Masters of Adaptation

 Gildor Giroux 

By most cinephiles, there is an overlooked detail in many science fiction movies displaying extraterrestrial encounters. Distant worlds inhabited by beings that generally evolved for a longer period than us. In most of these scenarios, individuals from alien worlds are practically indistinguishable from their peers. As if they reached a sort of evolutionary point in time where their physical traits merged. It is strongly suggested that in a distant future, humans could also reach a point of physical traits homogenization. How will time affect our appearance?

To determine which appearance the human of the future will take, a basic understanding of where we get our looks from is necessary. Genes are one of the major factors influencing how traits are passed along from generation to generation. In addition, a chromosome consists of a long strand of DNA which is container of a many genes. Each individual gene has information to pass: hairiness, freckles, skin pigmentation, hair and eye color, etc. Health conditions are passed on in a very similar fashion. Heredity is the term assigned for the sharing of those traits among relatives. Apologies for the extreme oversimplification of genetics, but let us get back to the point.

Per several scientific studies the modern human, the one you could recognize from its upright position, is 200 000 years old. We possess much older ancestors but they belong to earlier evolutionary branches of the grand tree of life. In the last thousand years, our physiognomy did not undergo any major changes but some are still occurring. Anthropologists state that when the first civilizations arose, six thousand years ago, racial mixing multiplied at an astonishing rate. Cities and towns are a melting pot of ethnic diversity. Allowing evolution to go a step further by shuffling the genes from an entire specie and that on a planetary scale. Recessive traits tend to slowly vanish while their dominant counterparts, for example dark hair and brown eyes are passed on more easily from a generation to the next. By those mechanics we inherit genetic material from both our parents. In regards to the physical appearance of the future human, one could calculate and list the dominant traits of each ethnic group on Earth and then theorise on how we should transform over the next century. And so, on its 125th anniversary issue, National Geographic’s employed a writer and a well renowned portrait artist to envision the faces of our multiracial future. People with tanned skin, curly and slightly darker hair, eyes of a greenish brown. For one thing, humans will get even handsomer during their merge into a single ethnicity.

Moreover, when we look further in time tremendous changes are predicted. Natural selection dictates that useful traits are enhanced and passed on while ineffective ones are left behind to disappear. One example among many others are the researches of Charles Darwin. Namely his study on the birds of the Galapagos Islands, where he demonstrated a direct correlation with the bird’s diets and the shape of their beaks. These changes can take centuries to occur, but they are existent nonetheless. Consequently, humans are subject to the same mechanisms and are naturally enhancing some traits at the cost of impractical ones. We are adapting to an environment that we tailored and yet many mutations are already documented. Popular ones include: a reduction in the seize of teeth and ears, loss of hair, increased height, reduced muscular mass and a shift to the eventual mono-ethnicity. Positive even if it could be read otherwise!

Therefore, the human race will pursue its evolutionary endeavor in tight relation with his surroundings. By the time we reach a more ‘’final’’ version of our physique, could it be possible that we appear anything alike the aliens from our stories to the eyes of a cosmic traveller?



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