We could be taller
The last 10,000 years of agrarian living saw humans becoming smaller and lighter than they used to be, This trend was reversed in many places during the last 150 years by the caloric and nutritional boom of the industrial revolution. We grow plenty of food for everyone, and should the distribution and quality even out worldwide, this growth could continue.
We become resistant to certain diseases
Natural immunity gained by surviving disease can be passed on through DNA. Naturally, the more diseases we encounter and survive, the more resistant our descendants will be. This isn’t an inditement of inoculation, which is often a far more effective long-term solution as people can’t make descendants when they’re thrown in the plaque pits. We also don’t have immunity against diseases we haven’t encountered yet.
Our bodies might become more machine
The most likely short-term change we see in humans is the adoption of more bio-technological augmentations. We already use pacemakers and robotic limbs, but many suggest the technology is near for optional body improvements. This could be consumer-grade exoskeletons, which just sounds like the world would be a big bumper cars game or cameras that can interface with the brain.
Our minds might become more machine
There are several roadblocks in the way of something like Neuralink actually working in the way it’s intended. The ethical quandaries of having a private company’s intellectual property in your brain, and all the T’s and C’s that implies, are one thing. Then there are all the monkeys that killed themselves to escape having Musk in their heads 24/7.
We will probably get more cancer
Unless we find a way to cure or prevent cancers, they are likely to get much more prevalent over time for a few reasons. One is time itself, cancer is a biological inevitability of anything with genes, and as we continue extending our life expectancies, more of us will experience it. On top of that, environmental pollution also contains a lot of carcinogens.
Our skin tone probably won’t even out
A commonly repeated theory surrounding our future evolution is that we will, as a result of our multicultural, connected world, even out our skin tone over time. This is one possibility of many, though it is much less likely than people assume. The variation at which genes can express skin colour is simply too unpredictable, especially when two colours are genetically mixed.
There will still be redheads
Because they make up less than 2% of the population, some believe red-haired people are at risk of dying out simply based on the numbers. This would be extremely unlikely though, as the gene responsible for red hair is recessive, meaning it can lay dormant inside non-gingers, and activate at any point in their family. Manchurian Candidate style.
We might have less body hair
We have pretty much been losing body hair throughout our evolution. By the time of the second ice age ( life was about as complex as algae during the first, “Snowball Earth”) humans were covering themselves in the hides of animals, so we started losing it early on. Some theorise as we adapted to temperate climates and grassland hunting, we shed it to conserve energy.
The same… but different
This will certainly be the case for the next few million years. We know that human genetic variation is increasing as we diversify our gene pools, but many of those are superficial or not particularly advantageous for survival and so die off unknown to the world. It takes a lot of time for a single variation to become a dominant strain.
Whatever your parents want you to look like
The technology to edit an embryo’s genes already exists, but the ethical complications and the uncertain complications it could cause as artificial genes are passed have meant only one documented case has ever happened. It is possible that if this technology does take off and develop further, it would be possible to select aesthetic characteristics.
We could be shorter
It’s also possible that, in locations where food is scarce and populations are densely packed, people become shorter on average. This, much like the growth potential, is not considered an ‘evolutionary’ process. Though it is shaped by the environment somewhat, we don’t consider generational malnutrition to be an adaptation, though if people organically shrunk to conserve energy, that could be.
We could have shorter jaws
This theory hinges on a very unlikely situation where food in the future is much softer, and our reduced chewing could lead to our jaws receding. It’s closer to a science fiction idea, reminiscent of Star Trek TOS’ colourful cube food, as humans are unlikely to ever adopt a diet like that, even out of necessity. We like chewing things.
We could be hunch-backed, hammer-thumbed monsters
You have probably seen this image circulated on social media, claiming to be a potential evolutionary path for our bodies. It has absolutely no scientific credibility, being more of a mock-up meme of an extreme phone user. An individual could develop these characteristics, but flat thumbs and bad posture aren’t hereditary, that’s entirely on you so sit up straight.
Taller again but on Mars this time
As the closest potentially habitable planet, should we ever colonize another planet it’s likely Mars will be the first. Evolution would likely happen much faster on the terrestrial planet, as the low gravity and high doses of solar radiation put an unheard-of amount of stress on our biological processes. We would likely grow taller
Potentially no different
It’s widely accepted that, for evolution to occur, you need three things: variation, natural selection and geographic isolation. Humans no longer have the need or means of these limitations, and with the aforementioned genetic variations on the increase, we’re unlikely to physically change much at all.
We could have smaller heads and brains
Humans have a large brain relative to their size, and it took us around 4 million years of disproportionate brain growth to reach where we are now. In the past 50,0000 years, however, roughly around the emergence of the modern homosapiens, we’ve seen the brain begin shrinking. We don’t know why or what if any the effects are, but it’s a trend that could continue.
We will likely be thinner and weaker
You’ve probably heard how strong apes can be, and though we have some very heavy hitters as a species we have been trending towards much thinner, weaker frames. Since we no longer need to hunt and even our manual labour is made less intensive by machines, it would be a waste for our bodies to focus their energy on things like bone density.
We’re going to be so pretty
Generally, when a species no longer faces as many environmental pressures, it can be more selective with its mates. Beauty standards have changed a lot across different cultures and civilizations, but most people no longer have to pair out of survival or desperation. This gives us more time to select who we wish, and people tend to look for attractiveness.
We may look part alien
There is almost certainly other life in the universe, even within our solar system. It would almost certainly be carbon-based and if there was any possibility of interspecies breeding, you know at least a few people will dedicate their lives to finding out. It would depend on the life form, but we can be sure they won’t look like us, and our kids probably wouldn’t either.
We could look much less stressed
Many of our anxieties, especially our existential ones about where we fit in society, are likely born of our stone-age ancestors. Life is so incomprehensibly different now to how it was then, but it hasn’t been for long enough for us to adapt. Our psychology is as likely to adapt as our bodies, making us much more sociable and less at odds with our existence.
Will we dress cool?
Most people’s idea of future fashion is inspired by science fiction, there’s a lot of metallic colours, sharp silhouettes, and the integration of tech. We might adopt lighter colours and fabrics to help us deal with the heat, but fashion isn’t something we need to do which makes it difficult to predict. It’s driven by a mix of practicality and social expectation.
We could evolve for zero gravity
If our future is not on any planet, but instead some kind of space station, we would in a sense evolve to suit it. It’s not technically geographic isolation, since there’s no geo, but without gravity keeping everything squished down our children would be much, much taller than us. They would also have less blood as they pump it more efficiently with less effort.
We would die out in zero gravity
It’s likely we wouldn’t look like anything at all if we did try to live out in space, for now at least. Solar radiation can be mostly protected against with current technology. But galactic cosmic rays, incredibly high-energy protons from outside the solar system, can shoot iron molecules through your DNA like a wrecking ball. Foetuses would be rendered sterile by ionization.
We may be less eccentric
Things like AI art and modern architecture are looked at as something that will make us less creative and inspired over time. These arguments have merit, but some scientists worry that as our genetic makeup dilutes and optimises, we may lose the kind of unstable geniuses that have revolutionized the world, like Isaac Newton, Van Gough and Hendrix.
There’s a small chance we could evolve into a new species
For this to happen, there would have to be some great global shift that leaves people separated for an incredibly long time. You would really only need one sufficiently diverse group, sequestered away in a hostile environment, for a long enough time frame, for this to occur. Eventually, if they survived, they would be genetically different enough from the rest to consider a different species. Easy.
We could all look like George Clooney
Statistically unlikely but, nonetheless, supported by the data. Well, a data, from a cosmetic surgeon who said Clooney’s face is 91.8% perfect. That number is based on things like symmetry, eye shape, basically the phrenology of attraction. The idea is we would all pick somebody with features like his if we could, eventually morphing us into Nescafe salesmen over time.
We won’t have wisdom teeth anymore
We know that third molar genesis is a genetic trait that can activate around as late as your 30s, but gets significantly less likely to develop if they haven’t by age 12. It seems likely based on most research that third molar agenesis, meaning less or no wisdom teeth, is becoming a lot more common. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer tooth.
We’ll all be drinking milk
Lactose intolerance is the biological norm. The genes that let us digest lactose developed to switch off after we stop breastfeeding since before drinking dairy later in life was normal, it was just a waste of energy. Now the gene can switch back on in most people across Europe, where dairy farming has been an essential source of nutrition since the Neolithic area.
We could control artificial bodies
The technology this would require isn’t here yet, but brain-computer interfaces are advancing which could allow us to control entire robot bodies. We would have to be alive and kicking to do it, probably bedridden like the old people from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but rat-kinged together with wires instead of our legs. This kind of avatar approach could look however you wanted.
We could become sedentary and overweight
This is another extremely unlikely future. Many people are currently overweight due to ultra-processed foods being cheap and easy in a time of increased work hours and little free time to prepare meals. Automation and AI could replace a lot of jobs, but if people were compensated, they wouldn’t just fuse to the couch like the humans in Wall-E.
We could become immune to HIV
There are two trends that make this a likely eventuality in the far future. One is the increased prevalence of a gene that is resistant to HIV, either naturally present from birth or the exceptionally rare case of HIV infections that are left untreated but don’t progress to AIDS. The other is a decrease in genes that cause susceptibility, as they tend to die young.
We might walk on all fours
In an effort to analyse history to predict the future, some believe we could revert from our bi-pedal states, particularly if an actual splintered population are secluded somewhere it would be advantageous. Our organs aren’t optimised for upright life, the intestines get squashed and that’s why hernias happen. Imagine, a planet with higher gravity and no hernias. Paradise.
We live forever inside a computer
The philosophy of Transhumanism would supplant Darwin’s ideas of natural selection for a purely synthetic selection. This is fundamentally different to how medicine and science have affected evolution’s progress, as our processes themselves, what it means to be us, would happen instantly. We would process vast amounts of information with the speed of electricity and lack anything that can decay organically.
We could be wearing really stupid glasses
This isn’t financial advice, but it’s a safer bet that we will somehow achieve every near-impossible, contradicting point on this list, than it is that any kind of metaverse headset takes off. Nevertheless, some people believe that, even though people genuinely lost their minds at wearing masks, we are headed for a visor filled future.
We will likely be utterly incomprehensible
A huge amount of our lives and thoughts are tied to incredibly new ideas. While physically we probably won’t change much, our society, jobs, transport, and even the way we think about time and space will be different. Einstein’s theory of general relativity was only posed in 1915, and correct within his lifetime to include the cosmological constant. See? Imagine the future that.
We become an intergalactic superpower
We know it’s possible for something to move faster than light by warping spacetime around it. If our universe is mapped to the outside of a doughnut shape as many have theorized, it could make hypothetical travel between overlapping points easier. We would need a hadron collider 39 orders of magnitude more powerful than we already have.
We could live underground like mole-people
In the event the Earth’s surface is cooked by nuclear radiation, either by us, the sun, or the aliens putting us in a big microwave, living underground might be the best option for us. We already have giant subterranean structures that store the frozen seeds of millions of species of plants, maybe there’s room for all of us in there. Except for Flanders.
We get frozen in cryogenic stasis
A handful of people already have their bodies or heads frozen, and while cryogenics has made little progress in the resurrection portion of the equation, maybe someday we’ll all be chilling. It would likely be used for any long-term space exploration, as even with time dilation they’re going to be out there for a really long time.
We will almost certainly remain on Earth
It’s a little depressing, but humanity could be the only known lifeforms to ever die on a planet from which it didn’t originate. We will leave bodies on the Moon. We will leave bodies on Mars. Those lives and resources will be wasted when Earth, right now, is so cosmically unique in how perfectly balanced it is to sustain life.
We could turn partially invisible
As in true invisibility, not even like black holes, gaps in spacetime that distort light around them giving the appearance of nothingness. Metamaterial and nanotechnology can currently create thin layers of lenses that focus and bend light around themselves. They are tiny in scale and we can’t yet wrap them around things, but this would be a potentially world-altering technology to advance in.