Evolution has been the biggest factor in our survival through the centuries and natural selection has been the driving force of evolution. Our journey on the earth began some 200,000 years ago and since then our bodies and brains have evolved very rapidly.
Even though in the last 4-5 centuries there haven’t been any drastic transformations in our appearance so many assume that human beings are done evolving physically, yet recent studies done using genetic content and information from people around the world suggest that human evolution has only increased in its pace over the last few years with the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
Natural selection has been the driving force of the evolution of the human genome, as and when we encounter certain challenges, we either learn to adapt to them or die. Since we’re in the midst of a technological revolution, it’s fair to presume that the process of natural selection will revolve around what makes us more adept at handling that technology.
A lot of significant changes that have occurred in the past and impacted our survival such as Bipedalism may become irrelevant, instead, we will develop skills and reflexes appropriate for a tech-savvy; in this case, having been born with opposable thumbs may become even more necessary, I would even go further and say that our fingers might develop higher dexterity since that is what’s needed for typing.
Let us delve into the various possibilities of how distinctly humans can evolve.
1. Smaller Brains
Sci-fi movies intend to portray the humans of the future as having huge brains for faster processing of information, greater mental abilities, and smarter or more rational decision-making. But that doesn’t make sense at all, especially since the size of the human brain has been only known to considerably decline in the past few centuries.
A larger brain does not mean a smarter person, if that were the case then Homo Neanderthals would’ve been roaming on the earth instead of Homo sapiens. On the contrary, many of the parts of a larger brain could have no functions or be vestigial.
Even in commodities, all we’re trying to manufacture are smaller, more compact, easy-to-carry, and portable products rather than huge ones. Between globalization, trans-continental networks, and the entire earth turning into a village, it would be much more desirable and adaptable to take less space anywhere we go instead of growing bigger and bigger.
Smaller brain size would mean that our heads will be smaller and it would be easier for babies to be delivered leading to a decline in the maternal mortality rate.
On the other hand, a bigger brain (and in turn, a more giant head) would considerably alter the walking style of a woman since there would need to be a change in her cervix density and width.
Therefore, it is clear that a larger brain does not advantage human beings in any way to adapt to the changing environment and is unfit as per the Theory of Natural Selection.
2. Decrease in Male Physical Strength
There was a time when males needed brute force, sturdier bodies, and much more physical strength than women. Since we no longer need to hunt game or protect ourselves from wild fauna of the forest, it is much more likely that there would be a decline in the physical strength of males in human beings at least.
On the bright side, this would nullify the misogynistic and sexist claims made by people to label females as the “weaker sex” and level the playing field for all people. Men and women may need not compete separately in sports as well.
It would be much more desirable to adapt in a way that our emotional quotient is compatible with the environment and our intelligence quotient as well. Therefore, the modern social construct of ‘femininity’ might just be the new trait everyone wants to inherit.
On the darker side, occupations that still require brute physical strength such as the army, construction work, farming, and certain sports such as wrestling, might take a hit in terms of their standards.
But all in all, we would be able to say goodbye to toxic masculinity if nothing else.
3. A Third, Fourth, or Maybe Even Fifth Sex
With the current awareness about intersex people and transsexuality, we can expect that the number of intersex people will naturally hike.
A considerable chunk of the trans population today goes through hormonal treatments in the process of transitioning, and it is quite likely that these treatments may lead to a variation or maybe even mutation in at least one individual’s genome, opening up the possibility of belonging to more than one sexes at a time.
This would make everything spectrum even more fluid than it already is. Right now, it might seem daunting but later on, when these cases become normalized, it would be hard to imagine a world that was limited to only two sexes.
If this were to happen, then the lines between the sexes, among the different genders, and those between sex and genders will have to be redrawn or completely disregarded.
4. It’s All in the Eyes, Chico
All of the multitude of content we consume these days is only going to amplify in volume as we step into the future. There are speculations that our eyes and eye shape may be restructured completely.
More and more people seem to be getting glasses, especially kids. One of the speculations is that our humans will be born with permanent square eyes due to all the inevitable content consumption.
Our eyes might also adjust to the harmful UV radiations emitted by devices, not just on account of being glued to our screens but also the growing risk of the Ozone layer being tampered with.
If the ozone layer persists to get thinner, the UV rays emitted by the sun will only become more powerful and therefore, our eyes will have to adapt to them. It’s quite likely that our vision may become permanently blurred and decline in quality, making our surroundings look pixelated. No matter how much anyone tries to defend it, Night Vision during the day is not something to be proud of.
5. Sweating it Out
A very prominent gene known as the EDAR gene is found in populations across the globe and is the cause of many of the latest changes in the human body.
A mutation was found in the EDAR gene in the East Asian population which made them grow extra sweat glands than the standard number.
This is all relevant because the gene’s mutation largely depends upon the climatic conditions it encounters.
Since there has been a consistent rise in temperature over the past few decades due to Global warming, we can expect our descendants to be sweaty imps who try and beat the heat
In more sophisticated terminology- we can expect their sweat glands to increase in numbers to adapt to a much hotter environment since sweating is our body’s natural way of cooling down. Sweat Glands are the central air conditioning units of our body.
5. Women’s Fertility Window Will Get Wider
Over the past few years, women’s fertility window has already crept up, most women now enter menopause in their late 40s or early 50s. Earlier, women were expected to have children at quite a young age, but ever since society has become a little less gender normative.
Many women decide to have children later in life, especially after they have become mentally, emotionally, and financially capable of taking responsibility for another human life.
Even those women whose fertility does decline and who are not able to conceive, make use of the several fertility treatments available these days.
Irrespective of these treatments, women have been able to naturally conceive much later on in life than was possible earlier.
Who knows? We might be looking at the total elimination of menopause from the natural cycle of human females in the future.
Therefore, the pressure of getting married early and having kids should logically be nonexistent in the years to come.
6. Immunity to Illnesses
There was a time when illnesses such as malaria, smallpox, dengue, and HIV were considered terminal. Vaccinations for these diseases were a Godsend because they saved a lot of lives, moreover, people developed an innate natural immunity to some of these diseases naturally.
We have the biggest example in front of our eyes, having gone through the century’s worst global health crisis with the advent of COVID-19. Some studies proved that if pregnant women were to get vaccinated against Corona, their offspring would inherit a natural immunity to COVID-19, even if it is for a short period.
During the end of the year 2021 and moving into 2022, we came across concepts like herd immunity against Covid-19, even without getting vaccinated.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest testament to how we humans evolved and develop resistance to even the most fatal diseases.
In recent years, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of Cancer patients, and lest we get immune to certain factors that can contribute to causing cancer, the number will only grow dramatically. And since cancer is your cells going berserk due to a mutation, it is possible that another mutation would in the same cells cure all types of cancer as well.
7. A Mass Homogenization
A ‘mass homogenization’ or ‘grand averaging’ of our species refers to all of us becoming more alike. Quite a lot of geneticists have been claiming this is a new aspect of Human Evolution. Such a scenario is expected to eradicate all types of diversity present in different genes.
It would only make sense that our genomes become more and more alike, considering how it’s possible to migrate across seven seas and procreate with someone there, leaving a trace of your DNA in an alienated land.
Therefore, the global exchange of resources and human resources in particular contributes significantly to the evolution of human beings. Human Evolution is based on passing on the differences in our genes to our progeny, if these differences are distinct enough, a new species is likely to be born.
Natural selection, variation, and geographic isolations were three factors that triggered Evolution in the first place and almost all of them are out of the picture in the current scenario.
Henceforth, it is possible that the amalgamation of the globe’s population on such a huge scale would lead to an averaging of physical attributes in human beings and the coming generations may start to look more and more alike, to the point that everyone looks like the other’s identical twin…which is gross and fascinating at the same time.
But this kind of genetic averaging will pose serious ethical dilemmas in terms of the diversity in genetics and thus the appearances of people.
It is hard to predict what humans will look like in the future, as there are multiple underlying influences such as technological advances and environmental changes.
One of the trends we can consider is what has been happening till now via the process of natural selection, wherein humans will persist to evolve in the face of natural adversities and response to selective pressures in the environment.
The other possibility is that humans will make use of technology to alter the traditional process of evolution. For example: With the help of genetic engineering, cloning, and even Assisted Reproduction, humans can exceedingly tailor-make babies nowadays and manipulate their offspring’s genetic makeup beforehand. A possibility that is both daunting and intriguing at the same time.
However, no matter how tech-based natural selection and evolution become, certain traditional factors that have contributed to the preservation of genetic diversity such as language, religion, ethnicity, and so on are unlikely to be out of the equation any time soon.
Furthermore, the ethics of genetic engineering are a major concern, and it is not yet clear how widespread such practices will become in the future. There are also concerns about the potential unintended consequences of genetic manipulation.
Furthermore, genetic diversity can be a valuable resource in terms of adaptation to changing environments and resistance to disease. Maintaining genetic diversity may be important for the long-term survival and health of the human species.
In conclusion, the question of what humans will look like in the future is a complex and multifaceted one. While there are several trends and possibilities to consider, it is important to remember that the future is uncertain, and many factors will influence the trajectory of human evolution and genetic diversity.
Ultimately, the direction that human evolution takes will depend on a wide range of social, technological, and environmental factors, as well as the choices that we make as a society.