Monday, December 25, 2006

The Face of Tomorrow

As we enter a new year, many of us must be wondering what the future will be like. As someone who has a habit of viewing things through a racial lens, I'm wondering about the possible ethnicities people might have in the future--and what these people might look like. With anti-miscegenation laws broken down and continuing immigration (not just in America, but around the world), mixed-race people are becoming more common and the world is beginning to see human faces that almost didn't exist a century ago. But what will happen a century from now?

Today, there are an increasing number of people who are half one ethnicity, and half another ethnicity; if you go to places like Hawaii, you'll encounter people whose ancestry is even more complicated (and you can usually tell by the way they look). If you ask a young person what his or her ethnicity is, don't always expect a one-word answer.

So without getting into genetics or biology, what will people look like in the 22nd or 23rd century? We can almost be certain that they won't look like anyone who has ever lived. Faces of the future will embody the mixing of races that is continually becoming more common today. They probably won't look like any ethnic appearance that has ever existed. This has happened before. Many Latino/Hispanic people are generations and generations of mixed Native American and Spanish ancestry, and as a result, many of them look multiracial (on a related note, people who are half-Asian and half-European are commonly mistaken to be Mexican). Do you think there were people who looked like modern-day Latinos before the Spanish arrived there?

The mixed-looking appearance of many Latino people is a result of colonial mixing hundreds of years ago, and we have to wonder: what kind of facial features will today's racial mixing bring about hundreds of years from now? In today's multiracial people, we can see the faces of tomorrow. But a photographer named Mike Mike is taking a different approach.

The curiously-named Mike Mike is from Istanbul, a city that's historically considered to be in both Europe and Asia, and sure enough, many of the residents there look mixed-race. This is probably what inspired him to do a photography project called The Face of Tomorrow.

Mike is going to several cities around the world, and in each city, he takes pictures of 100 random people, and then combines all of them (using computer graphics) to make 2 faces: one male, and one female. The idea is that these 2 faces will be what a person in each city will look like a century from now, and that a city's population represents its racial (and facial) future. From the website:

"The large metropolises of the world are magnets for migrants from all parts of the planet resulting in new mixtures of peoples. What might a typical inhabitant of this new metropolis look like in one or two hundred years if they were to become more integrated? [...] if you could combine all the faces in a city right now you would be looking at the future face of that city."

Here are a few faces that've been done already:

Rio de Janeiro

Hong Kong



The Sydney face was done with people at Sydney University, so not surprisingly, it looks more mixed-race than the others (in my opinion) since colleges tend to be diverse. The London face, which looks very European, surprised me because my brother went there and he tells me it's very diverse. (Mike explains on the website that the London face isn't very accurate because the photos he took for it happened to be in a very White part of the city).

The Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro faces, as well as most of the other ones done so far, look more like a general appearance of a modern-day resident in each city, instead of a future mixed-race person, because a lot of those cities aren't really melting pots or salad bowls. But what if The Face of Tomorrow was done in North American cities? I would love to see what this project yields in super-diverse places like New York, Toronto, or San Francisco; those cities are just begging to be included (or at least, I'm begging that they be included).

It's probably impossible to know for sure what people's faces will look like hundreds of years from now. With the mixing of so many ethnicities, it's possible that everyone will eventually look like the same race--the human race. With a new year upon us, we're one step closer to seeing these faces...whatever they will look like.


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