You cannot browse a magazine, or Instagram feed, without the familiar photograph: BEFORE AND AFTER, the two images pressed side by side and labelled with the words ‘AMAZING TRANSFORMATION’.
But it’s not just body transformation we’re suddenly infatuated by, this is a wider cultural trend.
From the rise of plastic surgery to change the body to meet the way one feels they ‘ought’ to look, to a justice system focused on ‘character reform’ and even best-selling apps to bring about major changes to habits and personality.
Our entire socio-political and even legal system has not always been this way, in fact, there were traditionally strongly-held and popular arguments that said the individual should not be forced to reform, from Jeremy Bentham to early legal scholars of the rationalist school, such as Cesare Beccaria who argued all crime was the result of a personal choice, and that one choice, and one choice alone should be punished without consideration for the background or character of the criminal. Such criminals should certainly not be forced to reform themselves if they don’t want to.
This argument is non-existent today. We live in the Reformation Age.
Our entire legal, psychiatric and socio-political establishment is single-mindedly focused on one goal: Bringing about the entire transformation of the human condition.
Forget cancer cures, the real focus of modern science is the editing of the entire genome to design humans that can be free of all disease and malfunction. Total transformation of the experience of disease itself is the new focus of the natural sciences.
Celebration of the body in a sex positive culture? Nonsense. We’re living in the age of Gym Memberships, Protein Powders, Spray Tans and Diet Plans. Our goal is to reform the natural body into a manufactured state that is completely new in its proportions, colouring and styling. This will progress as humans increasingly rely on technology to transform our appearance. It starts with Instagram Filters and ends with the merger of human and machine to create an entirely new species. Yuval Noah Harari calls this next species the ‘Homo Deus’ as the goal is to become ‘god like’ in our achievement of total control of the human experience.
This transition happens slowly and incrementally, it is first used to cure specific diseases and disabilities, such as the incredible breakthroughs in cancer research and robotic limbs we see all around us today, but this is part of a wider, long-term macro trend, and not one that’s just focused on solving the pain and suffering in the world, this is a wider move away from celebration of the here and now and into a human race entirely focused on the new, the better, the future.
Our economic conditions will prevent us from turning back – we have created an economic system entirely dependent on future growth in these very industries, if we do not move in this direction of scientific and technological innovation – and adoption – our entire society will collapse in the widest, most global, economic disaster the world has ever known.
Psychiatric treatments will be developed that make people feel more able to control their personality traits, happiness levels, sexual desire and hunger. They will be made widely available as off-the-shelf solutions.
Gym’s will become increasingly high-tech, eventually transforming into ‘Aesthetic Transformation Centres’ where plastic surgery, liposuction and body sculpting will be supplemented with the bare minimum amount of exercise required to create a healthy body. Transformation is the real goal here, not the pleasure of exercise and healthy living.
New foods will be developed in the vain of Soylent – only they will satisfy us in more and more exciting ways, while fulfilling our basic needs of biological nutrition. The goal will become the reformation of our food culture, where nutritional needs can be met in any flavour, texture or style of food we desire. Pure protein that tastes like Pistachio ice cream. Sign me up.
Our clothing industry will become increasingly personalised, as body scanners and 3D printing grows and becomes more mainstream and user friendly, people will be able to print their own unique styles of outfits to transform their body into any look they like. Gender expression will become far more fluid as a result, as clothes become tailored to YOU rather than a gender or style or department.
Mirrors will have built in filters and cameras, so you can apply a filter to your look and share it with your community, right here, right now. No one has to look at themselves in an objective light in the Reformation Age. The goal is always the same: Whatever you wish to be, there’s a technology out there to give it to you.
These future predictions may seem humorous and cinematic, but they are extensions of the current industry trends – and more importantly, the wider macro-trend.
This trend is all flowing from one central ideology held in our culture on a grand and global scale: Reformation.
The idea that every human is inherently flawed (“We ALL have problems, you know!”) and we should invest in science and technology to sell us the solutions. Evidence that this is the direction society is likely to continue in is easy to find: Look at where the money is going. Science and Technology, the birth of specialised centres such as Silicon Valley and the NASA-Research centre’s Singularity University, are all indicative that our society has built a strong economic and social dependence on this direction. It’s become impossible to turn back now, even if we wanted to.
We’re hooked on reinvention, transformation, reformation. And there is no Methadone to wean us from it.
We have solutions to this constant craving though, and these solutions come in one form: THE PRODUCTS OF THE REFORMATION MOTIVE.
Our houses will become increasingly smart, our bodies increasingly manufactured and our lives increasingly reformed to be happier, prettier, and smarter.
And that has got to be a great thing, right? So why does it still feel so terrifying?