Genetic engineering is already not science fiction. We are rapidly approaching the era when we will modify the genetic code of various living organisms and our own genetic code in massive amounts, up to a point when such modifications become a centerpiece of technology.
In a 1000 years the impact of these modifications will be so great that our descendants will have little in common with the original homo sapiens sapiens. It is impossible to tell what they will be like precisely (that is, even more impossible than my other ambitions in this series). However, I will try to guess some of their general features.
Some speciments will be adapted to extreme conditions, such as extreme temperatures, extreme pressures, ionizing radiation, poison etc. In particular, when space colonization will commence, "humans" adapted to the respective conditions will be created. That is, we would have Marsians, Europans etc. historically originating from Earth humans.
- 6th sense, 7th sense...
Some speciments will have sensory perception very different from what we are used to. For instance they might have vision with more colour channels and / or in different areas of the spectrum.
Speech will replaced by more advanced modes of communication, perhaps something like a direct mind-to-mind link. This will increase the bandwidth and reduce the error rate considerably. Among other things, this might lead to much more efficient resolution of disagreements up to the point when "irreconcilable differences" become very rare.
Eventually, not only the "body" but also the "mind" will be enhanced. This will start with improved memory and faster thought and end-up with capabilities of completely different magnitude. In my opinion, the most critical mental capacity is the ability to hold many things in one's mind at once: a sort of "cache memory". It is the enhancement of this capacity which would lead to the most radical development of intelligence.
Different speciments will be adapted to different professions, to an extent much greater than what exists today (up to the point when different professions become virtually different species). In a way, this kind of specialization already exists: division into males and females. However, in the future there will be many more kinds (in ways unrelated to the reporductive cycle).
- Body-mind separation
Eventually the brain or mind which carries the information processing function will be separated from the body which carries the input/output functions. It will be possible for a given person (mind) to use a number of different bodies suited for different tasks at different times. Loosely speaking, one will be able to change bodies the way one now changes clothes or cars. Thus some of the traits mentioned above (such as survival in extreme conditions and enhanced senses) will apply to particular bodies rather than particular persons.
- The "conventional" technology we know today, based on semiconductors, fiber optics, lasers etc. At some point this will include some sort of "nanotechnology". The advantage of this technology is that we understand and control it perfectly, since we created it "from the ground up" (except the laws of nature, of course, which are immutable).
- "Organic" technology employing what we now call "genetic engineering". The advantage of this technology is that it is "more sophisticated" than the ordinary: living organisms do things we yet only dream doing artificially. The disadvantage is the imperfect understanding and control we have over it.
As an intermediate stage, we will create much more efficient modes of brain-computer communication. Humans would have computer "coprocessors" wired into their brain and connected into the internet.
There is another essential difference between conventional technology and life. The machines we create are usually "clones" made to resemble a given prototype as much as possible. However, living organisms, even if members of the same species, are always very different from each other (unless, of course, they are the clones of a single ancestor; such groups, however, form only tiny fractions of a given species). It is my suspicion that the second scheme is much more efficient, and we are only bound to the first scheme because of technical limitations. Thus most of the "machines" of the future will resemble living organisms rather than modern machines in this respect.