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Context

God games are organised, in which a hundred immortals participate. Every "God" is given an alternate dimension. These dimensions are all identical and contain an Earth where Humans didn't yet evolve.

At the start of the games, each god receives a certain amount of god-credits they can spend in a celestial Mall. Three main categories of goods are sold : "Humans and human knowledge", "Colonist tools" and "Satellites and robots".
The humans sold in the celestial Mall are generated based on the humans living on the original Earth where they evolved naturally, without the interference of any immortal.

Some one-of-their-kind legendary items are also put in auction. Examples of such items include a magical sperm bank, a duplication machine and different sets of magical rules.

During the first stage of the contest (which last a few thousands years), a jury evaluates the gods advancements every hundred years.
At the beginning of the second stage, portals to a human-free Earth are installed on every world. This allows the people from all the alternate Earths to meet each other and interact on a neutral planet.

The criteria used by the judges are numerous and often contradictory. The best strategy for a contestant is to choose a few of them to focus on and carefully craft their plans based on their objectives.
But that's not what our protagonist did.

The Lazy God

One of the contestant is a slacker, and doesn't want to bother with all the complicated rules and strategies. At the start of the competition, he went to the legendary auctions and bought a bottle full of evolution-influencing spirits and a one-way time travel ticket to send it a few dozens millenniums in the past.

His goal is to let the spirits do all the work and spend the rest of the contest eating pizza and taking naps, leaving his planet on its own.

The spirits are to find the closest thing to humans on the planet and to hasten their evolution. Since they are not omnipotent, they focus on only three aspects of the human evolution :

  • Adoption of the upright posture

  • Development of the areas of the brain responsible for abstract thinking, logic and language

  • Adaptation to an omnivorous diet

The result

At the end, humans evolved on this version of Earth twice as fast as they should have, but there are still a few differences between them and "normal humans".

The lazy god barely passed to the next stage because his people were on the verge of causing mass extinction and wiping themselves out of existence.

We don't know it yet, but we are the result of this experiment.


My Question

Knowing that we are the accelerated ones, what differentiates us and normal humans ?

I have already found a few things, but I don't think my list is complete.

Possible differences :

  • Normal humans are less prone to various venous problems like hemorrhoids or varicose veins (their blood system had more time to adapt to standing upright).

  • They suffer from less genetic diseases, because they had more time to select against them.

  • Genes for blue eyes and freckles are relatively recent, so the humanity who had a longer existence could present a larger variety of skin and eye colors.

  • Because they've been "civilized" longer than us, their instincts/personalities are less aggressive.

  • They have a less simian appearance (I haven't decided to what extend yet).

(Edit : I built the following point on dubious bases and will probably delete it from the list)

  • Following some long-term tendencies, their pinkies are in a vestigial state and they don't have male nipples or appendix any more.

What do you think about this list? What should I add to (or subtract from) it to make it complete?


Note : In this setting (civilizations controlled or influenced by immortals), having a long history doesn't mean being technologically advanced. Normal humans could live in medieval-level societies for tens of thousands of years.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a native English speaker, please tell me if you see any grammatical mistake or badly worded sentences I should correct. $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 28 '15 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ Why would they lose their pinky? The pinky is a major factor in determining grip strength. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 28 '15 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I've heard before that our pinkies are smaller than our ancestors' and are getting even smaller, but I should have looked into it more seriously. I can't find any trustworthy source supporting this idea... I'll edit the question. $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 28 '15 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ You may have read about the pinky toe eventually being lost. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Sep 28 '15 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre: I'd be interested in seeing a study with people who actually lack a pinky finger. It seems to me that having one and deliberately not using it may be more debilitating than just not having one at all, because it prevents your other fingers from applying 100% of their strength. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Sep 28 '15 at 19:39
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Not a whole lot would be different between us and the slow humans since a few dozen millenniums isn't really all that long for evolution. Modern humans appeared about 250,000 years ago and the only contemporary Homo at the time were the Neanderthals.

The evolution-spirits have a pretty easy time of it since two of their three objectives have already been achieved and they have modern humans as a baseline.

  • Adoption of the upright posture - Already present in modern humans.
  • Adaptation to an omnivorous diet - Already present in modern humans.
  • Development of the areas of the brain responsible for abstract thinking, logic and language - Debatable when language started and how. Since language allows symbol manipulation, formalized logic and abstract thinking can't start before language.

What differentiates us from "slow" humans

They would be behind is several key areas:

  • Even if they are only 10K years behind us, they are just starting to develop agriculture and a static civilization.
  • Their tool use will be very primitive, just stone tools.
  • No written languages yet.
  • Specific adaptations to diet or climate (such as fish diets by the Inuit or light skin and hair for the Scandinavians)

Any scientist who studies any aspect of humans would love to get their hands on these "slower" humans. So many theories could be proved or disproved by being able to examine a living example of a human being from 10 or 20K years ago.

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  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind the immediate predecessor to humans was very human like, there was no great jump from ape intelligence to human. 2 million years is a more realistic number $\endgroup$ – Tom J Nowell Apr 8 '16 at 11:22
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Having explored some of the reasons this is such a hard and open ended question, but likely not given you as useful detail for your aims as you would like, let me now try to give you an easy out. I noticed you implied one of your premises was that we humans are a 'screw up' because were less social, more competitive, and basically fight with ourselves too much, which I already stressed is unlikely to be different if you just hypothesis a slower evolution. However, I can suggest an approach that will give you a pretty good idea for what slow-humans will look like with minimal effort and makes them less aggressive and more good willed. It does have an accidental effect you may not like (or may like, I don't judge) of making them rather..frisky apes though.

My solution is to model slow-humans after bonobo instead of humans. To give some context Bonobo are one of our closest genetic relatives, and quite fascinating. While your probably more familiar with chimpanzees the bonobo are at least as close to us and share a few traits unique to us such as having forward facing hips that encourage upright walking, also makes them the only other mammal to have face-to-face sex. having the closest to human speech, a spontaneous sharing and altruism shared with humans and a general greater focus on collaboration to achieve goals ....and having sex for non reproductive reasons (more on that one below).

Bonobo are also quit peaceful, far more then chimps or even humans. They are female run society, the females having banded together to compete with male aggression through numbers. However, females do not rule over males, they have one of the smallest disparities between sexes of all primates, physically and socially. While it's sometimes overplayed to an unrealistic degree they generally have a far greater tendency to work together, spontaneously help each other, and avoid violence (or more accurately make up after violence quickly) then any other primates, potentially including humans.

Final interesting fact, they are closer to chimps then humans. The three lines were all with a common ancestor (called CHLCA or chimp human last common ancestor) when humans split off and went their own way. The chimp/bonobo ancestor continued to evolve as a species before those two split into separate species much later. This is interesting because chimps do not share many of the unique traits that humans and bonobo do, which brings up an interesting question. Did our common ancestor (CHLCA) look more like chimp and all other primates, and humans and bonobo separately developed unique traits like forward facing hips, or did CHLCA already process them and the chimps lost these traits after splitting off from bonobos to look more like 'other' primates?

Okay, putting all this together. I'm assuming you want an easy narrative for why were different and screwing up. Perhaps originally the human line never existed. The CHLCA never split off into humans, instead it continued on it's merry way, eventually split into chimps and bonobos, and later bonobos continued to evolve into the real humans.

Your lazy god went back to the time of CHLCA and his spirits saw that the CHLCA was the cloest to modern 'humans', so it started to encourage evolution from that point, creating the human line(s).

This works because bonobo share out upright posture, one of the first things that would be focused on the spirits, maybe the CHLCA wasn't quite as upright as bonobos eventually became and that was the main thing that split us.

However, the bonobo are very unique in being a peaceful ape, one of the most cooperative out there. They also have evolutionary pressures (societal ones) that would really help to drive evolution of intellect. They would make sense as the most common species, even above chimps, to evolve intellect if humans didn't come around, and they would do it potentially more peacefully and with a much larger focus on community building, thus the reason slow-humans were seen as less aggressive then humans. It's not that humans evolved wrong to be aggressive, that's a standard evolutionary route, it's that bonobos are unique in finding a niche where non-aggression is encouraged. they are the odd ones, but in a good and peaceful manner.

This also helps because you can model your slow-humans by looking at humans and bonobos and combining the two. It's much easier to have a model to build off of then trying to plug in all the unknowns I mentioned in my first answer. Just extrapolate a human from a bonobo. Take bonobos, make them smarter, make them a little taller and mostly hairless (this are inevitable evolutionary side effects of freeing the hands up on the savanah), and go from there.

Now the potential downside. Bonobo are refereed to as the hippy apes, because they like to make love not war...lots of love. Bonobo's have made sex a social communication. They use it to develop friendships and bonds, like how chimps groom each other, and to show alliances. They use it to make up after fights, or to calm upset third parties or are upset. They use it when disputes over resources would come to first calm tensions and help decide who gets what resources (the girls seem to end up with the resources this way lol). It's a reward or exchange for services rendered. It's part of how their society functions.

They also have sex in any way you can imagine. With any sex, or age, and most sexual positions. The males engage in "penis fencing" and girls usually settle for simple "GG rubbing" (genital to genital) along with most other sexual positions humans do.

From an evolutionary standpoint this works by removing the males ability to know who the father is and encouraging males to play nice because those that play nice get more sex; and ultimately it evolved because their forward hip walking position makes rape much easier and thus the girls had to form a society to repress male aggression and encourage a different avenue to the whole rape one.

You may not like this focus on sex since it could sidetrack from the story you want to tell. There is an easy fix to that though. This level of sexual contact simply can't keep up if bonobos reached human levels of society due to STDs. Once they were living in large enough communities (ie once they had discovered farming to support larger communities) the risk of STD plagues would be huge. You can say the bonobo-humans had to give up the extensive sexual contact due to STD concerns as their numbers swelled; but this happened late in their evolution, after they had discovered the benefits of peaceful resolutions for larger community building. They evolved to replace sex with some other calming gestures, things like hugs and kisses, but which would feel more relaxing and peaceful to them then us even if done with strangers. That way you can keep all the benefits to using bonobo without having to get too sidetracked by their unique practices.

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First, Garen is right and I stand by all he said...

Of course I assume you weren't committed to that exact length of time and would be open to traveling further back in time?

Now then..the rest of this is going to be flow of thought trying to tackle what at first seemed an impossible question so ...not sure what your going to get.

This is still a very difficult question to answer because well...evolution isn't magic, it's a result of creatures living and dying based off of their fitness and random mutations. Real life and science drives this, what a magic "evolution-guiding spirits" would do is hard to fathom to me, and I can't give a scientific answer that starts with a magic premise.

So first, lets try to better define the evolution guiding spirits. I can see two things that these spirits could do:

  1. Encourage specific mutations to occur which help move towards the ultimate goal
  2. Do not encourage specific mutations, but instead add to existing evolutionary pressures. It doesn't make mutations happen, but it ensures those that walk or speak are even more likely to survive then those that aren't

These could both work. option 1. would be a much faster evolutionary route. However it has two big problems. First, you said the spirits can't be omnipotent, but being able to figure out what adaptations will lead to the desired goal is pretty omnipotent, it almost obligates a long term path of per-planned evolution, since there are so many tiny adaptations that need to build off of each other to get anything like what we want. Second, if you allow this kind of control I can't tell you what humans will be like or how they would differ, because we now have walked away from evolution into genetic manipulation and you can do whatever you want with that.

Thus lets focus on option 2. All the spirits do is help make sure that those that meet the desired goals manage to spread their genetics better. This could work in many ways, protecting those things that stand up or speak from predators, helping make the men more potent (in a fertility sense) and the women's pregnancy and delivery easier/safer, or simply hinder or kill those that fail to meet it's standards.

Option two could still accelerate evolution, but in an odd way. For a long time you wouldn't have any mutation that support your stated goal, then one day something would come along and only then would the spirits start working to encourage it. When you have mutations they would 'win' faster. This is an advantage, many useful mutations likely die out because even though that ape was born with an extra 12 IQ points because he got a smart gene he was still eaten by a leopard while still a newborn when his mother looked the other way, or he managed to fall out of a tree when he had the bad luck of grabbing a weak branch, or he happened to be ugly and the girl apps just weren't interested. The point is even if a mutation is an advantage it still shows up in a single individual who can still easily die before he passes the mutation, the majority of beneficial mutations were lost to random luck of death of the original mutant or the rest of it's genetic line before the mutation managed to pass on to the larger population. Protecting 'good' mutations so they can be passed on would be useful.

So what we get now is a few times of more rapid evolution followed by large spans of the same-old same-old evolution when there is no mutation to 'encourage'.

The result of this would...most likely be humans evolving slower actually.... The problem is that mutations need to build off of other useful mutations. For example, much of our intellect was only useful once we had hands to manipulate tools. Without the ability to finely manipulate tools much of our brain power is less useful, and calorically expensive. Those big brains could be a hindrance to survival without hands. Now if we had some spirits which came around and went out of their way to encourage the abstract thought skills required for tool use while we still had hooves we would all be more prone to starving to death (because brains are expensive) without getting too much use out of it; which would just handicap us.

So lets presume your spirits are a little smarter. They have a general idea of what came before what and only encourage certain steps at a time. Upright posture comes before speech which comes before certain more advanced thought processes etc.

So what would be some difference?

I can see one right off potentially, it's always bothered me a little that we survived so well when we first started to leave treas and travel upright along open plans. We didn't have much in way of tools to defend ourselves, we could not run very fast, and we likely were not that strong. The right predators would have found us a very easy food source before we had more sophisticated weapons. Now we really didn't travel in full plans until we were pretty evolved, the savannas were not exactly what our early evolutionary homes looked like, but still. Perhaps that's because we had some magic spirits protecting us from predators until we could evolve enough to defend against them. Perhaps slow-rate humans had to evolve better defense strategies against predators when away from trees before they finally figured out the whole stone tool thing. Maybe they are physically stronger or more intimidating because of this?

Also, childbirth is harder due to our upright posture, we are one of the species that has the hardest child-birth (though no where as bad as the hyenas thankfully, giving birth out of something refereed to as a pseudo-penis can't sound fun to anyone). Potentially the slow-humans have easier childbirth because they weren't rushed to an upright posture. This in turn could affect other things, like allowing females to conceive younger, decreasing overall death rates, which in turn my minutely drop the fertility rate of the humans (since they still want about the same population density). Honestly this affect alone could play allot of small but interesting roles in mating, sexual conflict, and eventual gender roles; but there all individual small so I won't get to side tracked on them.

Slow-humans (slow-mans? sloans?) would have had to develop language over a longer time which would only happy through social interaction. This would suggest a few things to me. First, they may have developed some other not-quite-language communication methods before full language and syntax existed as an intermediary, meaning they may have more universal body language, jesters, and even sounds that have meaning without abstract syntax modifying it; things we used to communicate before true language that still carried over.

This would also mean that humans would have had to live in packs for a longer length of time to develop language. More reason to stick in a large pack without language would be needed, easiest way to go here would be that they stuck in a pack to defend against predation.

Contrary to the implication of your question though living together for longer does not make us more civilized. Social language evolved because there was an evolutionary pressure to have it, a pressure that comes from social conflict. In other words we must have had social conflict to learn to speak, and if we assume slow-humans had a header time developing language then we would have to assume that they needed stronger social pressures to make it happen. In other words they likely had allot more social conflicts, battles over mating rights, social hierarchies, allegiances, trading of favors etc etc. They would need more bickering to finally cause language to evolve, and thus even after language may very well be more prone to bickering. Since that seems to go counter to the point of view you want I'm going to suggest you go the 'bonobo route' which I'll discuss later if you don't like this idea.

The focus on evolving tool-making intellect may potentially have driven out other instinctual skills as well. Perhaps slow-humans are better at institutionally telling things about the world that would have helped them before tools, like anticipating weather, sense of direction and navigation etc.

Beyond the obvious things above the truth is that evolution has allot of random luck in it, which could be twisted around in all kinds of ways. For instance eye and hair color is (mostly) random with little effect on evolution, more so for Caucasians (African people have darker everything due to an actual need to resist higher UV exposure). In fact much of the hair on our body could have been different, it's quite possible slow-humans would have no hair at all to avoid parasites. Left handers could easily be more common then right. Much of the smaller aspects of our physical features could be shifted or adjusted one way or another, such that slow-humans may have an uncanny-valley effect of looking close enough to humans to seem very wrong to us because their features evolved differently.

It's easy to have certain sexually linked traits in slow-humans that didn't exist in ours as well, many of them are little more then random fluke followed by a feedback chain encouraging them. Maybe slow-humans found bright hair color in mails to be sexy and it evolved like a peacock tail as a way for a male to prove physical fitness; these "handicap principle" adaptations really are random, anything could be used as a handicap and thus slow-humans could theoretically have evolved any number of unique traits if they went this route.

To address some of your specific examples though:

Genetic 'disease' would be just as common. Most of these supposed 'diseases' were advantageous very recently in our history. sickle cell anemia protected against malaria. Cystic Fibrosis protects against many diseases that cause Direha, like cholera, and also defends against tuberculosis. I could go on, but many of them were useful traits or they wouldn't have become so common (usually to combat diseases, the biggest bane of humans once we got past stone tools). More to the point, due to the fact that they are recessive it's nearly impossible to 'get rid' of these traits once they exist, short of excessive inbreeding which I don't recommend, because there will always be carriers of them that are not sick themselves.

The appendix will still be around, it is not vestigial like we once thought. It helps aid in the immune response. For that matter male nipples will always be around, don't believe me? male dogs have nipples, male cats too. most males of mammal species have nipples. That's because we use 99% of the blueprints females have, and it's much easier to evolve a "only make this grow bigger if you see this hormone" gene then a "don't make this grow at all" hormone. Most of the traits of female and males use the same body parts, the clitoris, for example, is effectively an unperformed penis. It's nearly impossible for them to evolve away because they are useful for one sex, and hardly do harm to the other, so there is little advantage to messing with them. The pinky would be unlikely to become vestigial either, adaptations to make it more useful are more likely to show up then ones to remove it, and in general more flexibility in the hands is always preferable to less.

All the above is unlikely to happen partially because evolution isn't that thought out. If something doesn't hurt us it sticks around, for better or worse we keep things forever once they evolve.

They won't magically be less aggressive just because they evolved longer, nothing says evolution leads to less aggression at all. Aggression to a point is required to survive as individual or species, and the length of time a society advanced enough to punish aggression has existed in either scenario is too tiny from evolutionary standpoint to matter (that level of complexity can only exist only after your 'spirits' had almost finished their work, it wasn't accelerated through even with spirits). If you want less aggression go with the bonobo solution.

less simian appearance is potentially possible, but that goes in to my comment that general physical appearance could be adjusted in many minor ways since a good bit of it has a degree of chance and luck to it.

I'm going to post a second post with Bonobo option, having stumbled around the general concept and explored it here, since I don't think any of these answers are too exact, but it's hard to be exact. I will simply end this by saying that the truth is the two humans would likely be fairly different if only the traits you listed were selected for; but there is so much room for unknowns as to how their different, I can't say what slow humans would be like, only what areas may be different; evolution could have gone in so many paths. Their very psychology and view of the world could be quite different as well.

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I think the Lazy God may have done better then the normal humans without immortal help. In fact I think the normal humans might be struggling to be on top of the food chain. Human imperfections have kept as alive or on top since we were living in caves.

  1. Without craving fat foods our brains will not have developed nearly as well as they did with the extra energy that the fat foods provide.

  2. Alcoholism is a problem for millions of people but it was one of the main reasons people started to live in villages - to have enough wheat to make beer.

  3. Even bad hygiene habits caused us to rid our fur and therefore we know less prone to diseases that attack monkeys and gorillas.

  4. And finally gossip helped because more people could hunt and live together compared to other species.

Unfortunately laziness probably didn't help US get anywhere but it may have let the Lazy God win.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand your answer. Why wouldn't they crave fat foods or drink alcohol or gossip ? Could you give more explanations? $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Sep 30 '15 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ Well a civilisation that was less cared to would have flaws. But we have survived thanks to these flaws. $\endgroup$ – Lolli Sep 30 '15 at 12:39
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This is not a direct answer to your question, but this will let you decide what you are talking about and how fast (or slow) you want human evolution to be and what would be the resultant forms.

Sahelanthropus

First known hominid. Braincase only 320 cubic cm. No forehead. Jaws protruding forward a lot. Posture is not understood completely but it was most certainly not erect.

enter image description here

Orrorin

Able to walk bipedally for some distances. Height probably ~3.5 ft. Still liked living in tree branches and had prehensile feet. Looked very much like Sahelanthropus, but shows signs of a forehead.

enter image description here

Ardipithecus

Beginning to settle on the ground and quitting the trees. Posture was bipedal but not erect yet. Height ~4 ft. Were getting to be social creatures. Size of canines suggests males were not as aggressive as those of Sahelanthropus or Orrorin. Brain size ~500 cubic cm. Height ~4.5 ft.

enter image description here

Australopithecus

Gradual increase in brain size to 950 (primitive humans) cubic cm. Evolution of complete erect stance and fingerprinted fingertips. Height increment from 4.5 to 5 ft.

enter image description here

The last stage is us, homo sapiens.

Sahelanthropus fossils date back to ~7 million years ago while modern humans appears 198000 years ago. If evolution was slower, you should choose traits from the primitive genera stated here and maybe mix/match them for added effects.

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