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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.

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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 upliftling 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.

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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, and Humans Are Psychic in the Future. The future counterpart to Original Man (the original version of humanity) and Advanced Ancient Humans. Related to Human Subspecies.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gundam
    • The 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.
    • The Coordinators in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED are similar to the Newtypes, with the difference that they were genetically modified, and thus have immunity to diseases along with having the benefits of increased developmental growth.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog. The comic intended for Earth to be an alternate planet where humans don't exist (bar Robotnik's family). However, the comic eventually had to adapt game canon, which takes place in a Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My! world and heavily features humans. In order to explain everything, it turned out Mobius was Earth All Along and animals had mutated into an anthropomorphic state centuries ago. The same DNA bombs that mutated the animals made most of the humans de-evolve. "Overlanders" are four-fingered and usually have a hatred of Mobians and lack of care for the environment.
  • DC Comics
  • 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.
  • 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.
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    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Olaf Stapledon'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
  • 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.
  • Zig-Zagged and Exaggerated in Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future, where both regular humans and "evolved" humans try their hand at genetically engineering new human species, who go on to evolve further:
    • The book starts with unchanged modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) meddling with their own genetics to create Human Subspecies designed to work in specialized environments:
      • The aquatic (Homo aquaticus), a sterile human offshoot who gather material from the bottom of the sea.
      • The space-dwelling (Homo caelestis), a sterile human offshoot who construct vast ships in the vacuum of space.
      • The Aquatics (Piscanthropus submarinus), a fertile subspecies sent to live in the water.
    • When climate change and pollution cause much of Earth's fauna to die out, "evolved" humans called the "Hitek" (Homo sapiens machinadiumentum) who are dependent on machine life support begin to modify populations of regular, unevolved Homo sapiens sapiens to fill the ecological niches left behind by the great die-off:
      • The plains-dweller (Homo campis fabricatus) designed to live on open grasslands with the adaptations of a large herbivorous mammal.
      • The forest-dweller (Homo silvis fabricatus) created to live in rainforests.
      • The tundra-dweller (Homo glacis fabricatus) adapted to a polar climate.
      • The temperate woodland-dweller (Homo virgultis fabricatus), superficially similar to the ancient australopithecines.
    • The Hitek go on to re-engineer their own genetics so as to inhabit biologically engineered life-support machines (Homo sapiens accessiomembrum), but both the Hitek and the unevolved Homo sapiens sapiens go extinct when the magnetic poles reverse and render their technology unusable.
    • Without the Hitek guiding their evolutionary progress, the animal-like Human Subspecies created to fill various ecological niches begin to proliferate and evolve through natural selection. This goes on for five million years.
    • Eventually the descendants of Homo sapiens sapiens who colonized far-off worlds (and themselves evolved so as to be unrecognizable) return to earth and again meddle in the genetics of the modified Human Subspecies left on Earth, altering the animal-like human descendants to suit their needs as foodstock, pack animals, and workers.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 with 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 the future presented in The Crossing, Earth has been taken over by The Apex, a race of genetically-enhanced humans with superhuman abilities.
  • 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. The Toclafane turn out to be the "civilized" humans who, when "Utopia" turned out to be a wasteland, cannibalized themselves into insane spheroid cyborgs.
  • In the Farscape episode "My Three Crichtons", an alien probe creates two duplicates of Crichton, a less-evolved caveman version and a what-humanity-will-eventually-become super-intelligent version with no hair and an enlarged head. The latter turns out to be totally amoral and villainous.
  • 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.
  • The The Outer Limits (1963) episode "The Sixth Finger". A man is accelerated through a million years of evolution, turning him into a Chrome Dome Psi with My Brain Is Big, Extra Digits and an Evolution Power-Up of heightened intelligence and Telekinesis.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Stellaris, the human from Unity are the descendants of a colony ship from earth which lost contact during its journey. They are considered as a sub species from human, but have the same traits as earthlings, which makes them different from post-human. What exactly makes them different is never stated though.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Superpowered mutants, discussed as the next evolution of humans, by The Braeburn Report, which hypothesizes humans being displaced in a few generations, and pro-mutant groups like Evolution Rocks!

    Western Animation 
  • Æon Flux's final episode "End Sinister" features a race of aliens with telepathic abilities. After Aeon wakes up from a stasis pod thousands of years in the future, she finds her enemy/lover Trevor Goodchild nuturing a half-alien half-human infant. In her confused state, she goes to find the controller for a Kill Sat Trevor was trying to fire at the start of the episode, and annihilates the aliens. What few survivors take off in a space ship for another world, but Trevor reveals that Aeon just annihilated the majority of what the human race had evolved into.
  • Futurama: In "The Late Philip J Fry", Fry, Bender and the Professor end up going thousands of years into the future with a forwards-only time machine and keep travelling forwards in order to reach a point where a backwards time machine is invented. In a Shout-Out to The Time Machine, by the year 5 million man has evolved into a morally and intellectually superior race, and the brutish Dumblocks. The Dumblocks overrun the former by 5 years. By the year 10 and 50 million they've reverted to normal homo sapiens, though with the latter men are very rare.
  • South Park: "Goobacks" 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.
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