We often talk about human evolution as something that wrapped up eons ago. But the fact of the matter is that we’re always evolving, if not exactly in a genetic sense, at least in an environmental or situation sense. For example, over just the last century—a blip on the chronological spectrum of human existence—we’ve collectively grown larger, taller, and seen our lifespans nearly doubled.
And here’s the thing: there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest this inexorable march shows any signs of slowing down. In fact, all evidence suggests that progress will continue to press on, full steam ahead. If you take it from scientists, doctors, and other experts in the field of futurism, at least, our bodies will look just as different a century from now as they did a century ago—only faster, stronger, better. Here are all the changes you can expect to undergo, (if, you know, you make it to 2128). And to see what the world at large will look like in this not-so-distant future, This Is What Life Could Look Like 100 Years from Now.
We’ll be way more flexible.
As our bodies evolve to reduce the impact that results from accidents, falls, and other injuries, neuroscientist and author of The Idiot Brain Dean Burnett believes we might follow the example of the shark and develop more cartilage in our skeletons. He suggests this could be of value as “rigid and inflexible bones won’t be as essential to humans.”
Our teeth will be more beaklike.
That’s the bizarre prediction of Gareth Fraser, a biologist at Sheffield University, who imagines in the distant future that human teeth might begin to fuse together, creating a more “robust and practical” beak.
“It could be possible for humans to evolve to grow beaks, like pufferfish, which may be more robust and practical,” he told the Daily Mail. And if you want future-perfect teeth today, don’t miss the 20 Secrets for Whiter Teeth After 40.
We’ll be taller.
Just as we’ve gotten fatter, humans have generally gotten taller in the last 100 years, and this seems likely to continue. As research shows, a century ago, American men were an average of 5 feet 7 inches. Today, they’re an average of 5 feet 10 inches. If this growth rate continues for another 100 years, you can bet we’ll all look like we could be basketball players.
We’ll have harder-working lungs.
According to Juan Enriquez, Harvard researcher and managing director of Excel Venture Management, a life sciences venture capital firm, we’re going to need lungs and muscles that take in more oxygen, which would be particularly valuable in low-oxygen environments (such as Mars) and enhance our health more generally. This might mean evolving over time or through genetic redesign. And for more fascinating facts on the human body, here are 50 Secret Messages Your Body Is Trying to Tell You.
We’ll have longer and more flexible digits.
Burnett also (half-jokingly) sees possible changes likely to happen in our fingers, and that, “Evolution could push us towards developing digits that are more flexible than at present, taking a form that retains precision but loses rigidity, to give us a wider range and speed when typing or touchscreening, but retaining physical characteristics that make touchscreen use feasible.”
Our brains will become more like computers.
We are having to process far more data today than even a couple years ago and this appears likely to only increase. Enriquez believes that this influx of information may be triggering different responses from different people. As he puts it, “We’re trying to process so much stuff that some people get synesthetic and just have huge pipes that remember everything. Other people get hyper-sensitive to the amount of information. Other people react with various psychological conditions or reactions to this information. Or maybe it’s chemicals.”
We’ll have improved sight and hearing.
Just as genetic diseases will become less common, so too will sensory loss, such as deafness and blindness, since leaps in technological improvements could all but eradicate such impairments, according to Enriquez.
“Remember the evolution of hearing aids, right? I mean, your grandparents had these great big cones, and then your parents had these odd boxes that would squawk at odd times during dinner, and now we have these little buds that nobody sees,” he says. “And the same thing is happening in eyes. This is a group in Germany that’s beginning to engineer eyes so that people who are blind can begin to see light and dark. Very primitive. And then they’ll be able to see shape. And then they’ll be able to see color, and then they’ll be able to see in definition, and one day, they’ll see as well as you and I can. And a couple of years after that, they’ll be able to see in ultraviolet.”
We’ll have more allergies.
Of course, all these genetic improvements could have the opposite result as our conditions improve and we are less often exposed to bugs, bacteria and infection, we may develop allergies to formerly harmless substances.
“Our immune systems are primed to do that but they’re kind of bored. Instead they respond to innocuous allergies and we lose exposure to things that strengthen our immunity,” says Burnett. “We could end up with weaker immune systems but we might live in a society that didn’t need them.”
We’ll reach sexual maturity later.
“Human life history throughout our species evolution can be thought of as one long trend towards delayed sexual maturation and biological reproduction (i.e., from ‘living fast and dying young’ to ‘living slow and dying old’),” according to Cadell Last, a doctoral student in evolutionary anthropology and a researcher at the Global Brain Institute.
We’ll be fatter.
Just looking at trend lines of the past 100 years seems to make this seem the likely direction that humans in developed nations will head. “Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years,” researchers wrote in The Lancet in 2014. At this rate, it’s reasonable to assume we may keep getting bigger unless serious changes are made.
We’ll merge with machines.
Futurist Ian Pearson suggests to the BBC that we can expect to see our brains wired to computers to help make our minds work faster in a matter of decades: “We can expect this as soon as 2050 for many people,” he says. “By 2075 most people in the developed world will use machine augmentation of some sort for their brains and, by the end of the century, pretty much everyone will. If someone else does this you will have to compete.” And for futures that won’t come to pass, learn the 20 Long-Predicted Technologies That Are Never Going to Happen.
We’ll have genetically modified cells.
If we end up colonizing another planet, Mars or otherwise, Enriquez believes we will need to modify our cells to survive. “It’s going to be really hard to live on Mars if we don’t modify the human body,” he said in his TED Talk. “Modifications will allow us to explore, live, and get to places we wouldn’t even dream of today.”
This includes genetically reprogrammed cells that can repair themselves after radiation damage—which we’d face on Mars, but could potentially face on earth as well in the event of a nuclear disaster or other cataclysm.
We’ll be cured of genetic disease.
According to Enriquez, genetic manipulation would allow for the removal of genetic diseases, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s, and more, tweaking the human genome to filter out such ailments.
Our memories will be downloadable.
“Well it’s not completely inconceivable that someday you’ll be able to download your own memories, maybe into a new body,” suggests Enriquez, pointing to experiments that are already being conducted on mice at MIT. “And maybe you can upload other people’s memories as well.”
Our skin will be more chameleon-like.
Another off-kilter suggestion from Burnett sees evolutionary benefits in being able to change our skin color in order to convey mood or some other message. “Being able to either visually blend in or stand out would be a potent advantage in modern society, one that evolutionary pressures could make more common,” he writes.
We’ll get comfortable with scorching temperatures.
As global warming continues, humans will have to find ways to adapt. According to climatologist Matthew Huber, who has made the controversial claim that “there is a wide zone over which people can adjust their behavior to withstand very warm conditions,” as temperatures increase, humans will just learn to adapt. And yes, a warmer climate is inevitable. After all, a rapidly heating planet is just one of the 30 Things Scientists Say Will Happen if the Population Keeps Expanding.
We’ll look younger.
With the progress made in age-reversal technology (not to mention improvements in plastic surgery), it will get ever easier to turn around the negative effects of aging and keep ourselves looking younger than we actually are. A person in their 50s or 60s will look closer to someone in their 30s or 40s today. If you want to start looking younger immediately, though, just start chomping on the 50 Foods That Will Make You Look Younger.
We’ll live forever.
At least, in the Westworld definition of immortality, where we live on through some kind of AI embodiment of ourselves. “The idea that breakthroughs in the field of genetics, biotechnology and artificial intelligence will expand human intelligence and allow our species to essentially defeat death is sometimes called the Singularity,” futurist Patrick Tucker told the BBC.
Pearson agreed, suggesting that “direct brain links using electronics” were the most likely way we will achieve this. For more on how A.I. is already entwined with everyday existence, check out the 20 Types of Artificial Intelligence You Use Every Single Day And Don’t Know It.
Or close to it.
If we don’t live forever, than we will at least live for a lot longer, as genetic modification will succeed in “keeping people alive” as Pearson puts it, through eradicating disease and enhancing other health conditions and even, in the most optimistic outlooks, fostering recyclable appearances of youth. And for ways to live forever starting right now, learn the 100 Ways to Live to 100.
We’ll be telepathic.
Not quite ESP, but what Tucker calls “synthetic telepathy,” is likely to be possible thanks to strides made in technology that allows us to convey our thoughts by doing little more than thinking them. Though he cautions that “communication” needs to be “understood to be electrical signals rather than words.”
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