The New Human

Disappearing tendons? Longer legs? Artificial body parts? What will humans look like in the future?
Available on CBC Gem

The New Human

Nature of Things

Humans have changed an awful lot since we first began walking upright: we’re no longer the stooped, furry, well-muscled creatures who once hunted on the savannah.

But our evolution is not complete.

The New Human takes the audience on a whirlwind tour into the minds of experts who remind us that our bodies are always changing in reaction to the world around us. What’s in store for us may be beyond anything we ever imagined.

While no one can be certain what will happen, evolutionary biologists and statisticians are observing trends that could mean our future feet only have four toes (so long, pinky toe) or our faces may have new combinations of features. The new humans might be much taller than their parents or grandparents, or have darker hair and eyes.

And while evolution takes a lot of time, we might not have to wait too long for a new version of ourselves.

Technology is redesigning the way we look and function — at a much faster pace than evolution. We are merging with technology more than ever before: our bodies may now have implanted chips, smart limbs, exoskeletons and 3D-printed organs. A revolutionary gene editing technique has given us the power to take evolution into our own hands and alter our own DNA. How long will it be before we are designing our children?

Featured in The New Human:

Francois Allart, the co-founder of Canada’s first school of podiatric medicine, envisions a new human with four toes (goodbye pinkies!) and perhaps, no arches in their feet. He says, “If the culture becomes the culture of sitting down and watching everything on video, the foot will become weaker and probably…flatter and flatter.”

The pioneering Dutch economic historian Jan Willem Drukker predicts most of us will get taller. He says, “The height of the new human will depend on the system that she creates around her. And if the system is geared toward better social medical care, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, everyone will become taller.

French biologist and statistician Alex Courtiol ventures to suggest that people will evolve to have more appealing faces. An estimated one-third of people online are using dating apps to find partners. That means first impressions are more often based on a head and shoulders profile picture, rather than a glimpse of the entire person. Courtiol surmises, “It’s possible that facial attractiveness exerts a much more pronounced effect than it has ever done in the past.”

Sean Myles, the Canadian geneticist who discovered a gene for blonde hair in the western Pacific, reflects on how our modern lifestyle is reshaping us. He reveals our increasing mobility could lead to a greater proportion of people with dark hair and dark eyes. Not only that, we’ll learn how intermingling more with people of different ancestries may very well produce healthier children.

Stream Now on CBC Gem

The New Human

Nature of Things