Genetic Engineering and Our Obsession with Beauty

chu20140727aBut once we learn how to democratize movie-star looks through genetic engineering, will we be satisfied? Most likely not. As looks become less of a differentiator, we will appreciate other personal characteristics more, such as kindness and intelligence.”

via Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

A Korean woman was on the verge of divorce because her husband no longer found her attractive and was having an affair. Nothing worked in her efforts to save the marriage and as a last resort she underwent cosmetic surgery. The result was so dramatic and her son didn’t recognize her when she returned home.

Even more dramatic was her husband’s attitude towards his new “goddess”: no more mention of divorce, and he was now  willing staying at home all the time! This seems to be a true story as the woman appeared on a TV show. Unfortunately the show is in Korean, but you can see many amazing “before-and-after” faces on this short video.

The Korean plastic surgery industry has been a huge success in tapping into this fundamental human desire. And who does not love beauty? But of course the “beauty cure” is transitory. A popular joke is: How can a Korean groom know the real face of his bride? Answer: wait till the baby is born. On the other hand, the joke won’t work anymore if such “beauty” modifications begin to occur at the genetic level.

Then it will be truly a long-term investment, avoiding the cost and possible surgical pain if future generations get the same idea as the Korean woman, and then turn to fundamental genetic alteration that will effect their progeny too!

People who object to this may argue that we should learn to love what we have, or what we are born with. Indeed we should. But the natural attraction to beauty is universal and undeniable. How we look not only matters for marriage, but also for one’s job and social life. Academic studies have found that we are more likely to earn more and make more friends with good looks, especially for females.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    I wonder if this is basically a problem of “bright line” incentives. That is, maybe the excessive emphasis on beauty for women is ultimately driven by the historical biological fact that the implications of pregnancy are much more severe for women than for men. If women didn’t have so much riding on a potential unwanted pregnancy, no one would feel the need to place so much emphasis on trivial differentials like beauty in mate selection.

    Maybe the answer is to make contraception more widely available and socialize more of the costs of raising children.

    • InfvoCuernos

      I have never thought about that, but it makes sense socially. Its like that old line about supporting schools even if you don’t have children because you don’t want a bunch of dumbasses around you.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        You have to admit, the whole process would be less stressful if everyone would just put out.

        • Oginikwe

          We had that but then the missionaries ruined everything.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I sometimes forget that the world didn’t begin with 19th century Europrudery.

  • Adam’s Shadow

    Plastic surgery has no interest for me until bat wings and tiger stripes become affordable.

    • InfvoCuernos

      I want nightvision eyes!

  • BuzzCoastin

    the down side of cosmetic surgeries
    which are legion:
    botched surgeries, devective & dangerous implants, infections etc
    never get much play in the press
    unless it’s about aMerkin actresses bad boob jobs

    • InfvoCuernos

      And down here by the border, we have cut-rate plastic surgeons in Tijuana with zero liability insurance and absolutely nothing but the honor of the Doctor to make sure everything is ok. I’ve seen some real life horrorshows. It is life threateningly bad, but not a surprise that people go with the cheapest deal, even knowing the risks.

  • Mr B

    “As looks become less of a differentiator, we will appreciate other personal characteristics more, such as kindness and intelligence.”

  • InfvoCuernos

    I can’t believe that she went though all that surgery and didn’t get her ears evened out, UGH- how can her husband stand that?!?! (<==sarcasm)

  • Damien Quinn

    “Beauty” is a difficult concept. It’s part genetic programming and part social construct.

    On the genetic side of things, our brains average out the features of all the people we see, allowing for evolutionary markers like skin tone and weight, and calls that beauty. This bias becomes a social construct because, if a huge proportion of the people we see dye their hair a certain way or dress a certain way (or are media bombarded air brushed models), this will skew our averages in favor of that particular look.

    We all have our averages set at a slightly different level, you see your own face, your friends and families faces and the faces
    presented by the media you consume, and the averages of these people is what you call beautiful. This also means that, if your social interaction is skewed away from real life then your average will become unrealistic.

  • iwanttobelieve

    And they made her neck longer and thicker? And they reshaped her clavicles? And they beefed up her trapeziuses? Wow, good job plastic surgeons!

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