June 11, 2013
Scientists Envision What We Might Look Like In 100,000 Years
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The human face, both structure and appearance, has changed and evolved since the earliest emergence of man to the present day. In a disturbing bout of speculative science, artist Nickolay Lamm has partnered with computational geneticist Dr. Alan Kwan to give us a look at what humans might look like 100,000 years from now.
Lamm, from MyVoucherCodes.co.uk quizzed Dr. Kwan, computational genomics professor from Washington University in St. Louis, about how our faces have changed since the time of cavemen and how the advent of wearable technology such as Google Glass and designer genetics might change us in the future.
According to the Daily Mail, Lamm took that discussion and created a series of “possible timeline” images representing the changes for 20,000, 60,000 and 100,000 years in the future.
Dr. Kwan theorizes that as genetic engineering becomes the norm, man will take control of the human form away from natural evolution and adapt biology to suit our needs. This includes, apparently, an ever expanding forehead to accommodate our growing brains, implanted communication devices, and eyes so large they resemble Tarsiers.
According to Dr. Kwan, as man completes his mastery over morphological genetics, the face will transition towards features that humans find fundamentally pleasing: strong, regal lines, straight nose, intense eyes, and placement of facial features that adhere to the golden ratio and left/right perfect symmetry.
Most startling, however, is what he predicts for the eyes, stating that they will become “unnervingly large” to accommodate the dimmer environments of off-world colonies. Other eye features will include eye-shine enhanced low-light vision and even a sideways blink from re-constituted plica semilunaris to help protect our eyes from cosmic rays.
Kwan and Lamm also suggest that humans will choose a deeper pigment for their skin to alleviate harmful UV radiation, thicker eyelids and a more pronounced brow — or supercilliary arch — to deal with the effects of lower gravity, along with larger nostrils for breathing in low oxygen environments and denser hair to compensate for heat loss from the larger skull.
"This is speculation based on reason," artist Nickolay Lamm told the Daily News, who suggests that this might leave us looking more like Pokemon characters than cyborgs. "When I designed it I wasn't thinking of anime, but I can see the resemblance. It's kind of a coincidence that that happened."
George Dvorsky from io9.com has collected quite a few detracting comments on what Lamm and Kwan call a “thought experiment.” Among them is Forbes writer Matthew Herper, who says “Lamm is actually not thinking big enough. The ability to really muck about in the human genome is only decades or centuries, not millennia, away.”
Herper continues, “Will people try to change minor things like their appearance? That´s a cultural, not technological question – but the technology to do it is probably far enough away that it´s outside of our ability to think about it intelligently. Lamm´s vision is science fiction that belongs in the same category as the big-headed aliens from the first Star Trek pilot.”
The major complaint seems to be that people are taking these projections as serious science, which even Lamm and Kwan admit they are not.
Dvorsky calls the thought experiment “quite pathetic.” He seems to envision our biology ranging much farther afield.
“Look, given the accelerating pace of technological change, we don´t know what the human species will look like in 1,000 years, let alone 100,000. Now that we´re starting to remove ourselves from agonizingly slow Darwinian processes – replacing them with biotechnological interventions – evolutionary timescales no longer hold any relevance. Within the span of the next several centuries, we could completely rework the human form, whether it be through genetics or cyborgization. There´s also the possibility of uploads and the potential for remote presence (i.e. controlling avatars [like robots] externally).”
“Moreover, if we're going to colonize other planets, we're not going to do it by changing the pigment of our skin, the thickness of our hair, or by giving ourselves larger nostrils. Colonists of the year 102,013 will scarcely resemble biological organisms, instead taking on the form of cyborgs (or robots) imbued with machine minds.”
Either way, the images are causing quite the internet stir. Perhaps they will stir up science as well.