The narcissistic culture of Instagram and Snapchat has been cause for much consternation amongst parents and social commentators the world over. The winning formula seems to be polished presentations of lives of travel, luxury goods, expensive meals and flaming cocktails, all enjoyed while somehow maintaining a six pack and perfect thigh gap. These are unrealistic goals, at best, for most of the world’s population.
But I’m not sure this artifice is anything new, or unique to social media. For as long as I can remember, people have driven fast cars on finance packages they can’t really afford. If we hadn’t always had a tendency to present a false reality beyond our means, there would have been nothing for the long-running TV series ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ to lampoon. I’m pretty sure Jane Austen’s novels address some of this pretence 200 years ago.
Nonetheless, in an age of ubiquitous media where everyone is a publisher, the level of investment and effort that we go to in order to present these idealised versions of our lives has increased. And that makes it into a big business. Go to the launch of just about any Chinese brand of phone and they will be blunt about it: our selfie filters will do the best job of making you look younger and prettier.
As we transition from the smartphone into the mixed reality era, the business of lying could jump to whole new levels. Imagine if you can digitally alter the way that people perceive you — at least, as long as they are wearing their augmented reality headset. You can change the way you look, and sound.
What would you pay to create the perfect look? Will you have virtual clothes? People already pay tens of pounds for custom Snapchat filters and social stickers. It’s easy to see a booming industry in digital tattoos, cosmetics, hair styling — even prosthetics.
For all my pessimism about future jobs, this is one area I can see absolutely booming. Yes, some of this content could be procedurally generated — endless iterations of the same t-shirt created from a few seed lines of code. And some could be created from 3D scans of real-world objects — and people. But the real creativity that we value is likely to remain human. Shaping our augmented reality presence could be a future boom in the artisan gig economy.
Like this? Get more at subscribe.bookofthefuture.co.uk