Are we not men? In the future, everybody will look like Rick Santorum or Linda Hunt

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If you ever grokked the illustrated features on future human evolution they used to run in Omni and such speculative magazines—which always seemed to envision a future where everybody was either a big-eyed monkeyman or a quasi-grey with an enormous cranium and a shrimpy little body too feeble to support the head (which at the most fanciful meant that our serene descendants would be levitating around on thought waves)—you'll be saddened to know that even this once-thriving field of speculation has turned out to be a disappointment. According to this BBC article, "Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge."

On the plus side, things will be looking up for the next 1,000 years or so, which the Beeb relates in Cinemax-ready detail:

[M]en will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.

Count me in! But it starts to head south after that, your arms hanging limp at your sides, your legs got nothing to do, some machine doing that for you, while you pick your son, pick your daughter too, from the bottom of a long glass tube. Whoa-oh. In what sounds suspiciously like an eat-some-vegetables-put-down-the-remote-and-go-out-and-play scolding, this chilling vision of the future goes on to warn of our increasing complacency and techno-dehumanization:

Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food.

There could also be health problems caused by reliance on medicine, resulting in weak immune systems. Preventing deaths would also help to preserve the genetic defects that cause cancer.

I think this passage really demands to be read aloud in a Captain Kirk voice ("…emotions such as love, sympathy, trust, respect. People would become less able to care for others…"). Anyway, dig the unattractive results:

futurehumanevolution.jpg

So get a sonogram for Zog's sake!

Richard Dawkins notes that prudent evolutionists steer clear from speculation about this kind of stuff, but when did that ever stop anybody? Here are a bunch of variations on our post-human future, and a really far-out trip about the future of animals. I always had more sympathy for the Morlocks then the Eloi, a bunch of candy-ass communists. But let this crackpot look ahead be reminder that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.

Courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily

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  1. We’ve already seen shrivelling of the left leg owing to automatic transmissions.

  2. Nah, the post-humans become Greek gods (well, those who weren’t eaten by Caliban). Everybody knows that.

  3. He carried out the report for men’s satellite TV channel Bravo.

    If Queer Eye and Project Runway qualify as “men’s TV”, I think the devolution has already happened.

    If, on the other hand, they mean the British Bravo channel, well, their website claims that Starsky and Hutch is playing as I type. There is still hope…

  4. a genetic upper class

    Already there, vassals.
    Bring me your gold.

  5. a genetic upper class

    Already there, vassals.
    Bring me your gold.

  6. I predict (using the ultra-scientific data coming out of my ass) that men of the future will have hyper-strong right hands… from the constant exercise of mouse-clicking and jacking off.

    Not that I use myself as a data point, you understand.

  7. But how will the H&R servers evolve?

  8. But how will the H&R servers evolve?

    And that would be the genetic upper class, our betters.

  9. In the future, the server squirrels will have very skinny legs and fat tummies, due to generations of fast-running, hard-working ones being pushed out of the job. Most will favor cheap domestic beer.

  10. “We’ve already seen the future of enhanced humans, and his name is Barry Bonds.”

    Puleese, don’t tell me that. Future humans will be arrogant assholes who roll their eyeballs when praised and won’t run-out infield grounders?

  11. On a serious note, aren’t we on the threshold of the end of evolution? These predictions strike me as absurd. The future of evolution of man is going to be determined by evolution of style and trend, not enviromental factors. Within a decade we are probably going to be able to manipulate the features of our offspring (at least the wealthy will be able to).

  12. “a bunch of candy-ass communists” Great, now I got to clean screen of milk, which is really bad Tim. BAD.

    Tim, this kind of post is why you’ll sorely be missed.
    Thank you.

  13. dim-witted underclass

    Heretofore, known as Congressman Erectus.

  14. Bullshit.

    1. Humans are biologically “outbred” meaning there aren’t small isolated groups interbreeding solely amongst themselves anymore. Unless you count the amish and all they’ve got to show for it is the occasional 6th finger.

    2. Outside forces drive evolution(e.g. environment, food sources etc.) We have come to a point where we control the outside forces and make them adapt to us.

    3. In a very short period of time we will be controlling the ways in which we evolve. We will be making the decisions that in the past were determined by nature and chance.

  15. One often overlooked facet of evolution is what you don’t use, you lose.

    ARE WE NOT MEN?

  16. The only noticable changes in humans that I’ve noticed in recent history are an upswing in auto-immune disorders and autism.

    The Eloi will be arthritic, hyperthyroid, diabetic, socially awkward and have a vacant look on their face. They’ll be pretty smart though.Unfortunately, they will be unable to reproduce themselves effectively and will die out making that new Mike Judge movie a definite possibility.

    Well, that’s what I think will happen anyway.

  17. Nice Dan Simmons reference, Mahnmut…

  18. Why do I get the feeling a certain evolutionary theorist was granted a week of vacation and he spent the whole time watching Jerry Springer?

  19. This will not happen. Long before we reach this stage, our coffee colored decendents will long for the better days of yester-year when we had genetically different races. We will devise methods of obtaining pure genetics and breeding them, perhaps in a zoo like setting where they are not aware that they are unique to the world.

    Perhaps we could even house them in exhibits that mimic each race’s golden era. Chinese in the late Ming Dynasty, Africans in the Mali Empire setting, Caucasians as Reagan Era suburbanites.

    The hard part of course would be disguising the advancements we made since the said “Golden Era” such as maglev trains, dogs with prehensile tails, etc.

  20. I think aliens have already kidnapped enough humans to have started a human colony on another planet. This colony probably started their own accelerated breeding program generations ago, and are now super-humans, poised to strike the home planet. So it doesn’t really matter how “we” continue to evolve, or even if we get hit by a big rock from outer space.

    I, personally, welcome our new super-human overlords.

  21. any chance you could embed “In the year 2525”? Haven’t heard it in eons & would be fun to listen it again while reading this posting.

  22. Why would they need to reproduce themselves if they could live (and lord) forever?

  23. And here I thought the Singularity was supposed to save us. …or the Second Coming of Christ. Of course, Global Warming will have wiped us out by then. Politics might have destroyed us already–thank God for the end of history. …but we’re still not safe from the super asteroid. …or peak oil. …and don’t forget the next super virus. …and you know population grows geometricaly while food production… …and nobody’s done anything about that sucking sound.

    Anyway, something terrible’s supposed to happen–apparently it’s inevitable. …except for the [insert pet theory]. …that’ll save us. You just gotta believe.

  24. Why am I not surprised that a professor from the London School of Economics produces a vision of the future indistinguishable from H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’?

  25. ARE WE NOT MEN?

    WE ARE DEVO!

  26. D.E.V.O.

  27. One often overlooked facet of evolution is what you don’t use, you lose.

    Or it turns into a Vestigial Organ.

  28. Hey Jesse Walker! Jump in here. As you know, Devo is from Ohio.

  29. “One often overlooked facet of evolution is what you don’t use, you lose.”

    Only if the unused part becomes somehow detrimental to survival or sexual prowess (reproduction) relative to some new mutated race of humans who have a smaller (or missing) unused part. No one really needs underarm hair in this day and age, but it has no chance of going away unless either a deadly microbe appears that only lives in underarm hair or it becomes custom to check underarms with a magnifying glass (to weed out fakers who shave) before agreeing to “mate”.

  30. 2. Outside forces drive evolution(e.g. environment, food sources etc.) We have come to a point where we control the outside forces and make them adapt to us.

    Nonsense, for all our great technology and science we are a giant asteroid away from being wiped out.

    We are powerful only on our small scale of time. If we could control everything in nature for the next thousand years it means absolutley nothing when we talk about the amount of time it takes for meaningful evolutionary change to take effect.

    This talk about what we’ll look like in the future is silly. We have no idea what the future will bring. It may very well be that a new religion forms that conquers the world and only allows red heads to live. Perhaps due to the birth of Mohammad 1500 years ago all the free thinking, smart people in the middle east have been killed off. And that’s just due to the birth of one man.

  31. a quasi-grey with an enormous cranium and a shrimpy little body too feeble to support the head

    In the eighties, I, like Omni, subconsciously welcomed our Japanese overlords, but we all underestimated their men’s dysgenic devotion to panty-sniffing and subway grab-ass–and who among us could have predicted the psychic discplacement of their national penis by a purple cartoon octopus?

    Get those women on a boat!

  32. Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food.
    This has already happened; look up “neoteny,” and expect more of the same.

    Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds.
    This has also already happened. Expect more of the same.

    Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.
    Doubtful.

    Richard Dawkins notes that prudent evolutionists steer clear from speculation about this kind of stuff, but when did that ever stop anybody?
    Why should everyone meet Dawkins’ standards of prudence? Speculating about the future is nothing new, and isn’t different from, say, speculating about the next election based on polls.

    Bullshit.
    Back atcha.

    1. Humans are biologically “outbred” meaning there aren’t small isolated groups interbreeding solely amongst themselves anymore. Unless you count the amish and all they’ve got to show for it is the occasional 6th finger.
    Less physical and geographic isolation just provides more opportunity for mate selection, which is, and has been, one of the main forces behind human evolution – and much of non-human evolution: it’s responsible for highly colored birds, the structure of most horns, antlers and such, and other sexual dimorphisms which occur throughout the animal world.

    2. Outside forces drive evolution(e.g. environment, food sources etc.)
    A common misconception.

    We have come to a point where we control the outside forces and make them adapt to us.
    Wearing clothes and controlling fire aren’t new and didn’t stop evolution, just changed how it operated. Newer techonologies won’t stop evolution either.

  33. It seems to me that any attempt to anticipate evolution is probably bullshit, but it’s still fun, so here it goes…

    I would think that the main selection pressure on the human population (at least in the western world) these days is the overabundance of food, or more precisely, the adverse health effects of eating more than we are designed to. It isn’t difficult to imagine that people who have a greater ability to process cholesterol, burn fat, and avoid developing insulin and leptin reisitance will have both reporductive and survival advantages in the long run.

    I don’t however, buy the notion of genetic upper class, at least until we manage to manipulate our genes directly. As long as we have things like cosmetic surgery and beer goggles, the genes for less-than-ideal features will survive, and thrive.

  34. For the best representation of our future, check out Idiocracy by Mike Judge. It’s currently in extremely limited release in, I think, 5 cities.

    Extremely funny and depressing all at the same time!

  35. eb:
    I just read some of the reviews of Idiocracy at IMDB and it looks intriguing, I hope it makes it here soon. You weren’t off by much, it said 6 cities. No wonder Hollywood is suffering from low viewer turn-out, worthless garbage like Employee of the Month gets released coast-to-coast (they should make the prisoners at Gitmo watch it), and the new Mike Judge movie is held for 2 years(!) before it’s given a limited released.

  36. “I would think that the main selection pressure on the human population (at least in the western world) these days is the overabundance of food, or more precisely, the adverse health effects of eating more than we are designed to. It isn’t difficult to imagine that people who have a greater ability to process cholesterol, burn fat, and avoid developing insulin and leptin reisitance will have both reporductive and survival advantages in the long run.”

    That’s a good point, but it will have an effect only if it reaches the point where a significant number of the obese population (i.e. poor cholesterol/fat/sodium/sugar processors) starts dying before they are able to reproduce (or if they become so infirm they are unable/unwilling to reproduce). That said, one would think there is a factor selecting against obesity now (the more obese you are, the less likely you are to find a mate).

  37. “I would think that the main selection pressure on the human population (at least in the western world) these days is the overabundance of food, or more precisely, the adverse health effects of eating more than we are designed to. It isn’t difficult to imagine that people who have a greater ability to process cholesterol, burn fat, and avoid developing insulin and leptin reisitance will have both reporductive and survival advantages in the long run.”

    That’s a good point, but it will have an effect only if it reaches the point where a significant number of the obese population (i.e. poor cholesterol/fat/sodium/sugar processors) starts dying before they are able to reproduce (or if they become so infirm they are unable/unwilling to reproduce). That said, one would think there is a factor selecting against obesity now (the more obese you are, the less likely you are to find a mate).

    Yea, but you’ve got to remember that with birth control things change. Being a playboy who is extra prudent about birth control and had no problem with condoms and abortion might not reproduce as much as two pigs who settle down in a trailor. Obese people find other obese people and have obese children. I’m also thinking that people unable to control their appetite are probably more likely to forget condoms and less likely to plan for the future. Also more likely to reproduce out of lonliness.

    Damn you Hitler for giving eugenics a bad name!

  38. Yea, but you’ve got to remember that with birth control things change. Being a playboy who is extra prudent about birth control and had no problem with condoms and abortion might not reproduce as much as two pigs who settle down in a trailor. Obese people find other obese people and have obese children. I’m also thinking that people unable to control their appetite are probably more likely to forget condoms and less likely to plan for the future. Also more likely to reproduce out of lonliness.

    Yeah, too damned many factors to consider. Need more input…

  39. I really hope them receding chins don’t come to be the norm. No-chins make for ugly women and unfortunately wussy-looking men like from 1984. Well-chinned people unite!

  40. Hmmmm…..Fat stupid people in trailers pumping out babies left and right. Responsible intelligent people using birth control and having fewer babies. H.G. Wells might turn out to be right after all.

  41. I’m just happy we’re no longer predicting that the future will be populated by big-headed weirdos.

  42. It isn’t difficult to imagine that people who have a greater ability to process cholesterol, burn fat, and avoid developing insulin and leptin reisitance will have both reporductive and survival advantages in the long run.”

    Meh, if there’s gonna be any anti-fat-person evolution, it’s gonna be all about the sexual selection. And considering the number of immature guys with Oedipus complexes who love being bossed around by fat chicks, I don’t see that really happening either.

    The side effects of being overweight – Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholestorol – generally don’t have much effect until after childbearing age. Evolutionarily speaking, living to 100 doesn’t do any more for you than living to 60.

  43. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.

    Actually, according to The Straight Dope, the odds of humanity becoming a uniform caramel-color in the near future are pretty small. Skin color is a surprisingly resilient trait.

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