Created By: Generality on January 19, 2017

Future Humans

The next evolution of mankind, Twenty Minutes Into The Future

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Most sci-fi writers are at least vaguely aware that evolution is a thing and that it applies to the human species. A few have surmised that this means the human species is likely to be very different in the distant future, and and sought to illustrate what they might be like. While many works show the future of humanity speaking Eternal English and wearing shinier versions of the current fashions, some depict our descendants as strange and advanced, while still maintaining some recognizable essence of humanity.

Humanity experiences an abrupt change in its fundamental nature due to a great leap forward. This may be purely evolutionary, or triggered by genetic engineering, transhumanism, some powerful mutagen such as intense radiation, a Mass Super-Empowering Event, or attempts at uplift by benevolent aliens. Whatever the cause, these new, improved humans will suddenly rear up within our familiar society, contrasting themselves with our mundane natures. This plot element is almost unavoidable, for the basic reason that human audiences find not-entirely-human characters harder to relate to.

These new humans will be smarter, more rational, more perceptive, and probably have improved health and strength as an extra bonus if they don't also have Psychic Powers or other bizarre abilities. They'll probably be better-looking too. They will inevitably consider themselves superior, "more evolved" than regular humans, and strife will ensue. Ultimately, mundane humans will often win out, due to some extra compassion or creativity that makes them special; sometimes the two will learn to live in harmony, each race possessing unique attributes that the other lacks; more rarely, the new humans will win out and become dominant, if not drive the old kind to extinction.

Contrast Stupid Future People, who are less advanced than ourselves, and The Singularity, in which humans change so drastically as to become unrecognizable. See also In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The Gundam franchise has Newtypes, a hypothetical adaptation that results from long-term habitation in space. In addition to being noticeably smarter, Newtypes have Super Senses and increased reflexes, and have better spacial awareness, which are all helpful in a hostile low-gravity environment. In practice, this means they make natural Ace Pilots, which is what we mostly see them doing in the shows.

Comic Books
  • The X-Men and other Mutants in the Marvel canon were introduced as this, gaining various superpowers as a result of a new gene. Subsequent development in the setting reveals that Mutants have been around for a long time, but were comparatively rare until a certain point.

Literature
  • H. G. Wells' The Time Machine is possibly the Trope Codifier, and goes to a further extreme than most examples. Thousands of years in the future, humanity has split into two sub-races: the Morlocks, who are brutal and cruel yet highly intelligent, and the Eloi, who are beautiful and compassionate, but ineffectual and backward, and also the main prey of the Morlocks.
  • The Long Earth features the Next, who develop out of communities of humans living in harmony with Trolls, who are hominids that developed on an alternate version of Earth and which communicate with each other on a deeper level. The Next are so intelligent that they have to invent a special language to keep up with their thoughts, and hold regular humans in disdain because of their irrational natures, making it difficult for the two groups to get along. They are said to have such emotional intelligence that they can effortlessly manipulate regular humans to their own ends, but this is an Informed Attribute in the story, as no character is ever seen successfully swayed by their efforts.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who makes a consistent point that humans are quintessentially human and practically unchangeable, even over billions of years, but variations are occasionally seen. "Utopia" has the Futurekind, a regression of humanity 100 trillion years in the future who have pointed teeth and seek regular humans as a food source, though whether out of insane preference or bleak necessity is not explained.

Video Games
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth is a demonstration of how humanity deals with survival on a new planet long-term, and that it's impossible for us to remain as we are in such a different environment. Even the "Purity" faction who rejects anything un-human adapts its culture to new technology and ends up as The Theme Park Version of our society, garbling its history into Future Imperfect, while the other factions embrace transhumanism to different degrees and variations.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • January 20, 2017
    Chabal2
    • South Park: One episode has humans from the future, in which the entire species is now bald and has the same skin color. They travel back in time to use the Time Travel Compound Interest Gambit by working for next to nothing, causing a direct parallel with immigration fearmongering (they live in their own part of of town called Little Future, the slime caused by the time travel process gets them the nickname "goobacks"). The men of South Park react by holding a gigantic gay orgy to prevent future humans from existing.
    • Blake Et Mortimer: In "The Strange Meeting", the Little Green Men are actually humans from the far future, mutated beyond recognition from living in an irradiated post-WWIII wasteland. Where modern humans have mastered the atom, the future ones have mastered Time Travel, and hope to prevent their fate by uniting humanity under the tyrant Basam Damdu, the series' original Big Bad.
    • The Harry Dickson comic "The Wolves of Darkhenge" has an alien ask for the humans' help in building a radio so he can call for help in exchange for the living metal his ship is made of. It's revealed he's really building a time machine so he and other future humans can steal resources from the past.
  • January 19, 2017
    PaulA
    The title characters in The Tomorrow People.
  • January 19, 2017
    Xtifr
    Seems to overlap heavily with Evolutionary Levels and Goal Oriented Evolution, although this sounds like a more neutral, less "artistic license" trope. Should definitely mention those two, though.

    • Olaf Stapeldon's classic Last And First Men is a philosophical/science fictional exploration of the concept, which gives us a sequence of dozens of descendants of the "First men" (i.e. us). Newer species of mankind evolve for a variety of reasons, from being the survivors of a total all-out war (several examples) to being deliberately engineered as a successor species, like Sixth and Ninth men.
    • Slan was one of the first books to offer a sympathetic portrayal of the newly-arising mutants, and the prejudice and hatred they would face from normal humans. It helped that they had funny tendrils on their heads which gave them telepathic powers—and made them obviously different and easy to spot.
  • January 20, 2017
    CactusFace
    • Discussed in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon claims to be the next step in human evolution (the Homo Novus). He tries to prove this whith his canine teeth being smaller than average. This is allegendly also the reason why he can't drive, as the Homo Novus is to highly evolved to use vehicles. Leonard is not impressed.
    • In Stellaris, the humen from Unity are the descendants of a colony ship from earth which lost contact during its journey. They are concidered as a sub species from humen, but have the same traits as earthlings, which makes them different from post-humen. What exactly makes them different is never stated though.
  • January 20, 2017
    Gatomon41
    Related to Human Subspecies?
  • January 20, 2017
    Xtifr
    ^ Oh good catch. I even contributed an example to that page, so I should have remembered it. Yeah, I'm not quite sure how this is any different, aside from being limited to future, which seems like The Same But More Specific.
  • March 19, 2017
    Getta
    ^ this looks more like how different future people could look and behave.

    That said, X-Men is not an example.

    And I dunno about the part in the third paragraph about future people standing side by side with "normal" humans. Unless you're talking about future people going to the past with Time Travel, that makes no sense.
  • March 19, 2017
    zarpaulus
    @ Cactus Face: I think Stellaris treats the humans from Unity as exactly the same species as humans from Earth. Which means that if the Commonwealth of Man (Unity's government) conquers planets from the UNE their Xenophobic POPs won't react to the former UNE POPs.

    If there's any difference it might be their homeworld. Remember that species have 100% habitability on their homeworld and only 80% on any other planet of the same class before modifiers.
  • August 8, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    This is pretty related to the Speculative Biology ykttw. It could be referenced on it, or vice versa, when one gets launched.
  • August 9, 2017
    zarpaulus
    Is this just examples where a specific "next step" is given or does it include Human Subspecies and other divergent paths?

    Live Action TV
    • In Prey Dominants are a newly emerged species of hominid that can tolerate higher temperatures from global warming, as well as having more efficient brains, multiple uteri, and a complete Lack Of Empathy that leads many to hunt humans for fun. They can also breed with humans and their genes are always dominant.
  • August 10, 2017
    Arivne
    This trope will often use other related tropes such as Evolution Power Up, My Brain Is Big, Chrome Dome Psi and Extra Digits.
  • August 10, 2017
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
  • August 12, 2017
    zarpaulus
    • Eclipse Phase, given the ubiquity of Brain Uploading, has dozens of specialized "morphs" for people to sleeve into and three generations of "general human upgrades".
      • Splicers are the "basic" Post-Fall transhuman with no genetic disorders, one stat bonus (player's choice), and the "Basic Biomods" package that all biomorphs but unmodified "Flats" have, including half the need for sleep and double the healing speed with immunity to all natural diseases.
      • Exalts are tougher than Splicers with a standard bonus to Cognition (Intelligence) and three other stats of the player's choice.
      • Remade are specifically associated with the Ultimate faction. They're stronger, smarter, hardier, can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and atmospheres including Mars, but their facial features are distorted to the point of invoking the Uncanny Valley.
  • August 12, 2017
    PrincessPandaTrope
    • In Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Double Down, Greg imagines that in thousand years, humans have evolved into octopus-like beings.
  • August 12, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    • In the third Unlikely Exploits book, Rise of the House of Mcnally, the Ambiguously Human Mr. Maggs reveals that he is actually an evolved human from the distant future- "I am what you will become." He is rather strange looking- very tall, with a round head, a smile which is "too wide, with too many teeth" and very tall with long, skinny limbs.
  • August 13, 2017
    Generality
    There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what this trope means. When I wrote the draft, I was mainly thinking about stories in which a new type of humans suddenly appear, who regard themselves as superior, and this leads to conflict with normal humans. I suppose I was also trying to include a general sense that humans are expected to be different in the distant future. I pretty much forgot about this proposal after someone pointed out it was largely covered by Human Subspecies, and I'm not sure now where it needs to go to be sufficiently distinct.
  • August 13, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    well it looks like people have lots of examples for "any distant future evolution of humans" so why not make it about that?
  • August 13, 2017
    zarpaulus
    It could be Evolutionary Levels or an effort to achieve such an effect by genetic engineering. I'm seeing Human Subspecies as a generally more realistic take on evolution (speciation into say, Heavyworlders for example.)
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