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Vision Evolution

When it comes to vision, we tend to take it for granted. Our logic varies, but all mammals (of which humans are) have eyes and all mammals use them to see. The difference being that only humans are staring at screens all day. To understand the next evolution in how we use our eyes, and the tech that might challenge them further, we have to understand the history of vision.

In the near future, our eyes will be challenged with near sighted products such as Google Glass, which also present the challenge of far sighted vision clashing with near sighted focus. In the present, our eyes are challenged with a rough spectrum of light that isn’t always filtered, and the transition between back-lit screens and natural light. We hold devices to our faces, we strain our eyes, but it’s not always something we think about. Back in the future, we might have implants in our eyes to replace computer or phone screens. Hell, we may just evolve to only be able to view unnatural light, though that will take millions of years.

Speaking of millions of years, it only took 11 million for vision to get where it is today. According to a recent study on the evolution of vision, all animal life had an ospin ancestor some 700 million years ago. Ospins are light sensitive protein membranes found in the retina. This 700 million year old ospin was blind, but over 11 million years grew the ability to detect light. From there, it was only a matter of time before personal computers were the norm. Basically, the study showed that vision originated only once in animals, yet humans are the only ones who use it to stare at artificial light all day.

This kind of revelation will allow scientists to speculate on future genetic changes, that could also take millions of years. But consider this current scenario. You don’t wear Gunnars and you walk outside after staring at a computer screen, and the sun causes you to squint uncontrollably. Your eyes have trouble adjusting as quickly as if you weren’t staring at a screen. Over millions of years, our vision could adjust to see better inside than outside, seeing artificial light better than sunlight. This is good for gamers, bad for baseball players.

A few posts ago I speculated on being able to genetically enhance things such as vision, which would bypass and speed up the evolutionary process. One could speculate that Gunnars are the next step in the evolution of vision, specifically, the science behind them. While I don’t want to hurt sales with this statement, what if the effects of Gunnars could be utilized without wearing glasses or any other device?

We already have Lasik eye surgery which can correct vision. This has advanced to the point of not only being able to fix nearsighted and farsighted issues, but astigmatism as well. Meanwhile, we have Gunnars, which enhance your vision to the point of genetic tampering without actually tampering anything. That is, you can take them off. But I’ll tell you what, if you picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 this week, then you’ll want a pair of Gunnars to go with it. Makes it a billion times better.

So if future vision science was to combine the two, our eyes would be able to be modified to handle the stress of staring at the devices we stare at on a daily basis. I’m not sure how altering the eye would handle other things like dryness and blinking, but I’m sure if they can take it as far as suggested, they can take it further. Outside of genetic tampering, we’ll just have to wait another 11 million years I suppose.

The great thing about vision is that no matter what we do, it is just a tool of the brain. You see, we actually “see” much more than we perceive that we see. Well, there is research that supports this theory, but our brains take in more bits of data through our eyes that it doesn’t relay as workable vision. Such as details that enable us to identify faces and tell them apart, things we don’t think of until we are thinking of them.

What does this have to do with the evolution of vision? Well, wearing Gunnars, at least for me, gives me the feeling that I’m viewing the world in high definition. What if we were able to unlock all these extra data points in our brains so that we actually see more when we see? I’m thinking that if that happens, we’ll see screens with resolutions higher than the human eye can process, but high enough that the brain can compensate. As it stands right now, our vision basically stops comprehending past a certain resolution, no matter what advertising tells us.

The point is, with modern science advancing all the time in the field of vision, we won’t have to wait 11 million years to adapt to the world we’ve built. We can either wait for the genetic alteration that is likely around the corner in the next half century, or just get a pair of Gunnars. Your call.

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