Thursday, November 11, 2010

Global humans

Came across these pictures over at Razib's Gene Expression blog which I thought were pretty interesting. They are different interpretations of what the "global human" might look like, generated by making a composite of "average" faces from the different basic human phenotypes. It is a way of imagining what a typical human of the future might look like, assuming that as a species we keep intermingling at the expected rate.

Part of the appeal of such images is in interpreting which racial elements you can identify in each, and also in wondering if they look like existing peoples from around the world.
The first one, which I think comes from this Dutch website, struck me as a little odd simply because it seems to lack any of the traits you'd associate with a black African. The face looks very stereotypically Caucasian with some East Asian elements.
If I saw that fellow on the street, I probably guess him to be Eurasian, as in having one European parent and one East Asian parent. But I can also imagine him to be from somewhere in the region where Eastern Europe blends into the Middle East or Central Asia. Perhaps of Turkic ancestry.

The second face? It's closer to how I imagine the global human to look. He's much less European-looking than the first, but I guess it's important to remember that there are many features each geographical race shares with each other; the dominant skin and hair colour doesn't change much from Europe to East Asia, and Africans share many features with people from South and South East Asia.
If I saw this guy on the street, I'd probably guess him to be Filipino, or a mestizo from Latin America, but neither of those is a really convincing option. Take out the eyes, which are very typical of East Asians, and he looks like a lot of African-Americans I've seen (who obviously have significant input of European genes). He reminds me a little of tennis player James Blake.

There are many countries in the world where two or more distinct phenotypes meet, creating an average individual who looks quite mixed. This can be due to relatively recent migrations, in which case the original phenotypes are still commonly visible. And example would be Brazil, which has plenty of what you might consider "pure" populations of white Europeans, Japanese, Africans and indigenous Americans, yet the average individual is a mix of two or more of those groups. Alternatively some countries clearly sport a mixed population, but that mix is more ancient and almost universal throughout the population, albeit to various degrees. Examples would be Egypt, Uzbekistan, India or Indonesia. And then there are other countries which combine these historically blended populations with new migrant groups.

So while today we can only imagine what the global human is going to look like in the centuries to come, these above countries, particularly Brazil, are pointers to what our future population might look like.

I'd be interested to hear your take on what these images conjure up for you. Where would you expect these faces to come from?


  1. The guy on the top looks weird. The guy on the bottom looks truly ambiguous. He could be any ethncity.

    I remember reading an article where Dwayne "the rock" Johnson was being touted as the future human. The rock is Samoan and black Canadian, and he resembles the second pick.

  2. This is really interesting.

    I am planning this novel for quite some time now, and most of my characters are mixed... I actually imagined them to be pretty close to what is shown/described here.

    It would be interesting to guess the beauty ideal of such a society (especially if races and racism cease to exist).

    Btw, if you don't mind me saying, the second guy looks hot. REALLY HOT. (ok, I know he's not the real human, but you get the idea).

    He reminds me a little of tennis player James Blake.

    Indeed. Blake is hot.

  3. @ Mel:
    If "The Rock" is indeed the future human, we are in for a handsome and musclebound future. I like it!

    @ Mira:
    Your proposed novel actually reminds me of what "The Last Airbender" could have been, had it not been bizarrely whitewashed.

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