Our biggest threat may not be so obvious. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, as it is often the black swan or the unexpected that strikes when least expected. Just ask the dinosaurs or the American Society of Travel Agents. Our looming slayer may have nothing to do with a panacea product, a flux of providers, or price commoditization; rather, it may be a silent technological blurring, eventually wiping out the lines of reality.
For your consideration, are you familiar with the Snapchat Beauty filter? Has a patient recently come into your office, phone in hand, scrolled to an idealized version of themselves with large eyes, flawless skin, pouty lips, and a narrowed chin and jawline? Or have you taken notice that acquaintances look significantly unreal in their Facebook posts? If you are not quite certain, but your curiosity is piqued, I suggest you find your nearest trusted millennial who can take you on tour of the most popular imaging apps of today, a visit certain rival your most warped Alice in Wonderland–like dreams. Snapchat’s facial-recognition software identifies facial features and then has the ability to morph a face to a more idealized beautified version. It can also add characterizing cartooned features and even swap central features of faces between two different individuals. But Snapchat isn’t the only new app that can instantly deliver an idealized version. Facetune is another photo-editing app I was recently introduced to by my social media–fed teenage kids that allows for “Photoshopping” an image immediately after taken so that it can be posted in all its perfected glory. I am told by my millennial informants that many, if not most, social media–posted photos are tweaked to a perfected idealized “filtered” image. I am sure that there are many next-generation image-altering apps being developed, harnessed and chomping at the bit, ready to soon be released on a beauty-thirsting populace. As I find myself swatting at the myriad of buzzing false images circulating through my office, it caused me to pause and ask: what will these apps mean to the future of our profession?
In the short term, it likely makes our jobs more difficult in that we will be tasked with meeting an idealized metric that is beyond reach, and while we can probably educate our constituents to the reality, it is the longer-term consequences where perhaps we should concentrate the most.
Imagine a future where everyone is entitled to always present, view, and perceive an idealized version of oneself. How we truly appear may never be known and cease to be relevant. All that may matter is what we think we look like. And if 70% of self- esteem is wrapped up in the perception of our own appearances, we can fool ourselves into believing, we are more beautiful than we actually are. Perhaps what we are in fact accomplishing is a virtually engineered improvement in self-esteem. Why employ a surgeon/physician to alter our faces and self-esteem with knives and needles when it can be done with pixels and codes?
Imagine the surreal circumstance in which phones instantly recognize faces and then adjust them to a predetermined idealized version of how one wants to see oneself. Take it a step further: consider if all mirrors were smart. They could be programmed to instantly recognize faces and then morph them to perfected versions … whether it be thicker hair, bigger lips, or different color eyes. We could wake up happy with our appearance despite the facially insulting effects of the previous night’s mojito bender or the sodium-laden chicken fried rice. But what about random reflections, you ask? If when you walk down the street, you see an aversive true version of yourself glimpsed in a car window or glass door? Well, perhaps the next step in the virtual evolution would be smart contact lenses that will instantly recognize and morph any image of ourselves to our idealized version … and maybe these contact lenses could be programed to recognize romantic partners or spouses as an idealized version of themselves as well! We all can be married to the beauty of our choice.
Perhaps our idealized version could be programmed and projected in 3D holograms. I am quite sure if we saw ourselves in our full true glory we wouldn’t like it. When you think about it, we don’t really know what we look like to others. We only see ourselves in a flat 2D represented image, whether it be in a mirror, reflection, or a photograph. But others see us from all angles and perspectives in three dimensions. If we saw ourselves in 3D it might make us uncomfortable, similar to how we feel when we hear our recorded voices. How far off can it be until we bridge the uncanny valley to a sel -satisfying, chosen idealized 3-D humanoid-like version of our selves. Our avatar emoji is only but a logical extension of the cartoon personalized bitmojis sent in text messages today.
Granted, I admit this extreme line of thought is very sci-fi, but can I be that far off? Remember, it was only a little over 100 years ago that in-house toilets and telephones became common, only 65 years since transatlantic flight could be considered a possibility, 25 years since a www lexicon could be understood, and just 10 years since Facebook was launched! Technology is doubling every 11 to 18 months, and likely will accelerate beyond the methodical linear advancements of aesthetic medicine. If the practice of aesthetic medicine as we know it today is at risk of extinction within 2 generations, how will we adapt? Fortunately, like all evolutionary process when one niche contracts, another expands. I, for one, remain optimistic.
But it is never too early to start the conversation.
The views expressed in opinion pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BeautyMatter.
2 Article(s) Remaining