Ursula K. LeGuin wrote once that science fiction authors don’t actually predict the future, but use the genre to enlighten folks about messed up stuff in the present. A lot of sci-fi tends to be, “Hey you guys! We’re doing it wrong and oh yeah the apocalypse!” and if you look at the corresponding years of publication, most novels and films are calling attention to at least one inciting event in the present. While not a sci-fi narrative really, Nickolay Lamm’s depictions of the human face 100,000 years in the future remind us of alien flicks and Gattaca (and all the other genetics stories).
Lamm, using research from genomics wiz Dr. Alan Kwan, imagines through crazy illustrations that humans many years from now will have bulging foreheads, massive eyeballs, and more pigmented skin. The project of producing these illustrations of the face and later the human body is supposed to be an inspiration to the rest of us whacked-out folk who have a hankering to know what the future human will look like. It’s a rad concept, as many future stories include, say, telekinesis and flying cars, but not a lot of practical depictions of what humans may actually sport in their physiognomy. Also, Lamm makes us think about what we’re doing to our own evolution right here in the present.
The reasoning for the big eyes, ballooning cranium, and pigmented skin is kinda a little scary. Apparently, 60,000 years from now, we’ll be able to customize all kinds of facial features, basically commanding evolution and making Darwin’s chaotic system sadly obsolete. So, big eyes and brains for all! That, and our brains will just keep getting bigger (and we’ll still probably use the tiniest fraction of it).
Traveling to distant locales farther away from the sun and therefore dimmer will cause the eyes to get all big to accommodate. Skin will react to crazy amounts of UV radiation apparently.
When you first see Lamm’s pictures, though, the non-scientist like me has a different reaction than thinking, “oh man you guys we’re going to enjoy all out mastery over genetics.” The big eyes and brains made me think how much we’re using our eyes and our minds in our addictive behavior regarding technology. And that leads to the question of how our bodies are supposed to look if our heads and visual perception is super upgraded. I imagine that in 100,000 years the options will either be super advanced track-star humans, or brainiac wonderkids without the need for brawn. Both options harken back more to literary conceits than to real science, but science and technology are sometimes at the mercy of chaos and society (notoriously run by non-scientists), so who’s to say one prediction is better than the other.
Lamm’s scientifically inspired artwork definitely makes one ponder the vast future of evolution, and gives just a little hope to our species survival, at least because humans will look real badass in 100,000 years if we make it.