The Next Cycle of the Evolution Dial

All Time is Now

The Next Stage of

Evolution: How Will

the Human Species Evolve?

IN BRIEF

Here are four possible futures for the human race, based on some theories of continuing evolution. The possibilities include a stop to evolution, continuing mutation here on Earth, technology hijacking evolution, and space colonies introduce differentiation into humans.

EVOLUTION

One could argue that everything we do is to secure our future as a species. We travel the stars, probe the Earth, explore the ocean’s depths, and travel every inch of land, all in order to find the best options for the human species. But where are we on that, really? What does the future hold in terms of how humans will evolve? Here are four possibilities of how humans will look like in the future.

WE’RE DONE

Image source: Curious Droid/Youtube

One of the possibilities of human evolution is that we are done evolving. This theory posits that throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth, evolution works better in a controlled population living in a single habitat. Humans just don’t operate within those confines. Reproduction also plays a role in the theory as anthropologist Ian Tattersall of New York’s American Museum of Natural History is summarized by National Geographic, “crossbreeding makes it much less likely for potentially significant mutations to become established in the gene pool—and that’s exactly where we are now.”

Also, medical advances allow for even the weakest of our species to continue passing on their traits. Survival of the fittest can’t operate if the “less fit” are helped to survive.

A CHANGING PAINTING

Image credit: jorgen mcleman/shutterstock

Another possibility is the exact opposite: we are still changing. According to this theory, environmental factors are no longer the driving force for evolutionary change, sexual selection has become what will define future evolutionary paths. Since people are now choosing to mate based on wealth and intelligence, traits that facilitate those goals will be maximized. This can be exemplified looking at the children of athletes. Sports players tend to be more attractive and therefore attract similarly attractive mates, making it more likely for those traits to be passed down to offspring.

Some are seeing evidence in other ways as well. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences actually found that females are currently evolving, becoming shorter and plumper with every generation.

HUMAN BODY 2.0

Image Source: Trendy Techie

Its no surprise that much technological advancement is currently aimed at the human body. Through gene enhancement or even tech implants, the body is getting its upgrades not from Darwin, but from robotics or genetic engineering. There is actually a philosophy aimed at this, called transhumanism.

Whether genetically enhanced humans, bionic men, or uploaded beings, technology and its advancement is certainly shaping human development.

REACH FOR THE STARS

Mentioned above is the requisites for evolution: a controlled population and a distinct habitat. That may not exist for humans on Earth, but the minute we send independent space colonies, we are creating the perfect conditions for Darwinian evolution to continue. Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had the full history and future of human evolution all figured out.

More realistically, we may eventually see future generations of humans taking on a variety of shapes and sizes, dependent on their host planet and the conditions that best support the survival of our species.

Our Future in Space: Will

Humanity Ever Get to

Another World?

IN BRIEF

Being the first human to swim in the methane lakes of Titan or scale the cliff walls on Pluto’s moon Charon, those will be the exciting new targets for the thrill-seekers of the next century.

 

THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

It’s a serious look at the topography of the future, at least in terms of its technological promise, and what that will mean for our lives and how we live them.  It’s an extrapolation of current technological trends, as all such predictions inevitably are; but it’s less extravagant than most, more restrained and rooted in scientific realities, and it has a convincing ring of truth to it.

Which is exciting, because if the folks at Samsung are right, it means that over the next century or so we’re going to be in for a very interesting ride.

BROADER HORIZONS

Are we confined to the Earth forever, or will we finally one day move beyond the cradle?

The projected OWL (Overwhelmingly Large) 100-meter telescope. Credit: eso.org.
The projected OWL (Overwhelmingly Large) 100-meter telescope. 

The first step, is the creation of really powerful imaging instruments—and really big ones, too.  After all, we want to know what’s out there.  So by 2116, we’ll have finally created the 100-meter telescope—the Holy Grail of astronomy, a window onto the universe so vast it’ll make the Hubble look like that old wooden telescope Galileo used so many centuries ago.

Imagine being able to map and name oceans and continents on exoplanets hundreds of light-years away; imagine being able to watch solar flares on Betelgeuse, or observe fiery matter as it falls into the event horizon of a distant black hole—imagine seeing the artifacts of a non-human intelligence in a remote solar system.

It’s that big.

So, when combined with improved gravitational wave and neutrino detectors and high-resolution telescopes in every part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the 100-meter (and beyond!) telescope will mean we can pretty much rove the universe at will—seeing nearly everything for light-years around us.

But for those who prefer the hands-on approach, there’ll still be plenty to do.

Commercial space flight will become a reality in a truly universal sense, drastically cutting the length and cost of transcontinental travel. By this time, we will have become a nomadic civilization, perhaps further blurring national and racial distinctions by heading to the moon and other planets to set up homes.

Orbital hotels will be premium destinations for the vacation set, and even a quick jaunt to the Moon might not be out of the question.

Colonies and research outposts on the Moon. Credit: Taylor Herring/Samsung
Colonies and research outposts on the Moon. 

Further afield, we can expect colonies on Mars, and we will use the abundant subsurface water now believed to exist on the planet to survive and thrive.

The ambitious space startups of today—SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic—may tomorrow become, not merely huge multinationals, but giant corporate “multiplanetaries” that control entire planets, and have more resources at their disposal than national governments.

There will probably be fitful attempts at the human exploration of the Outer Planets—the first man (or woman) on Mars will be so passé, but the first human to swim in the methane lakes of Titan, or scale the cliff walls of Serenity Chasma on Pluto’s moon Charon…those will be the exciting new targets for thrill-seekers, adrenaline-junkies, and adventurers.

 

“The next giant leap will see earth as so last century, as we start colonizing space.”

We’ll colonize the Moon, Mars, the solar system—and then we’ll move on, out to the near stars, to Alpha Centauri, Sirius, Epsilon Eridani, and then into the galaxy beyond.  Perhaps that’s a little optimistic for the next hundred years, but advances in light sail technology and antimatter propulsion could easily make this a reality in the coming century.

History loves to throw us a curveball.

But one thing we can be certain of: Given the ever changing nature of our world, where things come and go in an instant, the only really predictable thing is that nothing’s predictable, and the future will have some surprises in store for us that we can’t even begin to imagine today.

Can’t wait to see what they are.