How might we define beauty in a future of cyborgs and the genetically enhanced?
Today we live in a world that has been radically transformed by the hands of advanced science and technology. Depending on which sci-fi literature you might’ve read, one could accurately portray today’s reality as a sci-fi future. A future where everyone is interconnected using tiny computational devices which fit in their pockets, biological limbs being replaced by advanced bionic prosthetics, and disease being combated using gene-editing tools.
Today’s human is so radically different from those only 20 years ago that even The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, has come to refer to us as “baby cyborgs.” Which is certainly an accurate portrayal of where we stand today — in a time of what I consider to be prepubescent transhumanism.
We are taking our very first steps in a very long journey. It resonates quite well with what the American philosopher and inventor Buckminster Fuller once said:
“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”
And as an evolutionary process, how might humanity change as the years continue to go by? As a species who increasingly imbue an innate desire to enhance their physical attributes, how might we then define our sense of beauty in this future of cyborgs and the genetically modified?
Take Rebekah Marine as an example. She is what is known as a Bionic Model — a model who has radically transformed the beauty industry and has challenged the standards of beauty of which society has defined it.
As the human biological substrate continues to change by the hands of advanced science and technology, so too will our perception of beauty. Certainly how we define beauty will forever remain a subjective perception, but our objective transformations of the human body will subsequently alter those perceptions in themselves. An entire assortment of options for the human body to appear will emerge, providing new standards of which we’ll define beauty among individuals.
Before we ever created makeup, how we defined someone as being beautiful was limited by one’s phenotypical attributes alone. After makeup was created, however, newer options became available to us. The same is to be said of plastic surgery. While originally a slave to the biological human condition, we’ve now taken it upon ourselves in deciding how we physically appear to other people. And with the development of advanced prosthetic limbs, we’re now only further enhancing our proclivity to augment the human biological substrate.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Yes, beauty shall remain in the eye of the beholder, as the old adage goes, but then what if the eye of the beholder is bionic in itself? How might we then perceive beauty? If the human eye has been replaced by an artificial bionic system, how might we perceive the world in its entirety?
Remember, humans are incredibly limited in their biological capacity to see. This limitation is due to a limiting quantity of photoreceptors, rods, and cones in a single human eye. In comparison to other animals, the human eye is barely touching the surface in perceiving reality for what it truly is.
Take the Mantis Shrimp as an example. While we humans contain a puny number of 3 color receptor types, the Mantis Shrimp has a whopping 12 types of color receptors, including the ability to see ultraviolet, infrared, and polarized light. How they see the world is beyond comprehensible.
Can you imagine how radically different the world would be if we humans contained similar eyesight? Our current standards of beauty would be nothing in comparison to this radical transformation. If humans were to acquire bionic eyes which enhanced their eyesight to see the world as the Mantis Shrimp does, would we perceive the beautiful as being even more so? Perhaps our enhanced eyesight would have the opposite effect: seeing the originally beautiful as being less so and those we originally deemed ugly as the contrary.
It’s hard to tell right now, considering that bionic eye replacements are still in their prepubescent stage. But if the recent enhancements of beauty using advanced bionic limbs tells us anything, it’s that our standards of beauty will continue to change and evolve alongside our own techno-evolutionary transformation. Even so, our perception of beauty will be, and forever shall be, in the eye of the beholder — bionic or otherwise.