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|