Monday, May 30, 2011

Body Modification and Predictions about the Future

A few years ago, I was talking to some guy and somehow we got on the subject of the younger generation. It didn't take me too long to realize his attitude was a lot different from mine. His attitude was pretty much "Kids today don't know anything" while my attitude was more like "These kids will kill you and eat you."

When we got to the subject of tattoos and body piercings, he recited the familiar trope that when these kids go out into the real world, the only jobs they'll be able to get are the ones where they ask, "Do you want fries with that?" First of all, I didn't think that was a very clever remark the first time I heard it, and by the time this guy said it, I thought it was even less clever. So I couldn't give him any points for originality. But secondly, I didn't even agree with him.

I told him that as more people get tattooed and pierced, it will become more socially acceptable, and more people will do it at an earlier age. So by the time they enter the job market, such body modifications won't seem the least bit strange or off-putting. If you're a college graduate with tattoos up and down your arms, and the guy in his mid-thirties who's interviewing you happens to have a few tattoos as well, it might even work in your favor. As a matter of fact, you might have the advantage over another applicant who doesn't have any tattoos.

Does that sound far-fetched? I don't know. It seems possible to me. I'm not very good at predicting the future, though, so the best I can do is hope that my lack of tattoos and piercings will never put me at a disadvantage.

Okay, here's another idea related to body modification. I remember when women who got plastic surgery generally didn't want to admit it. I guess the idea was they wanted people to think they looked that way naturally, and didn't need a surgeon to make them look good. For that matter, women used to be equally coy about whether or not they died their hair.

But look how things have changed since then. Not only do women not hide their surgical attempts at looking good -- some of them actually brag about them. They talk about what procedures they've had, and what procedures they're thinking about getting. And men are slowly becoming just as bad.

So here's the idea. As more and more people have plastic surgery, it will eventually become the norm, so the people who haven't had plastic surgery will be regarded as oddities or freaks. That's bad, but what's even worse is that those of us who are naturally good-looking will have a difficult time convincing others that we never resorted to surgical means. I dread being told, "You couldn't possibly look this good on your own! You must have had something done!" My only hope is that in the future, I won't be as handsome as I am today.

Okay, I may have been stretching things a little, perhaps especially in regard to my own physical appearance, but my prediction is still very plausible. As a matter of fact, I think I've actually understated what things will really be like, because I didn't mention how popular liposuction, bariatric surgery, and other means to turn fat people into lean ones will become. As these procedures improve, or are supplanted with safer and more effective procedures, they'll become commonplace, and perhaps even de rigueur.

My final thought today doesn't have anything to do with body modification, but because it's a prediction about the future, I'll include it here for your consideration.

You've probably heard that in Shakespeare's time, there was no standardized spelling. Most people were illiterate so they didn't even write things, but those who did (William Shakespeare, for example) just spelled things in a way that made the most sense to them. The commonly-held belief is that standardized spelling was a result of the printing press, because it centralized the publication of news and literature. As a side note, television and movies are credited with having a similar effect. Although television networks may have started in New York city, as the medium became increasingly popular a lot of broadcasting was done in Los Angeles. This, combined with the fact that all the movie studios were in Los Angeles, is responsible for the West coast accent becoming so predominant and why all the people in the United States who use a different accent sound like they talk funny.

But let's get back to the printing press. Or, more specifically, the centralization of publishing. Or, more accurately, the decentralization of publishing. It's been going on for a while, but publishing at the present time is very decentralized. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can create a web site and publish whatever he wants to his heart's content. And I'm all for that because, let's face it, who doesn't want to read a bunch of nonsense endlessly spewed out by halfwit morons?

But I'm not going to focus on the content of such web sites -- I'm going to focus on the spelling, because I believe that just as the centralization of publishing led us to a standardization of spelling, the decentralization is leading us away from such a standard. This isn't just a theory, by the way. I've seen some of the same words misspelled on different web sites and I believe some of these will eventually be accepted as acceptable spellings. This isn't really anything new, since language changes all the time, and it usually changes when a lot of people make the same mistakes over and over until the mistakes are no longer considered mistakes. Consider the words yogurt and donut, for example. But in the past, the new way of spelling something eventually replaced the old way, whereas today, the old way and new way will probably coexist, as long as the people who know how to spell have as many web sites as the people who don't.

Okay, that's all I have to say on this matter. As a matter of fact, it's more than I have to say on the matter. All I really had was that one sentence about how decentralized publishing will lead us away from standardized spelling. I should have quit there, because after that it started to get sort of boring. So there it is. Unfortunately, I don't have a clever remark to end with, so I'll just wrap things up by warning you not to be too surprised if in the future, everyone has plastic surgery and tattoos and nobody knows how to spell.