The post-biological evolution of appearance, part 2

In response to yesterday’s post, Adrian wrote a very thoughtful comment. Suppose, he posited, that in an Augmented Reality world in which people could have any appearance, that a person’s appearance is determined not by the person being looked at, but rather by the person doing the looking.

Technologically speaking, either or both are equally feasible. In this future world, any person walking down the street could set their default avatar. For observers who do not override this default, that is how the person will appear.

Yet, as Adrian points out, an observer could indeed choose to override that default. Such an observer would then take control of his or own perception of the person being observed.

Yet I would argue that the overriding issues here are not technological, but rather sociological, psychological and emotional. Rather than ask what is technologically possible, we might well ask what is most likely from a human perspective.

And here I suspect the answer will be the same as it has been down throughout human history: Decisions about appearance are based not on theoretical limits of absolute freedom, but rather the emotional and cultural imperatives of consensus.

Most people are not driven primarily by a desire to separate themselves from their fellow humans, but rather to find congenial kinship groups, and to then make common cause with those groups. If you are the only person who sees other people in a particular way, then you are effectively forming a kinship group of one, and your opportunities to engage in consensus and social sharing with others become diminished.

Which is why I suspect that the great majority of people in an Augmented Reality future will chose to keep the default settings that others have set for their own appearance, rather than to override those settings.

The latter choice may be very amusing, but the former choice allows us to learn more about the person being observed. Even more important, it allows us to share that knowledge with other people in our own kinship groups.

One Response to “The post-biological evolution of appearance, part 2”

  1. Demian says:

    The fun will start when some radical group will start spreading viruses that slightly alter the avatar of members from an other (say ethnic) group to exhibit their perceived ‘discrepancy’.

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