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Let's imagine a post-scarcity society where everyone has unlimited access to food, energy and the aging problem has been solved so people are practically immortal.

Now my understanding is that, our brains have evolved in a way that maximizes our survival so our brains reward us for doing things that increases our survival chance (like eating, mating, seeking power and status to increase our security..etc) and discourage us from doing things that would decrease our survival chances. This is mainly done by secreting hormones like Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin which make us want to repeat the beneficial action.

In my post-scarcity scenario, our survival will not be at risk since everyone is getting all the basic needs to stay alive and all the medical requirements to prevent death. Now, many many generations after us (millions of years), what will be those things that will make us feel happy or sad when evolution had stopped working on basis of survival?

In other words, what will be the purpose of future humans when survival is no longer the purpose? And if the purpose becomes to get as much happiness from life, then what might bring us this happiness and with what mechanism?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by AlexP, StephenG, JBH, A Lambent Eye, Renan Jul 4 at 13:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Step 1: find out what selective pressures will exist in this future world. Step 2: figure out the strength of the selective pressures with respect to genetic drift. Step 3: figure out the importance of sexual selection. Step 4: write a book on the subject. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 4 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ It is not simply security. Males often takes smaller or larger risks to secure (better) mating partners. $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jul 4 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @AbanobEbrahim , please give more background on the world that you're building together and what kind of conflict/resolution you're trying to build. Otherwise the question is much too broad and answers would be opinion based. $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Jul 4 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ millions of years in a post-scarcity civilization? (a) Questions about "how will X evolve" are almost impossible to answer because given enough time almost anything is possible. (b) Post-scarcity is technology based and technology is always fragile. It's one volcanic eruption, earthquake, or meteor impact away from chaos. Sometime in those millions of years the civ will be post-post-scarcity. (c) Most of the human survival drive is geared to propagation of the species. Nothing about that would change. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 4 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ As I recall, at least one Star Trek episode dealt with this exact topic. Love them quatloos. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jul 4 at 13:44
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Natural selection does not care about purpose or happiness. The only thing that matters for natural selection is propagation of genes. Someone who is miserable but has lots of kids is a natural selection star.

Some things natural selection might select towards:

  1. Not liking condoms. Whether it's due to laziness or comfort, someone who does not use a condom is good from a natural selection standpoint.
  2. Not being able to use other forms of birth control. If someone is allergic to the pill or has trouble keeping a diaphragm placed, that is a natural selection good.
  3. Liking sex.
  4. Liking kids.
  5. Willingness to abandon kids. If someone is willing to have a child and then abandon the child, that might be even more valuable than liking kids.
  6. Inability to find satisfaction in activities other than sex. Someone who only finds moments of satisfaction in sex is more likely to engage in more sex than someone who has other hobbies.
  7. Sexual attractiveness. People who are more in demand as sexual partners will be more successful in propagating their genes.

Even in a post-scarcity society, some things are still scarce. For example, apartments in New York City are scarce even though apartments in the United States are not. Some of that is artificial scarcity caused by zoning regulations, etc. But a great deal of that is simply that there is only so much space in New York City.

More importantly from a natural selection standpoint, a person's time is scarce. Children make time scarcer. Parents have to be more careful about organizing their time, because children take up so much of it. As society advances, there are more things to do with that time. Those other things distract from parenting. So people who don't like other activities are more likely to propagate their genes.

Notice the side effect here. People will become more miserable in every activity but sex (and possibly parenting). And sex is likely to be only a transient pleasure. It makes someone happy at that moment, but then it fades, leaving the person craving the next moment of happiness.

Parenting in a post-scarcity society might be done by robots, leaving the humans only pursuing sex. Artificial wombs may mean that pregnancy doesn't even limit sex. As soon as a prospective mother realizes that she's pregnant, she transfers the fetus to an artificial womb and continues her normal activities. A race of sex addicts.

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Peacock

Now you can't tell me that does anything for his survival. What's worse is the lifespan of creatures like elephant seals, the trauma from the battles between males on the beach significantly reducing their lifespans relative to the females.

In fact survival isn't that strong a driver of evolution except by correlation, the factors that we deem to be attractive are often those associated with strength, health and reproductive ability. The secondary factor being that those who live longer are likely to reproduce more often and hence have more descendants, but that's no longer strictly true anyway.

So we end up peacocks, the driving factor is sexual selection.

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We'll get more religious

The thing that seems likely in a post-scarcity society, given current demographic trends, is that many people will stop having children altogether. With all the entertainment and birth-control options available, life will be distracting enough for most people to stay self-focused and less interested in reproducing.

As Brythan pointed out, those who reproduce win at evolution over those who choose not to. It is commonly members of certain religious groups (of which I am one), who have more than the average number of children.

Liking sex won't be good enough, though (particularly if you're okay with birth control or abortion). The technology to indulge in any kind of fantasy is coming, and would surely only increase if there was nothing else that it was really necessary for people to pursue. So the groups which would be favored by natural selection are those who would have some intrinsic reason to reject the more 'sterilizing' allures - "Why NOT live in this video game, and fall in love with this other player, as a character and not as a real person - or even fall in love with that NPC?"

At the same time, even in a post-scarcity society, people will fear exponential population growth. The argument that we'll soon face collapse because more mouths means not enough for everyone has been floated since Thomas Malthus, at least, and we've had new prophecies of doom by overpopulation every few decades since then. Those will be willing to have several children must also not be the kind of people who are influenced by Population Bomb type arguments.

And lastly, it's not enough to be an eccentric who chooses go your own way - because if you're not spending time with other people in a community, you're less likely to find someone and pair off. So a communalistic tendency is also necessary.

The religious or religious-like, who value families and reject total electronic indulgence, will tend to be selected for.

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    $\begingroup$ Religiousness is a biological attribute? Since when? Do you have any basis in considering that religiosnewss is genetically determined? This would be a ground-breaking result. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 4 at 19:19
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Natural selection requires pressure. If the "weak" still propagate, then evolution will stagnate and humanity will stop changing.

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    $\begingroup$ Evolution is driven by (1) natural selection, (2) sexual selection and (3) genetic drift. There are always selective pressures, maybe not those that we think of right now, maybe others, but there are some; there is always different sexual success; and there is always genetic drift. Evolution never stops. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 4 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ Hello Jacco! Please remember Stack Exchange prefers answers in the 2-4+ paragraph range as they hope you will back up your perception with examples and statistics. I see where you're coming from, but I also see where @AlexP's coming from. When I apply the two to the last, say, 3k years of evolution, people are getting taller and more obese with increasing luxury ("post-scarcity" compared to the past). We're also seeing bodily and mental degradation due to longer lifespans. I'd like to invite you to edit your answer and expand on your conclusions with a bit of research. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 4 at 19:12
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Evolution will be guided by design rather than natural selection. Even today, we are able to change the genes of children before they are born and (possibly) give them higher intelligence. It is generally believed that in the future, "designer babies" will be increasingly common, with parents adding and removing genes to get the desired traits. Genes from other species could be added if desired, or the body might be changed to produce longevity drugs.

Further research will likely provide ways to design genetic changes to provide specific desired traits that can't be found in any natural humans or animals. It is important to note that it is believed that genetic changes created through in utero (pre-birth) gene therapy will be passed on to offspring, so the entire human race (or subgroups thereof) could be evolved in this way.

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