Humans are a vain people. Always have been, always will be. So it seems only natural that scientists have now been asking the question: what will we look like in the many millennia ahead?
Evolution is, as most of us (should) know, a very slow process, spanning over thousands upon thousands of years. That said, we do see perceptible changes within shorter spans of time. For instance, since the 14th to 16th century, our foreheads have become longer and our facial features less pronounced. Similarly, the average human height has increased a few inches since the 18th century.
Changes like these will continue. But another issue—one that becomes more relevant as our technology advances—is how we can artificially affect our evolution. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Of course, that’s hardly true.
We’ve always had a role in our own evolution. Look at our ancestors who learned to cultivate fields and how they outlived their hunter-gathering brethren who failed to adapt. We’ve developed vaccines to diseases that used to act as natural selectors to limit our population growth.
The next step, however, is even more deliberate and determinate: controlling our own morphology. To put it another way: our technological grasp of human genetics will become so advanced that we’ll be able to engineer our appearances.
This is the thinking that led Dr. Alan Kwan to extrapolate into the future. His thinking takes into account radical assumptions about our society—or what our society may look like. He assumes we will have created off-world colonies outside our solar system, on distant worlds where the environment will be very different indeed. As a result, our faces will adapt…but not necessarily naturally.
For example, he predicts:
- Increased skin pigmentation due to greater exposure to UV radiation (because the lack of an ozone layer).
- Larger eyes to adapt to dimmer environments than our own planet.
- Larger superciliary (part of the brow) due to gravitational changes.
What’s significant here is that Kwan sees these changes as being brought about by genetic engineering; with good reason. If we do colonize the worlds beyond, natural evolution may take too long and we’ll die before we’re given a chance to adapt.
But all of this is assuming a lot and based solely on one possible timeline. There has already been a response that’s resoundingly negative. If our technology has become so enhanced as to influence our genetics, wouldn’t it advance across a number of fields? Couldn’t we build shields against cosmic and UV radiation instead of changing our eyes? Would we reach a point where we could alter gravitational fields instead of having to biologically adapt to it?
These are questions best left to the professionals. However, if we are indeed approaching the capability of genetically altering our appearance…I’d like to be taller.
Dr. Mike Mavrostomos is passionate and top-quality comprehensive care dentist located in Bedminster, NJ whose continual pursuit of education and state-of-the-art dentistry has led to his being recognized as one of New Jersey’s Top Dentists by the New Jersey Top-Docs committee. Check out our website, reviews, Facebook page Connect with us and learn!