Humans in 1000 years

The ability to drink milk throughout our lifetime, known as lactose tolerance, evolved about 10 thousand years ago; over the last century and a half, the average height of a human being has increased by roughly 10 centimeters; and within the last 6 and a half decades the global life span has shot up nearly 20 years largely thanks to science. Breakthroughs in science have propelled our species forward - in fact, National Geographic and GE’s new series ‘Breakthrough’ covers some cutting edge innovations that are happening, today; from biology and technology merging, to solutions for our water crisis. But, what will humanity look like in 1000 years? It’s already hard enough to remember a world without smartphones, but scientists predict that within the next few decades, computers will reach the computational speed of the human brain. Not only will they be able to speak and interact, but listen and remember. This also leads to a philosophy known as transhumanism. In the future, nanobots (or tiny robots) will be subtly integrated into our bodies enhancing our own abilities! No longer will we be limited by our own physiology, but truly become a mixture of biology and machine on the inside. Ever heard of ‘Utility Fog’? Imagine a cloud of countless microscopic robots which can be rearranged into virtually any configuration nearly instantaneously. Buildings could be constructed as necessary, and disassembled when space was needed for something else. Picture your house disassembling when you leave in the morning so that the space can be used for something else! With increased urbanization and globalization the 7000 languages that are spoken globally today will likely dip under 100. As we move even further into the future, the world’s rising temperature and accompanying deterioration in the protective ozone layer will play a major role. Added UV radiation reaching the planet may create a scenario where darker skin becomes an evolutionary advantage, as it protects against UV damage. Increasing temperatures may also affect our size; taller and thinner bodies would be better at dissipating excess body heat, as it creates the best body surface area to volume ratio. Of course, these types of changes take 10s or hundreds of thousands of years and will depend on our ability to avoid or protect ourselves from nature. New traits from mutations may also arise - perhaps a new eye colour, or unique abilities! Even today, one man has been documented with the ability to consume and digest nearly anything, including metal, glass and even toxic chemicals due to a genetic mutation. Others live with a condition called tetrachromacy, where they can see 100 times more colours than the rest of us. But these traits are only likely to persist if they have some selective advantage - so don’t expect a mutant like school-for-the-gifted any time soon. But artificial selection or human influenced changes will likely drive most of our evolution. We’ll modify our babies genes before birth to eliminate diseases they may carry, or include desirable traits for our offspring. But, while it may make us smarter, stronger, and better looking, such genetic similarity or lack of human diversity leaves room for a single new disease of the future to wipe out the entire human race. In the words of Stephen Hawking “Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe.” Space colonization, it seems, is an inevitable part of our future. At the end of it all, we may even conquer death by scanning our brains - atom by atom - and transferring that information into computers. In this way we could travel at the speed of light as information patterns, unrestricted by our bodies, and requiring no food. Where our current human generational cycle takes around 20 years, a digital individual could replicate themselves in seconds or minutes. It’s a brave new world out there - and yet, you may be surprised by some of the incredible science that is happening today!

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