How humans could evolve to survive in space | Lisa Nip

So there are lands
few and far between on Earth itself that are hospitable to humans
by any measure, but survive we have. Our primitive ancestors, when they found
their homes and livelihood endangered, they dared to make their way
into unfamiliar territories in search of better opportunities. And as the descendants of these explorers, we have their nomadic blood
coursing through our own veins. But at the same time, distracted by our bread and circuses and embroiled in the wars
that we have waged on each other, it seems that we have forgotten
this desire to explore. We, as a species, we’re evolved uniquely for Earth, on Earth, and by Earth, and so content are we
with our living conditions that we have grown complacent
and just too busy to notice that its resources are finite, and that our Sun’s life is also finite. While Mars and all the movies
made in its name have reinvigorated
the ethos for space travel, few of us seem to truly realize
that our species’ fragile constitution is woefully unprepared
for long duration journeys into space. Let us take a trek
to your local national forest for a quick reality check. So just a quick show of hands here: how many of you think you would be able
to survive in this lush wilderness for a few days? Well, that’s a lot of you. How about a few weeks? That’s a decent amount. How about a few months? That’s pretty good too. Now, let us imagine
that this local national forest experiences an eternal winter. Same questions: how many of you think you
would be able to survive for a few days? That’s quite a lot. How about a few weeks? So for a fun twist, let us imagine
that the only source of water available is trapped as frozen blocks
miles below the surface. Soil nutrients are so minimal
that no vegetation can be found, and of course hardly any atmosphere
exists to speak of. Such examples are only a few
of the many challenges we would face on a planet like Mars. So how do we steel ourselves for voyages
whose destinations are so far removed from a tropical vacation? Will we continuously ship supplies
from Planet Earth? Build space elevators,
or impossible miles of transport belts that tether your planet of choice
to our home planet? And how do we grow things like food
that grew up on Earth like us? But I’m getting ahead of myself. In our species’ journey
to find a new home under a new sun, we are more likely than not
going to be spending much time in the journey itself, in space, on a ship, a hermetic flying can, possibly for many generations. The longest continuous amount of time
that any human has spent in space is in the vicinity of 12 to 14 months. From astronauts’ experiences in space, we know that spending time
in a microgravity environment means bone loss, muscle atrophy,
cardiovascular problems, among many other complications that range for the physiological
to the psychological. And what about macrogravity, or any other variation
in gravitational pull of the planet that we find ourselves on? In short, our cosmic voyages
will be fraught with dangers both known and unknown. So far we’ve been looking to this
new piece of mechanical technology or that great next generation robot as part of a lineup to ensure
our species safe passage in space. Wonderful as they are,
I believe the time has come for us to complement
these bulky electronic giants with what nature has already invented: the microbe, a single-celled organism that is itself
a self-generating, self-replenishing, living machine. It requires fairly little to maintain, offers much flexibility in design and only asks to be carried
in a single plastic tube. The field of study that has enabled us
to utilize the capabilities of the microbe is known as synthetic biology. It comes from molecular biology,
which has given us antibiotics, vaccines and better ways to observe
the physiological nuances of the human body. Using the tools of synthetic biology, we can now edit the genes
of nearly any organism, microscopic or not, with incredible speed and fidelity. Given the limitations
of our man-made machines, synthetic biology will be a means for us
to engineer not only our food, our fuel and our environment, but also ourselves to compensate
for our physical inadequacies and to ensure our survival in space. To give you an example of how we can use synthetic biology
for space exploration, let us return to the Mars environment. The Martian soil composition is similar
to that of Hawaiian volcanic ash, with trace amounts of organic material. Let’s say, hypothetically, what if martian soil
could actually support plant growth without using Earth-derived nutrients? The first question
we should probably ask is, how would we make
our plants cold-tolerant? Because, on average,
the temperature on Mars is a very uninviting
negative 60 degrees centigrade. The next question we should ask is, how do we make
our plants drought-tolerant? Considering that most of the water
that forms as frost evaporates more quickly
than I can say the word “evaporate.” Well, it turns out
we’ve already done things like this. By borrowing genes
for anti-freeze protein from fish and genes for drought tolerance
from other plants like rice and then stitching them
into the plants that need them, we now have plants that can tolerate
most droughts and freezes. They’re known on Earth as GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, and we rely on them to feed
all the mouths of human civilization. Nature does stuff like this already, without our help. We have simply found
more precise ways to do it. So why would we want to change
the genetic makeup of plants for space? Well, to not do so
would mean needing to engineer endless acres of land
on an entirely new planet by releasing trillions of gallons
of atmospheric gasses and then constructing
a giant glass dome to contain it all. It’s an unrealistic engineering enterprise that quickly becomes
a high-cost cargo transport mission. One of the best ways to ensure that we will have the food supplies
and the air that we need is to bring with us organisms
that have been engineered to adapt to new and harsh environments. In essence, using engineered organisms
to help us terraform a planet both in the short and long term. These organisms can then also
be engineered to make medicine or fuel. So we can use synthetic biology
to bring highly engineered plants with us, but what else can we do? Well, I mentioned earlier
that we, as a species, were evolved uniquely for planet Earth. That fact has not changed much
in the last five minutes that you were sitting here
and I was standing there. And so, if we were to dump
any of us on Mars right this minute, even given ample food, water, air and a suit, we are likely to experience
very unpleasant health problems from the amount of ionizing radiation
that bombards the surface of planets like Mars that have little
or nonexistent atmosphere. Unless we plan
to stay holed up underground for the duration of our stay
on every new planet, we must find better ways
of protecting ourselves without needing to resort
to wearing a suit of armor that weighs something
equal to your own body weight, or needing to hide behind a wall of lead. So let us appeal
to nature for inspiration. Among the plethora of life here on Earth, there’s a subset of organisms
known as extremophiles, or lovers of extreme living conditions, if you’ll remember
from high school biology. And among these organisms is a bacterium
by the name of Deinococcus radiodurans. It is known to be able to withstand cold,
dehydration, vacuum, acid, and, most notably, radiation. While its radiation
tolerance mechanisms are known, we have yet to adapt
the relevant genes to mammals. To do so is not particularly easy. There are many facets
that go into its radiation tolerance, and it’s not as simple
as transferring one gene. But given a little bit of human ingenuity and a little bit of time, I think to do so is not very hard either. Even if we borrow just a fraction
of its ability to tolerate radiation, it would be infinitely better
than what we already have, which is just the melanin in our skin. Using the tools of synthetic biology, we can harness Deinococcus
radiodurans’ ability to thrive under otherwise
very lethal doses of radiation. As difficult as it is to see, homo sapiens, that is humans, evolves every day, and still continues to evolve. Thousands of years of human evolution has not only given us
humans like Tibetans, who can thrive in low-oxygen conditions, but also Argentinians,
who can ingest and metabolize arsenic, the chemical element
that can kill the average human being. Every day, the human body evolves
by accidental mutations that equally accidentally
allow certain humans to persevere in dismal situations. But, and this is a big but, such evolution requires two things
that we may not always have, or be able to afford, and they are death and time. In our species’ struggle
to find our place in the universe, we may not always have the time necessary for the natural evolution
of extra functions for survival on non-Earth planets. We’re living in what E.O. Wilson
has termed the age of gene circumvention, during which we remedy our genetic defects
like cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy with temporary external supplements. But with every passing day, we approach the age
of volitional evolution, a time during which we as a species will have the capacity to decide
for ourselves our own genetic destiny. Augmenting the human body
with new abilities is no longer a question of how, but of when. Using synthetic biology to change the genetic makeup
of any living organisms, especially our own, is not without its moral
and ethical quandaries. Will engineering ourselves
make us less human? But then again, what is humanity but star stuff
that happens to be conscious? Where should human genius direct itself? Surely it is a bit of a waste
to sit back and marvel at it. How do we use our knowledge to protect ourselves
from the external dangers and then protect ourselves from ourselves? I pose these questions not to engender the fear of science but to bring to light
the many possibilities that science has afforded
and continues to afford us. We must coalesce as humans
to discuss and embrace the solutions not only with caution but also with courage. Mars is a destination, but it will not be our last. Our true final frontier
is the line we must cross in deciding what we can and should make
of our species’ improbable intelligence. Space is cold, brutal and unforgiving. Our path to the stars
will be rife with trials that will bring us to question
not only who we are but where we will be going. The answers will lie in our choice
to use or abandon the technology that we have gleaned from life itself, and it will define us for the remainder
of our term in this universe. Thank you. (Applause)

Comments 100

  • good talk, thank you

  • She's exaggerating on her facial expressions / body language and that makes it extra creepy. The way she seems kind of like passive-aggressive during the questions in the beginning is also very weird, I guess it's because she was really excited to be there. Great content though.

  • the main ethical issue with allowing genetic modification on humans (even though I suspect China has been doing it) is that the rich and powerful will undoubtedly abuse it and the gap will increase between them and the 98/99%.
    the only way it would work is if it were widely available to everyone so it doesn't affect the status quo. otherwise, surely black market mods will bring about a steampunk reality.

  • She should have talked more about her topic instead of trying to make an argument for every idea. While the solutions are great the "problem" she is fixing is off topic. We don't need to change our bodies to travel in space we just have to make a vehicle that we can live in. However these ideas are very useful for living in another environment, terraforming a planet is going to be near impossible and if you want an earth-like environment it will take an incredible amount of time. Some things as she points out are impossible to change like the gravity and magnetic fields.

  • It is inevitable. Humanity as it is now will become a pitied minority living in the past like the Amish are now. 'Humans' will be left to live on earth while the new species expands outwards on streamlined ships with no radiation shielding. All the new star empires will be populated by modified races instead of living in glass mega – domes so even if we live long enough, we won't be able to visit there. Damn, this talk was great and got me thinking. That thinking is just leading to depression though. One of my favorite quotes from sci-fi is good for this though. "Rejoice, for out of all the uncountable masses of humanity that will rule the universe until the end of time, we are the lucky few who lived and walked on ancient Terra."

  • I would volunteer as a test patient 🙂

  • good speaker. she has glamorized the Monsanto Affect which is not compatible with The earth or our Anabolic chemistry to sustain a long life. GMO Data is dismal and out of touch with natural evolution.

  • Unfortunately, people always have confusion adaptation with evolution. She also has. Anyway presentation is good. I love the idea. It is good to live in doom because survival needs resourcing and space. Our earth also has harsh weather condition and we hide ourselves in a shelter

  • I want to fly, scientists make it happen

  • Oh my goodness, she is so unnatural. Not necessarily nervous — just super 'public speaker'y, and watching this is making me super uncomfortable. It's almost like she is very consciously mirroring someone from the 50's that would say, "Heya hey, now listen here because, lemme tell ya, this is important, now siddown and shuddup, ya hear?"

  • Chinese and GMO's… yuck.
    Chinese communist capitalist were among the first to develop cheap genetically modified food sources GMO's (better climate withstanding, higher produce giving, lesser attention required, very less goodness modified crops), the very food we eat is a huge contributor of cancer. And all but for money.

  • She speaks so well wow

  • I'm argentinian. I didn't know I carried resistance to arcenic in my genes. still not gonna try test it.

  • Man is smart enough to transcend biology. Man is not fit for space travel. Man can put 2 and 2 together and stop fantasizing about exotic crops to facilitate extremely inefficient chemical energy conversion.

  • Maybe in the future scientists will be able to modify our descendants to be extremophiles through genetic engineering (gene editing).

  • One of the best ted talks ever

  • Really enjoyed the talk….

  • And so the X-men were created….(enter 90's cartoons opening theme)

  • Why is it so unthinkable to people that our species might just end at some point? As if the universe would just not be worth existing if that happened.

  • I'm sorry, but that sounded a lot like GMO industry propaganda.

  • skeletal/muscle support
    co, co2, hs.h2s resistance
    even better desiccation protection
    rad resistance

  • I fear Asians will soon modify their genes and rule the world..

  • I want a prehensile tail.

  • synthetic biology is how the walking dead starts

  • fit but boring

  • Looks like she's excited about the end of earth.

  • Terraformar significa destruir um planeta que mal conhecemos, assim como fazemos na Terra.
    Terraformar é perder a oportunidade de conhecer formas de vida em condições não encontradas aqui.

  • Too busy to notice that the resources are finite? No no, too greedy you meant..

  • ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • This chick is asking for mutants! Who's second?

  • seems she read a book on how to talk and gesture while public speaking. im not seeing the real her.

  • My wife has an artificial leg, one glass eye, a heart pace maker and she just bought a Fitbit. The question is, how many more parts till she is a cyborg?

  • A good sales pitch for eugenics, but many misrepresentations. The temperature on Mars may be low, but with such a thin atmosphere, the air shouldn't feel as cold as comparable temperature on Earth. Wearing a heavy radiation-proof suit will not only be less of a problem because of Mars' 1/3 Earth-gravity, it may actually help maintain muscle mass and bone density by keeping us feeling closer to our Earth weight.

    The first thing we should be doing with our intellect is to ascertain what the energy that is currently reaching Mars is doing. The ground is mostly iron-oxide, which is getting bombarded with direct sunlight all day. Iron is quite conductive. The surface might be cold but what's happening underground? Could there be life forms there capturing and making use of solar energy, shielded from the harsh sunlight and cosmic rays?


  • This is so naive and wrong… That is why biotech is such a dangerous industry : 99% of the scientists have no fucking clue what they are doing and yet so obsessed with their ideas….

  • wormholes

  • Found it interesting how she said GMO's feed "all" humans on earth… last I checked we have people starving. Amazingly brilliant lady. Just found that bit of the video rather harshly untrue. Extremely sad bit of truth that the inequality on this planet is very real.

  • this is so intriguing!

  • Couldn't watch this till the end, she annoyed me with her hunchback and unnatural style of talking

  • 10:12 🙂 this is a big butt

  • Dougal dixon mentions that in a creepy way in his book Man After Man

  • Humans are NOT evolved for earth, lol. Take ANY human being, strip them naked, and they would die within mere days if they were left to live like an animal in over 80% of the world's natural environments. I'm so sick of people acting like we're so much more special. The ONLY thing that differentiates us from other animals is our ability to manipulate our environment to an Nth degree above all other species. That's it. We're not special. 98% of the entire known universe is inhospitable to human beings, causing near instantaneous death to us. That is a FACT.

  • I know this is supposed to be an intelligent discourse on the future of humanity, but I can't help but find her so cute and charming.

  • And yet we still continue to underestimate our bodies. Good talk! We are as mysterious as outer space

  • macrogravity would be pretty sick, everyone would be jacked.

  • put my brain in a robotic suit please.

  • Space madness

  • The only way to go from here is out.

  • Its a big butt.

  • I agree ,space humans will be totally different species from Earth humans ..extremophile humans.

  • lol all life needs gmo

  • stop hunching girl

  • This sounds oddly like a cheerleading speech for Monsanto… she might be intelligent, but my guess is she is being used to convey a clever dose of propaganda.

    She drops little bombs such as this one at 6:25: 'They are known on earth as GMO's,or genetically modified organisms…and we rely on them to feed ALL the mouths of human civilization"

    reallly??? funny how she frames that. Most of us would avoid them if we knew what the heck was in our food. and there are still 795 million people who are starving so she is really full of it.

  • Si l'homme quitte la Terre après l'avoir pillée ce ne sera pas de sa force ou de son intelligence, mais bel et bien parcequ'elle l'en aura chassé.

  • Simply brilliant!

  • We could use CRISPR to make humans that are capable for space travel

  • #tks #translator #vietsub

  • The Title should be: How humans could evolve to survive on earth. Serious people our world is waiting for another catastrophe it could be WW3, Zionism, NWO, natural disaster. Be sure that i will not take long before hard times will come across. I am saying this because there is still a way to save yourself for our fragile future. The way we live life is a castle made of sand sooner or later it will go wrong and the only thing that will save you is learning the just unveiled Truth of Life. the truth explains the big picture of life in every facet. It explains how life works and will change your view thus mind in the best way. Google TruthContest click on the earth icon and read the Present, the truth contains your *ultimate purpose.

  • Is there anyone else here who finds the rigid posture of her shoulders a bit unnatural?

  • She's still not as good as deGrasse when it comes to presenting interesting and mesmerising monologues!

  • spoke, spoke… but said much, I don't like this one

  • this is not a planet!!.. there is no outer space!!.. you cannot get off this plane; for there is a dome over it.. the Creator is not that foolish to let destructive man; voyage off this place.. Van Allen radiation belts prevent any type of space travel anyways.. you need to WAKE UP!!!.. they have been lying to us for the past 500 years; at least!! Nasa=Nazi.. as in the days of Noah; so shall it be in the coming of the Son of Man.. evolution=evilution. >>>

  • This is the hope for survival in the far future.

  • Could Life Have Come From Outer Space?

    The key to evaluating the "life began in outer space" thesis lies in studying the meteorites that reached the Earth and the clouds of gas and dust existing in space. No evidence has yet been found to support the claim that celestial bodies contained non-earthly creatures that eventually seeded life on Earth. No research that has been carried out so far has revealed any of the complex macromolecules that appear in life forms.

    Furthermore, the substances contained in meteorites do not possess a certain kind of asymmetry found in the macromolecules that constitute life. For instance, amino acids, which make up proteins, which are themselves the basic building blocks of life, should theoretically occur as both left- and right-handed forms ("optical isomers") in roughly equal numbers. However, only left-handed amino acids are found in proteins, whereas this asymmetric distribution does not occur among the small organic molecules (the carbon-based molecules found in living things) discovered in meteorites. The latter exist in both left- and right-handed forms.

  • we need xenobiologists

  • brilliant science is new religion of human species

  • End the surfacism, go to Venus and live in the temperate clouds.

  • read Three body Problem trilogy, the ultimate book for space exploration and human destiny

  • Retarded!!

  • My favourite speaker on Ted 😀

  • intelligent symbiotic self regulating thin bio mechanical radiation suit we will look totally alien but it could work.

  • She is proposing to build replicants 🙂
    Let's send robots first. They are more comfy in space !

  • “We as a species were evolved uniquely for planet Earth” …. such a load of bullshit. In a short period of our human evolution all we managed to do is that we sucked the Earth dry of all its resources and influenced the habitat of every single living thing in the worst way possible. First we should at least try to take care of our own home planet and then go out searching other planets and stars.

  • Now I am really worried. I want to work for nasa and I am worried that I might no be able to survive on space. I want to survive but I don't know what the consequences will be. That worries me more.

  • I wish a Ted talk like this about blood group's

  • I can survive endless winter
    but space travel is fucking harsh

  • This is a fantastic talk! It's amazing how star stuff can be this intelligent and complex and possibly make a way to living in Mars and exploring interstellar regions. 🙂

  • it was mentioned some time ago that we dont need to engineer new planets, we just need to re-engineer humans to fit them. it might be true and a hundred times faster than terra forming planets, but we cant agree what it ethical now, when we throw these thoughts into the mix, will we EVER agree? maybe not until its too late, so I think we need courage indeed, and the few that are sure they will survive might need to go and do it, and turn their backs on us, because the majority of Humans will die afraid to try to survive in any other form.

  • I believe, we are evolved for and of the universe.

  • Or we have to merge with technology, which I guess wouldn't make us humans anymore.

  • Bored

  • Wonderful presentation but…only Carl Sagan could pull off that style of speaking.

  • using this explanation for my new ambient track if that's cool

  • She did a great job persuading people into thinking her evil plan is a good idea.

  • She never mentioned generation z for their lacking the ability to intellectualize.

  • I truly believe that our biggest problem is religion it puts limits on what the human race can do it causes us to go to war with each other and kill each other all because we think our way is the only right way when in reality it only causes problems on this planet this is definitely not normal for the human race to be acting this way we all need to come together as one and do away with our religious belief because we're never going to get anywhere with religion standing in the way

  • And then warhammer 40k starts 🙂

  • Watch the film 'Titan' on Netflix. They genetically alter people.

  • That would literally be the best superpower

  • What an amazing speech!!!!!!

  • Fascinating talk!

  • LMFAO. pure transhumanist propaganda, enjoy your microchips, programs! real human beings will never reach any other planets LOL. we are electromagnetically tethered to the earth with our biotic field.

  • She really wants to go to Mars.

  • But genetic modification is NOT the same as natural hybridization.  Interesting lie.  Makes me distrust everything else she's peddling.

  • The human race is smart. But before we look for any other planets that could possibly be home we need to fix earth instead of destroying it it’s our only home we have so fix it before we go

  • Someone needs to tell this chick the militaries of the world are already in a genetic engineering race. The strongest will inherit the earth (and the colonies).

  • face pulls

  • So supermen and women are not so far fetched , we may be able to create theses super beings in the future on a physical path but what about on a mental path.

  • Genetically engineer a human to be able to survive in space , is this still a human , cro magnon man appears didn’t help the Neanderthal, (native Americans, white man , ) who came out 2nd best in that one , I totally agree with the expansion of the race , but a super race has already been tried and how well did that go down .

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