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Illustration for article titled GroupThought Experiment: What If Appearance Were Malleable?

So this is one of my favorite thought experiments because it deconstructs the reasons why we place value on appearance. I like thinking about what happens when you remove limits from people (I'm an optimist like that).


Let's suppose that tomorrow, all of a sudden everyone can change their appearance in essentially any way they want. Skin color, hair, gender, hell, you can have wings if you want to. Basically, no limits. The mechanism doesn't really matter; let's say some kind of amazing virus spread all over the world such that this ability is cost-free.

How would the world change? What would racism mean? What would sexism, ageism, ableism, trans- and homophobia mean? Anything at all? How would the world look in the first few:

  • Days?
  • Weeks?
  • Months?
  • Years?

There are interesting corollaries to this you can explore if you want — any technology or whatever that could enable this would also necessarily "fix" a lot of medical problems and possibly end aging by dint of allowing unlimited reshaping of your body. But anyway. I'm curious what you guys think.


ETA: My thoughts on how things would break down:

  • Days: Everyone decides to be a supermodel of some kind or another.
  • Weeks: People get a little bored with being supermodels, start spicing it up with green hair, etc.
  • Months: Real conversations start to be had about how people present themselves and why, what "attractive" means in a world where you can be literally anything, etc.
  • Years: Endless diversity with zero judgement beyond appreciation of creativity, because being negative about anyone else's appearance is absurd in this new world.

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