherit the Earth


A fabulous book about human destiny – Rob Brooks, Professor of evolution, University of NSW

Roeder’s excellent book provides a fresh perspective on human progress. – Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, UK

Fascinating stuff! – Adam Spencer, ABC 702 Radio

Unnatural Selection paints a compelling picture of human adaptability—Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse and Robogenesis

A most important book for our times – Dr Peter Levine, Author of Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice

Unnatural Selection examines the rise of the ‘techno-centric being’ – or geek -who personifies a distinct new phase of human evolution. Such people often have behavioural or genetic traits that were previously considered to be detrimental. But the new environment of the Anthropocene – Age of Man – has created a kind of ‘digital greenhouse’ that actually favours their traits, enabling many non-neurotypical people to bloom. They resonate with the technological zeitgeist in a way that turns their weaknesses into strengths.

Think of the film ‘The Social Network’. The central battle is between two opposing sides–one, the Winklevoss twins have classic alpha genes: they are attractive, tall, strong, Olympian rowers, good at school, moneyed. On the other side is the nerdy, physically weaker Mark Zuckerberg who seems slightly autistic. The twist in the tale is that it is Zuckerberg who triumphs – it is his ability to multi-task, to read the new currency, to bend the man-made systems to his will, which make him the victor.

According to Roeder, the rise of the Geek is not so much a product of Darwinian ‘Natural Selection’, but rather of Man-made – or Unnatural – Selection. A few years ago, a prominent geneticist at University College London, Dr. Marcus Pembrey, wrote a paper in which he asked, ‘What if the environmental pressures and social changes of the industrial age had become so powerful that evolution had begun to demand that our genes respond faster? What if our DNA now had to react not over many generations and millions of years but, within just a few generations?’

This is what is happening today. The process is being accelerated by breakthroughs in genetic engineering, neuropharmacology and artificial intelligence – which will have a profound impact on our capabilities and behaviour.

Unnatural Selection is an attempt to make sense of this new phase of human evolution. It pulls together recent research in various fields to create a context within which to understand the changes taking place. It explores the increasingly intimate relationship that we have with technology, and offers illuminating glimpses into the world of the ‘Geeks’, some of whom have become spectacularly successful in recent years. It also considers how emerging cognitive enhancement technologies will enable many more people to become more intelligent and ‘geek-like’.

More broadly, the book encourages us to take a fresh look at how we are evolving as a species, as we become more shaped by Man-made influences, rather than by natural ones. For we have entered into what is likely to be the most challenging period in human history. It means that many of the old rules about survival and success no longer apply. For our destiny will be increasingly determined by the forces of Unnatural Selection. Those who resonate best with the new technological zeitgeist are very likely to inherit the earth.