Designer Lamm’s depiction of how the human face might look in 100,000 years; Image credit Nickolay Lamm

We’ve come along way looks-wise from our homo sapien ancestors. Between 800,000 and 200,000 years ago, for instance, rapid changes in Earth climate coincided with a tripling in the size of the human brain and skull, leading to a flattening of the face. But how might the physiological features of human beings change in the future, especially as new, wearable technology like Google Glass change the way we use our bodies and faces? Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm has partnered with a computational geneticist to research and illustrate what we might look like 20,000 years in the future, as well as 60,000 years and 100,000 years out. His full, eye-popping illustrations are at the bottom of this post.

Lamm says this is “one possible timeline,” where, thanks to zygotic genome engineering technology, our future selves would have the ability to control human biology and human evolution in much the same way we control electrons to power our world today. (For a critique of the scientific proposals behind Lamm’s hypothesis, see this post by Forbes reporter Matthew Herper.)

Lamm speaks of “wresting control” of the human form from natural evolution and bending human biology to suit our needs.  The illustrations were inspired by conversations with Dr. Alan Kwan, who holds a PhD in computational genomics from Washington University, UPDATE: Lamm’s project was also sponsored by the website MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, where he has a blog.

Kwan based his predictions on what living environments might look like in the future, climate and technological advancements. One of the big changes will be a larger forehead, Kwan predicts – a feature that has already expanding since the 14th and 16th centuries. Scientists writing in the British Dental Journal have suggested that skull-measurement comparisons from that time show modern-day people have less prominent facial features but higher foreheads, and Kwan expects the human head to trend larger to accommodate a larger brain.

Kwan stresses that 60,000 years from now, our ability to control the human genome will also make the effect of evolution on our facial features moot. As genetic engineering becomes the norm, “the fate of the human face will be increasingly determined by human tastes,” he says in a research document. Eyes will meanwhile get larger, as attempts to colonize Earth’s solar system and beyond see people living in the dimmer environments of colonies further away from the Sun than Earth. Similarly, skin will become more pigmented to lessen the damage from harmful UV radiation outside of the Earth’s protective ozone. Kwan expects people to have thicker eyelids and a more pronounced superciliary arch (the smooth, frontal bone of the skull under the brow), to deal with the disruptive effects already observed by present-day astronauts of cosmic rays outside Earth’s atmosphere.