In this story, I analyzed the effects of an element of modern life taken to an extreme.
| Calibri gazed over hundreds of faces. This was his job - monitoring faces for the government. Row upon row of screens displaying beautiful images of people. The mouths of the faces opened and closed. A draft blew a strand of hair. Sometimes a hand would rise up onto a screen in a motion. Every face was perfect, a flawless countenance: sparkling eyes; blushing cheeks; smooth skin; hair full-bodied and radiant with color. There was hair as dark as night and hair as bright as flame, men with beards and men without. Laughter revealed straight white teeth, but the expressions of the less eccentric were just as handsome. Every face was different but all were equally beautiful. The images had reached a height of perfection; they were like angels. Real people, yes. Real faces? Maybe not.
Audio-Visual Communication...that was what this was called. A continuous video feed of a person's face being broadcast through the internet to the computer of another person. People used this technology to speak with one another over great or small distances. In fact, it was the only way people communicated in recent years. How pointless to speak with another person any other way! Why waste time and energy walking to somebody's house to see them when you can stay in your own house and do the same thing? When this is the case, distance becomes relative. "Work smarter, not harder" used to be a common saying, but this generation prefers not to work at all.
When Audio-Visual Communication became the only way people talked, then of course the technology of it started to advance rapidly. The mics and cameras relayed the information instantly, the receiver saw and heard everything exactly how it was. The clarity of millions of tetrapixels is infinitely more exciting than the dullness of our own senses. The speakers supplied a beautiful cadence of speech, perfect in pitch and tone. The videos came alive. They were life.
It started out small - a wrinkle smoothed, a blemish removed. Digital cosmetics simply replaced the old makeup. Soon, however, the changes became more drastic. Eye color, hair color, skin color. Facial hair added or removed as one wished, the shape of the nose, lips, and chin. Teeth were straightened, hair became perfectly straight or perfectly curled. In almost no time at all people became unrecognizable from who they once were.
The videos became reality. And who's to say that it wasn't? It is all anyone ever saw. It was great, the technology fulfilled the dream of every individual. Each person became who he or she always wanted to be. Everyone looked good, everyone was good. Discrimination was finally eliminated. Everyone was the same and everyone was happy.
But in this achievement, mightn't we have lost something? Something perhaps less tangible, but much more valuable?
Calibri looked at another assortment of video feeds and his eyes immediately latched onto a single face. Something was terribly wrong with it. It was disgustingly ugly. That was his first thought, but when he searched the depths of his memory he remembered. Everyone used to look like this man. He wasn't ugly. In fact, 30 years ago he would have been considered decently handsome. But now, in the midst of all these perfect computer-generated faces, he stood out. This man was not using any of the normal methods of digital face reconstruction present in every single one of the other Audio-Visual Communication feeds. Calibri hadn't seen anything like this in years and years... How did he even get a video transmitter that didn't do some of it automatically? The choice the man made was puzzling. As Calibri watched him more closely, he noticed other differences from the other faces. Discrepancies. The man sneezed once, and then he rubbed his slightly too-red nose on his shirt sleeve. He ruffled his hand through his hair that was still sticking up in odd places from recently waking up. He hadn't shaved for a few days. But...he was laughing. An undignified laugh, really. It was unlike the others'; it was...uncontrolled. His graying head cocked upward in his mirth and his teeth were more yellowed than Calibri was accustomed to. He even snorted once. It was a long laugh, probably not considered polite. There was something about that laugh, though, that man... A beauty that could not be found in any of the other faces. No, it was not perfect, but that imperfection made him human. His face was a heart-warming image of empathy and joy. It was so real.