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The Microbial Stages of Humanity

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-313
Number of pages13
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


The history of the development of human civilization mirrors the evolutionary innovations and habits of microorganisms. Escape from environmental extremes within caves (cryptoendolithic habitats) has given way to a predominantly surface-dwelling (epilithic) civilization. Humans, like microorganisms, extract minerals and elements from rocks - a form of biological rock weathering - which are fashioned into houses and other technology - a type of biomineralization. During the last century, humans have developed new microbial capabilities including travel from continent to continent in aircraft (spores) and the ability to produce toxins to kill other organisms. The biomineralizing, spore-forming, rock-inhabiting human biofilm will eventually expend its nutrients, unless, in a remarkable departure from the microbial world, humans on other planetary bodies return resources to their progenitor biofilm. Alternatively, as with microorganisms, the human biofilm will be forced to adapt to live in a nutrient-depleted world at much lower productivity or biomass than at present. Comparing humans with microbes, rather than other primates, yields a much more faithful interpretation of the development of our civilization and might provide new ways to model, mathematically and sociologically, the development of society.

    Research areas

  • History, Microbes, Civilisation, Humanity, Biofilm, Political philosophy, MICROORGANISMS, ALGAE, CYANOBACTERIA, LIFE

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