May 08, 2003
Use Of Plastic Surgery Will Become The Norm In Future

The weight of societal norms about the alteration of physical appearance will shift in the direction where most people will have looks which have been medically altered in some way.

"By the year 2020, no one will ask you whether you've had aesthetic surgery, they will ask you why you didn't have aesthetic surgery," predicts Sander Gilman, a University of Chicago professor who has studied the history of plastic surgery.

Today, he says, it's acceptable to live in a world where you can change your looks but choose not to. But in 20 years or so, he says, "in certain societies - Brazil, Argentina, more and more the UK, South Korea, Japan - the [question will be], 'Why didn't you take advantage? Why are you walking around bald?' " he says.

As a precedent the article cites the example of the increasingly widespread use of orthodontics work to improve the appear of teeth.

It seems reasonable to expect advances in biotechnology to lower the cost, pain, and inconvenience associated with plastic surgery and other medical alterations in appearance. To take just one example, currently the only way to replace hair lost by hair pattern baldness with real hair is to have plugs of hair moved to the front surgically. But eventually it seems reasonable to expect gene therapies to be developed which can be injected or delivered via a surface cream or paste.

Also, collagen injections will eventually be replaced by gene therapy injections that instruct cells in an area to make more collagen. A procedure that has to be repeated periodically will be replaced by a procedure that has to be done only once.

The biggest area of cost lowering innovation will be in the development of techniques to use gene therapies to mold a face or other surface feature without performing surgery. Once such therapies become available the pain, risk, time, and cost of appearance modification will all drop so far that appearance modification will become very commonplace.

As for what everyone will look like: the big mystery is whether all people will converge on some universal look. My guess is that there will not be a single ideal appearance but rather several of them since there is some variation in personal ideals for the appearance of others. Think of it as analogous to different tastes in cars, music, and clothes.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 08 10:41 AM  Biotech Society

Bob Hawkins said at May 8, 2003 11:49 AM:

People used to laugh at science fiction B movies for presenting futures in which everyone looked like soap opera actors. But maybe they were right again.

And maybe the bad guys really will look ugly. Refusing to "take advantage" might be a symptom of deeper problems.

Cripes, "Flash Gordon" could be viewed as prophetic!

Patrick said at May 9, 2003 1:14 AM:

The ability to alter appearance will revolutionize those societies where political power is still determined by racial background. Such as Fiji, Malaysia, and some US Universities.

John O' Connell said at August 22, 2003 1:09 PM:

I read your article and found it very intriguing. As someone who is profoundly dissatisfied with my own appearance I am desperate for this technology to become available as some as possible. Frankly, I despise how I look and soon people coming to my house may wonder who is the real do we have here, and expect me to run after sticks lol. I feel so plain looking and as a gay man, I have seen a fair amount of rejection because of that. So please, hurry because I want to start getting yeses instead of no's.

John O'Connell said at August 22, 2003 1:10 PM:

The real dog I meant to say above.

lindsey b. said at January 25, 2006 1:07 PM:

my father is very rich and anything i dont like about my self he gets it fixed for me. im sorry if you can AFFORD it like the rest of us, but complain to Oprah and maybe your wish will come true.

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