I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
Over a period of six million years, humans have gone from four-legged creatures to animals with complex brains that make and use tools and have developed language, art, and elaborate societies. Where are we headed now? Many people blow the dust off their crystal balls to give us a glimpse of humans in the future.
The Two Race Proposition
In the 1895 novel The Time Machine, H.G. Wells puts his scientist character into a time machine to jump forward 800,000 years. He meets the Eloi, elf-life human descendants, who live care-free and happy lives. They are a bit simple minded.
However, there’s another race that has descended from us, the Morlocks. They are evil and live underground but they serve the Eloi.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry thinks Wells was onto something. The London School of Economics scientist looks ahead 100,000 years and finds two human species. One will be tall, slim, and good looking. These people will be smart and creative.
The other species, he says, will be thick both physically and mentally; short, stubby creatures with little brain power.
Professor Curry says people who are already attractive and intelligent will choose partners with the same attributes. In the same way, stocky and dull-witted people will be rejected as sex partners by the tall and healthy people. In this way, two different species will emerge.
Destroyed by Technology
Dr. Curry is a bit gloomy about some aspects of the life of future humans. He predicts that reliance on technological gadgets will steal the ability of our descendants to communicate with one another. “Emotions such as love, sympathy, trust, and respect” will disappear.
Because we will eat so much processed food we won’t need to chew as much and that will cause our chins to recede. Too much reliance on pharmaceutical interventions might cause our natural immune systems to become obsolete.
Dr. Curry writes that “While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other.”
On the plus side, we will likely live to be 120 years old and go on skiing holidays to celebrate our 100th birthdays. (That’s assuming there’s any snow left anywhere).
No More Evolving
There is a considerable body of thought that says homo sapiens has reached its end product and that we don’t need to evolve anymore. Are we going to be like crocodiles that have scarcely changed a bit over the last 65 million years?
People such as Sir David Attenborough, Stephen J. Gould, and Ernst Mayr subscribe to this theory. The New Scientist says their “argument goes [that] antibiotics, healthcare, abundant food, and an absence of predators mean humans are in stasis. Evolution has effectively stopped.”
And, here comes British geneticist Steve Jones with an age-related argument. He says that, at least in Western societies, the number of elderly men who sire children is very low. Why does that matter? Because there are way more genetic mutations in the sperm of older men than young, virile chaps.
Satoshi Kanazawa (Psychology Today) explains: “Mutations provide the source of genetic variations on which natural selection works. Hence, no older fathers, no genetic mutations, no evolution.”
Humans are now on the cusp of being able to short-cut the evolutionary process. Why wait five hundred generations and hope that the right genes will mutate into a superhuman when we’ve got genetic manipulation at our fingertips?
Here’s Futurism.com: “Advances in nanotechnology, biotech, and genetic engineering furnish humankind with the power to influence its evolution and greatly expand its physical and sensory equipment.”
Within a century, the futurists anticipate humans will be equipped with “synthetic telepathy,” built-in anticancer therapy, and a cerebral connection to the cloud.
By about 2360, babies will be grown outside the womb so that genetic engineering will be able to create “a brand new human species.” Pregnancy will become a “quaint novelty.”
By 7,000 years into the future this “incubator-grown” species will be immune to all diseases, will have self-rejuvenating capabilities, and will, therefore, be immortal.
Over the Earth’s 4.5 billion years there have been five mass extinctions. The most recent eclipse of life that took out the dinosaurs along with 76 percent of all species was 66 million years ago.
Russell McLendon of the Mother Nature Network takes us on a journey into the future. He gives homo sapiens a slim chance of surviving irreversible global warming, supervolcanoes, collisions with huge steroids, reversal of the magnetic poles, or a nearby, in astronomical terms, supernova explosion.
By a billion years into the future, the Sun’s heat will have increased so that the average temperature on our planet is 47 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) and the oceans will be evaporating. Our descendants will have to quit the neighbourhood and find somewhere more hospitable to live or our species will simply fry up.
In 2014 alone, humans consumed about 64 billion chickens. So, Dr. Carys Bennett of the University of Leicester argues that future archaeologists may call us the “Chicken People.” This is because the fossil record will show a new epoch marked by the trillions of chicken bones we will have left behind.
The astronomer Nikolai Kardashev has divided future civilizations based on their use of energy. A Type I civilization consumes all the energy that is available to it. Type II sources its energy directly from a star, and Type III takes energy from galaxies. Physicist Michio Kaku says our species will be a Type I civilization in about 300 years.
The 2006 movie Ideocracy is based on the premise that highly intelligent people have fewer children than unintelligent folks. So, through natural selection, the general population becomes dumber until, 500 years into the future everybody is morbidly stupid.
- “You Can’t Fool the Gene Pool.” Steve Jones, The Telegraph, October 20, 2006.
- “Human Species ‘May Split in Two.’ ” BBC News, October 17, 2006.
- “Future Humans: Just How Far Can our Evolution Go?” Adrian Barnett, New Scientist, November 2, 2016.
- “Future Humans May Call Us the ‘Chicken People,’ and Here’s Why.” Stephanie Pappas, Live Science, December 12, 2018.
- “Why Human Evolution Pretty Much Stopped about 10,000 Years Ago.” Satoshi Kanazawa, Psychology Today, October 16, 2008.
- “Human Evolution.” Futurism.com, undated.
- “A Timeline of the Distant, Disturbing Future of Life on Earth.” Russell McLendon, Mother Nature Network, January 4, 2019.
© 2019 Rupert Taylor
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 12, 2019:
Very informative article. This is my area of interest. I enjoyed reading it.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 08, 2019:
Hi Rupert, This view of the future is kind of scary. There is a lot of information in this article that make you think about global warming and what will happen to our grandchildren and their families.
Have a nice weekend!