Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to increase your life expectancy for free: wait it out for a billion years

Isn't it possible that at one time fish weren't afraid of sharks? Long ago, before natural selection had had enough time to work out the kinks, when it was too busy weeding out the fish who didn't have gills to really care about behavior, I bet that a lot of fish considered themselves ambivalent towards sharks. "Yeah, I don't mind that guy". These fish most likely lived short lives. But luckily their ambivalence was eventually selected against; besides that car washing Will Smith fish, fish don't like sharks anymore.

Natural selection is interested primarily in two statistics: attractiveness and boning time. Attractiveness is boring and not the topic of this post so talk about that part of the game with your science teacher. I'm interested in boning time, or maybe just like saying it. The logic goes that the more opportunities an individual has to mate, the more babies it'll have, and the more common will be its genes in the next generation. After a certain amount of generations not very many fish (or jets for that matter) were hanging with the sharks.

As natural selection selects against more and more of a species' skull cracking activities in order to increase net boning time, the life expectancy of the species lengthens as a byproduct.

So assuming that all other factors remain constant, which they don't, the life span of every species on the planet has been getting longer, and will continue to grow as time goes. It'll surely be bizarre when deers live to 400 and redwood trees to 2500. It'll be even weirder when the fish that you got for throwing a dart at a balloon lives for 5 days.

How to live longer? How to increase your life expectancy? Wait a long time.

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