5 Creepy Mutations Science Thinks Humanity Might Evolve
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.
Septuagenarian Sex Machines
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.
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.
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.
Beaks And/Or Replaceable Teeth
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.
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.
"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.
Meanwhile, this particular human-induced evolutionary jump is right around the corner ... and we have no idea how to deal with it.
Do you think the current tug-of-war between pro-life and pro-choice people is nasty? Wait until the battle expands beyond the current borders and into the "what kind of baby gets to live" land, and see everyone's heads explode in righteous rage. It's going to happen -- and happen soon: designer babies are coming, and it's not a matter of "when" -- it's a matter of "what, they're already around the corner?"
"I swear, I just turned my back for a second and there they were, bench-pressing elephants."
Scientists and proponents of bioethics have been debating about designer babies -- that is, children specifically bio-edited with in vitro fertilization screening and other technologies to have the best possible genetic traits we can give them -- since the 1990s, but, now, the technology is starting to be up to the task. Cracked has already told you that we'll probably need laws about this crazy bullshit in the future, but, right now, we're still unsure what this whole thing means, when it can happen, and first and foremost, what the fuck?
I'm not going to open the can of worms that is the ethics debate about this thing. You'll recognize plenty of the potential pitfalls and benefits yourself, and I have no doubt the comment section will have an opinion or two about the subject of baby engineering. Anyway, I'm willing to wager that we'll all hear a word or 6 million about this particular subject within the next decade or so. Meanwhile, here's a yawning kitten:
"But, is it a designer kitten?"
"Shut the fuck up, Frank."
We'll All Become The Same Race
Ask any two-bit science fiction writer worth their one-bit salt, and they'll tell you humanity will eventually evolve into a bunch of hairless, big-headed guys who are just one flying-saucer time machine away from getting shot out of the sky by the troops at Roswell. Funnily enough, this is actually among the less-likely directions our evolution may take. For one, there's a fairly decent chance we won't go completely bald over time, as the hair on our head is nature's own hat to protect the brain from sun's heat. Also, as any woman who has given non-cesarean birth can easily attest, there's precious little room for our heads to get much larger than they already are. So, unless we figure out how to get storks, those fucking slackers, to finally do their one job and get deliverin', it looks like our melons are pretty much the size they're going to remain. Shit, if anything, they might get smaller, seeing as our brains appear to be shrinking in size.
"But ... I can barely afford the BMW I already need to
compensate for my other small head."
Still, that's not to say we're not going to end up looking a lot more alike in the future than we currently do. It's a well-known fact that when a small pool of population breeds within itself, everyone will eventually start wearing the same dungarees and their daily actions will be set to "Dueling Banjos." Some experts think that, given enough time, this also works when said pool is the entire planet -- only, the soundtrack is more diverse and the dungarees are our distinctive racial traits.
Yep, there's a chance that, as things get more and more global, the population of the world will eventually breed into a giant melting pot of all nationalities and races. Hell, this theory even has a fairly good idea of what the end result will look like: the mixed-race people of Brazil.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we'll remember to take our plumbing tips from elsewhere.
To be fair, knowing the attitudes half the world's nations have toward the other half, this kind of global interbreeding will probably take enough time for us to make every single other theory on this list a reality twice over. Still, if this theory proves correct and humanity can keep going long enough to make it happen: Suck it, racists of all nations! Regardless of which oh-so-pure-and-great race you consider superior, evolution itself is conspiring to make it obsolete.
Someday, we will be able to upload our brains into indestructible cybernetic machines. Until that time, it still hurts like hell to get hit in the nuts. See how evolution screws with us in 5 Ways Evolution Has Screwed Us Over. And know that humans aren't the only ones to get wussified by evolution. See how badass racoons used to be in 6 Formerly Kickass Creatures Ruined By Evolution.
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