Category Archives: evolution

Humans 3.0 lands a Canadian publisher


I’m very pleased to announce that my upcoming second book, Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of a Species, has found a Canadian publisher. Goose Lane Editions, which has published such amazing Canadian writers as Noah Richler, George Elliott Clark and Douglas Glover, will be releasing Humans 3.0 in early 2015, alongside the book’s U.S. launch by Lyons Press.

I’m obviously stoked, especially after meeting with publisher Susanne Alexander, who very clearly gets the book. In a nutshell, Humans 3.0 examines how technology has affected the various levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs over the course of human evolution. The book takes a statistical look at how technology has changed prosperity, health, relationships, religion and happiness, among other things, then filters it all through a pop culture lens.

It’s a technology book for people who aren’t necessarily into technology - an analysis of how we’re changing because of the things we’re creating, without all the annoying jargon or boosterism that’s often found in tech writing.

So why go the traditional publishing route rather than self-publishing, which is all the rage these days? I’ve seriously considered that question over the past few months and was actually poised to do it on several occasions. I did, however, want to see what sort of interest my book might generate with publishers first, and to see if any impressive offers might arise. To my surprise, two publishers stepped forward, resulting in a minor bidding war. Alexander ended up impressing the heck out of me with her understanding of the book and release plan for it.

To be honest, knowing that a traditional publisher likes your book and wants it is edifying - it’s nice to know that after putting so much work into it, it’s good enough to warrant attention from the so-called gatekeepers. Self-publishing is also a giant risk where all your hard work can easily vanish into a void. With the traditional route, I’ll at least have a printed book that I can hold in my hands and that will sell at least a few copies.

I’m still very jazzed about trying self-publishing, but obviously not with this project. With luck, I’ll have something with which to give it a go before the year is out.

I’ll have some more exciting announcements to make regarding Humans 3.0, including additional territories, very soon.


Posted by on May 20, 2014 in books, evolution, lyons press


Family Day and the ever-shrinking family

With families shrinking, will we ever see a dynasty like the Jacksons again?

With families shrinking, will we ever see a dynasty like the Jacksons again?

It’s Family Day in five Canadian provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Manitoba), which means that around half of the country has the day off today. The holiday was first celebrated in Alberta in 1990 and has been spreading since, despite the fact that it’s a pretty ill-defined one. It’s intended as a day for families to spend time together, but it’s really just an excuse to get a day off in what is usually the most miserable month of the year here in the Great Wintery North.

Family Day is an even funnier name for a holiday given some of the demographic trends that Canada - and much of the world, for that matter - is experiencing. Families, as it turns out, are getting smaller everywhere.

Canada’s birth rate, or how many kids are born per respective woman, was measured at 1.63 in 2011, or 11 per 1,000 people. That’s quite a bit below the global average of 18.9 per 1,000 in 2013, but fairly consistent with other developed countries. Americans, for example, have 1.89 babies for every woman. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in demographics, evolution


Population bomb theory is a myth in a vacuum

No sooner had I finished writing about how technology fears are stoked by supposedly learned people and the media than another example rears its ugly head. This time, with the world’s population exceeding seven billion people, it’s new worries of a population bomb.

For those unfamiliar with it, the concept is at least as old as Robert Thomas Malthus, an English reverend and scholar of the late 18th and early 19th century. Malthus believed that if the world’s population kept growing at its then-pace, humanity would run out of food and other resources and experience a catastrophe that would greatly thin out the herd to a more manageable and sustainable size.

Of course, it didn’t happen and it probably never will despite vocal kvetching by modern-day Malthusians, simply because population growth does not occur in a vacuum. Everything else - particularly technology and the economy - grows alongside it. So far, this has served us very well, despite the increasing population.

The reality is that technology, economy and population are interlinked. The more a country has of the first two, the less it has of the third. A quick glance at birth rates confirms it - the rich, technologically advanced countries in North America and Europe typically have the lowest while those in Africa have the highest. Going by those figures, it’s obvious that the more prosperous a country is, the fewer children its people have, for reasons that are equally clear.

Historically, people had many children so that there would be more hands to work the land, but in a non-agrarian society that doesn’t make much sense. Moreover, with both parents typically working, it’s not practical to have many kids, from both a time and expense perspective.

The good news - not that the media ever really reports on this - is the global economy is doing a fine job of alleviating poverty, despite what the lingering economic crisis and Occupy Wall Streeters would have everyone believe. Over the past five years, about half a billion people (most of them in China) were elevated out of abject poverty, something an op/ed in the Jakarta Globe recently called the “fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen.” As the article put it, “advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet they remain almost universally unacknowledged.”

Fortunately, some people are taking these developments into account. The demographers at the United Nations know this, which is why they’re projecting the world’s population to peak at about 9 billion about 40 years from now, then decrease. Their reasoning is simple: as people become wealthier, they have fewer children. On that end of things - the input, if you will - population growth is slowly but surely sorting itself out naturally.

All of this growth - whether its population, economic or technological - that we’ve experienced over the past few centuries is hardly a bad thing. People everywhere - in countries rich and poor - are living longer and considerably better than they did a century ago, largely thanks to technological improvements in food production and medicine. Those inputs will continue to improve, so the dire predictions of how food production will need to increase by 70% to accommodate an even larger population may not actually be all that hard to meet. People who worry that the world is running out of food and water are perhaps not taking this inevitable technological advancement into account, the same way Malthus didn’t consider the improvements brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Sometimes when you live in the forest, it’s hard to see the trees. For practical purposes, it might be hard to visualize some of the future gains the world is going to realize from all the technological advances currently being made, but we can expect with a high degree of certainty that they will happen.

The worriers are also perhaps being too cynical about human nature. While some are right to point out that rich, advanced countries simply waste too many resources, we do have a certain pragmatism too, which explains all the effort being put into developing alternative energy sources and more sustainable food production. If a shortage problem really does happen, it’s reasonable to expect that people in rich nations will lend a helping hand, the same way they did for the African famine in the 1980s and every other disaster since.

Should we waste less stuff? Sure, but until there are real and proven wide-scale shortages of oil, food, water or any other resource, people know on a subconscious level that the Malthusian population bomb theory is just a myth no matter how much the media tries to scare us.


Posted by on November 1, 2011 in evolution, food, health


Humans bipedal because of sex and food?

I read last week’s big science news, about the discovery of the oldest human skeleton - nicknamed “Ardi” for the Ardipithecus ramidus species - with great interest. I particularly liked a National Geographic story about why early humans first started walking on two feet, because it pretty well summed up everything in my book; it had everything to do with Sex, Bombs & Burgers.

In my book, I argue about how those have been the three major driving forces of technology. In the National Geographic story, Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University argues that those three factors go back even further, before technology and to the very roots of human evolution.

Lovejoy presents a fascinating run-down of the history of human mating. When the species that would become human still walked on all fours, females would mate with the biggest and strongest males, which were determined the old-fashioned way: through a knock-’em-down, drag-’em-out slobber knocker. The only way the smaller and less tough humans could get some action was by presenting the female with a gift, which was basically always food. In order to bring the female food, the males had to learn how to walk on two feet, thereby freeing up their hands to carry goodies.

In other words, humans became bipedal because of sex and food, and to get around having to go to war.

Pretty cool theory, huh? I sure like it.

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Posted by on October 5, 2009 in evolution, food, sex, war


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