One day, perhaps not that many years from now, we will hold even our most ordinary conversations with the aid of very advanced software. We won’t be thinking about this software at all. It will just be doing its business quietly, turning real-time images of our facial expressions and body movements into emotive avatars that help to convey the subtleties of our communication across the world, perhaps representing us as virtual avatars.
The appearance of these avatars may vary, depending on the social or professional situation. We will think of them the way we now think of clothing: We wear them not to misrepresent ourselves, but rather as a kind of adornment, a way to better convey which side of our selves we are trying to bring to a particular situation.
One side effect of all this is that our every movement and facial expression will be tracked, and can be retrieved later for playback. If privacy laws are properly set up, random strangers will not be permitted to invade our lives by re-playing our every moment. But we ourselves certainly will be.
And that brings up an opportunity — one that is more or less new in human existence. We can examine, post facto, how we have expressed ourselves to others. If we became angry in a social situation, or acted awkwardly, we can use such recordings to learn how to do better. In ways never before possible, we will be able to hold an informed mirror up to ourselves, and perhaps improve our ability to communicate and share our feelings with others.
Instead of simply experiencing l’esprit d’espalier, the missed opportunity to say what we really meant to say, or to properly channel, in the heat of the moment, unexpected feelings of fear or distress, we will be able to look back on those moments, and perhaps learn from them.