When we say evolution, we think of something from the past that made humans into what we are today. Scientists, however, agree: we are still evolving.
So what will we look like 100 thousand years into the future? A scientist and an artist teamed up to study just that, with fascinating results.
The human face 100 thousand years from now
Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, together with computational geneticist Dr. Alan Kwan, created three images. They show how we might look like twenty thousand, sixty thousand, and 100 thousand years from now.
Lamm and Kwan imagined "one possible timeline" for a future including gene modifications and life on other planets. It sounds like sci-fi and it is just as exciting.
How will evolution transform human faces?
For many centuries, the human forehead has become larger and larger. It makes sense, then, to assume it will keep increasing in size to fit a bigger brain.
Kwan suggested that, in sixty thousand years, we might be able to modify human genes and create the features we prefer. We might, then, have more symmetric faces, with thin noses and large eyes.
He also speculated that, by then, humans might live in colonies in space. People who live on planets far away from the sun might have larger eyes for better vision in a darker environment.
Darker skin could reduce damages from UV rays, while bigger nostrils might help humans breathe easier on different planets.
With more control over our genes, Kwan guessed that features looking "naturally human" may become a priority. He said:
"[That] will be ever more important to us in an age where we have the ability to determine any feature."
This will, in turn, affect the way we see wearable technology. Instead of Google Glass and iWatch, people will likely choose discreet options like communication contact lenses and chips under their skin.
The scientific community disagrees
The work of Lamm and Kwan attracted some criticism. Matthew Herper wrote on Forbes that the team did not explore evolution, but genetic engineering. He disagreed with Kwan, stating:
"He's doing so somewhat naively, predicting that the only changes that will happen will be an enlarged braincase and enlarged eyes so we can use the computerized contact lenses that will apparently replace Google Glass."
Herper asserted that 100 thousand years are not long enough for humans to develop such different physical features. Additionally, it seems like our brains are indeed not growing, but shrinking.
Finally, he pointed out that we are still too far from this advanced technology to make reliable predictions.
Kwan's reply to criticism
Kwan replied to Herper that the work was speculation, not a prediction. He highlighted the frequent use of the word "might", saying:
"The operative word 'might' makes the statement an existential statement, which means that there is a non-zero possibility that a given event may occur. Given that we agree that no one can make an absolute statement about the future, by the same token, you cannot claim to know the negation of an existential statement, which is itself an absolute statement such as 'this is not how a face might look like…' or it's equivalent 'there is no chance the human face will look like this…'"
In other words, we cannot predict the future, so no one knows how we are going to look hundreds of thousands of years from now.
Will we have massive, creepy eyes? Only time can tell.