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Future Humans

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The next evolution of mankind, Twenty Minutes Into The Future.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Generality on Jan 19th 2017 at 1:46:26 PM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Apr 17th 2018 at 2:20:29 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

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.

Feedback: 26 replies

Jan 20th 2017 at 12:40:31 AM

  • 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.

Jan 19th 2017 at 10:31:12 PM

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.

Jan 20th 2017 at 9:25:18 AM

  • 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.

Jan 20th 2017 at 3:31:25 PM

^ 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.

Mar 19th 2017 at 5:10:51 PM

^ 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.

Mar 19th 2017 at 6:33:23 PM

@ 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.

Aug 8th 2017 at 8:53:23 PM

This is pretty related to the Speculative Biology ykttw. It could be referenced on it, or vice versa, when one gets launched.

Aug 9th 2017 at 7:46:54 PM

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.

Aug 10th 2017 at 2:17:12 AM

This trope will often use other related tropes such as Evolution Power Up, My Brain Is Big, Chrome Dome Psi and Extra Digits.

Aug 10th 2017 at 2:27:30 AM

Live Action TV

Aug 12th 2017 at 5:16:02 PM

  • 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.

Aug 12th 2017 at 5:28:45 PM

  • In Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Double Down, Greg imagines that in thousand years, humans have evolved into octopus-like beings.

Nov 11th 2017 at 6:29:48 PM

  • 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 long, skinny limbs.

Aug 13th 2017 at 9:02:27 AM

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.

Aug 13th 2017 at 10:58:46 AM

well it looks like people have lots of examples for "any distant future evolution of humans" so why not make it about that?

Aug 13th 2017 at 3:49:34 PM

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.)

Nov 11th 2017 at 5:41:40 PM

Nov 11th 2017 at 9:51:43 PM

  • Ashes Of The Singularity has characters who were once human, but now exist on a kind of quantum network, which allows them to cast their consciousnesses across the cosmos. They're even called Post-Humans. Despite their extreme intelligence, they did not leave many human foibles behind, as there is still ego, pride, stubbornness, all of which brings the Post-Humans into conflict with each other over and over.

Apr 16th 2018 at 8:10:38 PM

  • Some comics imply that the Human Alien Kryptonians from Superman are advanced descendants of humans. It all depends on the writer, however, as they're also often written as related-but-not-identical species.

Apr 16th 2018 at 8:27:54 PM

Isn't the singularity supposed to be about humans creating an artificial intelligence that because more intelligent than themselves, and thus, unpredictable?

Also, would Frazetta Man, All Cavemen Were Neanderthals, Original Man and Ancient Advanced Humans be the antithesis of this trope? With Human Aliens, and Ultra Terrestrials being distant cousins, or something?

Apr 16th 2018 at 9:39:59 PM

In the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe, humanity is very different from what it is now due to advanced medical procedures. Earth humans from the 22nd century are hard to kill (you have to aim for the head), resist radiation and can sense it, are much stronger and more resilient physically and have some limited psychic-like abilities such as the ability to remove pain from other people. The Human Aliens from other planets, however, are just garden variety humans, so when someone from Earth ends up on a less developed planet, they are almost a super there.

Apr 16th 2018 at 10:57:01 PM

Live Action TV

  • In the future presented in The Crossing, Earth has been taken over by The Apex, a race of genetically-enhanced humans with superhuman abilities.

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