Donald Johanson -- credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy"-- talks about human evolutionary timelines and what the future might hold for humans.
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Donald Johanson: I'm Donald Johanson and I am founding director of the Institute of Human
Origins at Arizona State University.
Question: How will humans look in 1,000 years?
Johanson: We really don't have any idea of how humans are gonna look in the next -- hundred thousand years? (offscreen: 1,000) -- in the next 1,000 years I suspect they're gonna look just pretty much like ourselves.
Projecting much further than that is extremely difficult. As anthropologists who are interested in the origins of sapiens we can say something about our past and what our early ancestors look like, but it's very difficult to project into the future. There probably won't be very many major changes -- we're not going to go down to one finger, we're not going to, you know, just be a head sitting somewhere -- as long as we are continuing to interbreed with each other on this planet as we do today we will continue, I think, to look pretty much like ourselves.
If we were able to say launch ourselves into space, if we were successful in in traveling hundreds of thousands of years or millions of years there might be some significant changes, but what those changes are we don't know.
On this planet we know that as recently as say 50,000 years ago we were not alone. That there were other kinds of humans on the planet. There were creatures called Neanderthals that lived only in Europe and in Asia -- and they had a very different face, they had a very different physiology, they had a very different anatomy -- but that was because they were living under very different conditions. Their anatomy was crafted to a large part because they were living in a very cold, glacial areas. Today, humans are all interbreeding with one another so I think that it's unlikely that we're going to see any significant changes, and 1,000 years is much too short for any of these things to happen.
Genetically, every time two people have a child that child is genetically unique and different from any other child there ever was and any other child that there is on the planet, but those are microscopic genetic changes. But in terms of anatomy and so on, a thousand years is a blink of an eye.