As renowned research biologists Motorhead and the WWE have been known to point out, evolution is a mystery. Oh, we know a fair few things about it -- definitely enough to brush off the "monkeys ain't my cousins" folks and people who claim dinosaur bones are a practical joke by God. Still, no matter how good we are at analyzing fruit flies, there are tons of variables. We've already told you about all the weird hobbit men and lizard people that could prowl the world instead of us, if it wasn't for a single errant comet or flatulent volcano.
Turns out, humanity's evolutionary future is equally uncertain. As the closest thing to ALF in Cracked's Tanner family, I've taken it upon myself to take a look at a few of the directions evolution could potentially take puny humanity. Spoiler: Most of them are insane as balls.
#5. Septuagenarian Sex Machines
Image Source Pink/Image Source/Getty Images
Have you ever noticed how old people seem to be fucking all the time these days? Of course you haven't. Regardless of how many times we're bombarded with horrifying facts of geriatric copulation, everyone who isn't either an old person themselves or harboring a very specific fetish will likely mentally brain-bleach themselves immediately afterward because blecch.
Still, maybe we should better start adjusting to the idea of wrinkly, leathery things rubbing together, because not only will you become old one day, that shit is not some temporary "old people these days, amirite?" style trend that'll eventually go away. At least, not according to life history theory, which indicates that humanity could very well be looking at a future where all sex is old-people sex.
Image Source Pink/Image Source/Getty Images
And you thought Thanksgiving dinner conversations were awkward before.
Here's how it works! Good old natural selection gives an organism two basic survival tactics: It either produces as much offspring as quickly as it can to ensure at least some of them survive, or takes its time to carefully rear its kid to become badass enough to increase its odds of not getting immediately stomped by the nearest mammoth. Humanity has long employed the latter tactic -- and has gotten pretty damn good at it. Our nurturing period is longer than any other primate's, and modern amenities are only making it easier to stay a kid for a longer time. Shit, some of us manage it well into our 30s.
Some evolutionary scientists, such as Cadell Last of The Global Brain Institute, have pointed out that this means humanity's trek through history has been marked by constant delays in our sexual maturation and the beginning of our biological reproduction, as well as an increase in our average age. And, as cultural and scientific progress marches on, this trend isn't exactly going away. We're getting older and older, and fucking later and later, until some inevitable technological advancement will bump our life expectancy to 120 or so. And boom! That's the world we live in: a global feast of elderly erotica, not unlike a never-ending episode of The Golden Girls.
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Sorry, guys. Felix Clay has dibs on Blanche.
Don't worry, though. It's not like this insane leap into a world of great-grandparent bonin' like it's nothin' is going to happen in centuries. Surely, humanity will have time to develop into a slower-aging variety that'll not be quite so ... leathery in their advanced age.
Wait, Last predicts this might happen as early as in 2050? Never mind. A world of geriatric fucking it is.
#4. Beaks And/Or Replaceable Teeth
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Wait, does that mean we all live with the constant risk that our great-grandchildren might end up like that fucking spike guy from X-Men: The Last Stand, too? Luckily, no. That's merely the humble puffer fish, a.k.a. fugu. When it's not busy murdering people who like Japanese food enough to gamble their life on it, certain subspecies of this bony fish enjoy the evolutionary advantage of a simple beak that starts out as teeth, but soon fuses into a hard beak by growing layer after layer of tooth-like material on them, until all that remains is a constantly renewing, tough bite-beak.
Dr. Gareth Fraser of University of Sheffield has found evolutionary similarities between this beak-like structure and humanity's frail, once-renewing set of gnashers and suggested that mankind's mouth might also one day give up the whole "tons of brushable teeth and fucking wisdom teeth" horseshit and join the much handier "forever self-reinforcing beak" party, replacing our teeth with whatever wacky bone structure evolution will see fit to slap us with. Obviously, this is not going to happen tomorrow - - Fraser estimates it could be millions of years before our teeth gradually get the hint and start fusing. However, the find might yield neat results during our lifetime, too: By recognizing the pufferfish's beak superpowers, Fraser thinks he has found the gene that'll eventually enable us to grow on-demand teeth, too. So, the next time you trip and fall, don't bother shielding your precious mouth bones. Chances are, you're going to be able to grow brand-new ones in just 50 years or so.
Disclaimer: Please never listen to anything I tell you to do.
#3. Computer People
Chad Baker/Photodisc/Getty Images
Evolution may seem like an overpowering concept, but, these days, it's not just something that can just dong-slap us across the face as much as it sees fit. These days, we have science in our corner, bitches. It's almost impossible to talk about potential future evolutionary paths of humanity without, at the very least, bringing cybernetics in the mix (here's an article in which Robert Brockway discusses the indisputable benefits of a bionic ass, a thing that exists). Knowing full well that humanity can never surpass that achievement, evolution researchers have since turned their attention toward a less-awesome-but-equally-impressive destination: humans just straight up computerizing themselves.
From Tron to Transcendence via Superman III, pop culture has been shoving the concept down our throat at varying degrees of lunacy for decades. Scientists of equally varying degrees of plausibility aren't just hemming and hawing at the idea, either: According to some, there's a chance that humanity's next great evolutionary leap lies in various developments in computer technology that may one day enable us to straight up upload our minds into highly developed supercomputers. As you can imagine, the premise is complicated as hell: Behind those links, you'll find enough jargon about nanotechnology and DNA computers and artificial brains for all of it to fuse together and start sounding like a hacker-themed episode of a police procedural show.
David Smith/iStock/Getty Images
"Quick, send a patrol! They're upgrading their floppies into IRC!"
What will happen to us after uploading is equally in the air, possibly literally. We might become the Internet potatoes that we already are, only with no need to dick around with keyboards and mouses anymore. Or, you know, we might die in the process and a strange, shadowy AI version of our sentience would forever roam the great online in our stead, possibly blaming all the weirder porn it watches on our dead asses.
Hey, hold on just a minute. Scientists are also saying that robots will become intelligent enough to overtake humans within the next 100 years, aren't they? Does ... does this mean part of humanity could be uploading their consciousness in computerized brains and whatnot, while others would remain vulnerable fleshlings, at the mercy of their robot and computer-brain overlords?
Goddammit, evolution. Are you setting up some sort of The Matrix scenario, here? Because I'm personally going to find you and kick your ass if the next step in human evolution winds up with two shitty sequels and constant subpar performances in karate fights against Jesus Keanu.