STT verkenning Toekomst van het lichaam by Robin Bregman

The following text was originally written in Dutch by Lija Groenewoud van Vliet with input from Isaac Monté and Rodolfo Groenewoud van Vliet. It was requested by STT as a guest contribution for their publication on ‘the Exploration of the Future of the Body.’ The text is reviewed and edited by Robin Bregman and Sander Ruijsbroek for this publication ‘STT verkenning Toekomst van het lichaam’, published Oct 2023. The original text can be viewed online in the full publication, p. 48- 54. STT works on long-term future studies and investigates the possible influence of technology on various social themes. STT does not make predictions but describes alternative futures. The publications of the explorations are very diverse: reports, articles, documentaries and serious games.

Welcome to the bright future!

In Europe, more than a quarter of society consists of people over the age of sixty – the ‘silver’ population is everywhere. Fortunately, they can often grow old healthily and happily, because they:

  • Live more independently and safely at home for longer and longer

  • Avoid and reduce hospital admissions

  • Be able to socialize and participate better in society

Our environment is fully digitalized and sensor-filled. Digital health has become a lifestyle, dictating new beauty standards.

Growing older comes with a new beauty standard. Giving the second half of your life a new look, while monitoring and improving your health. This has been facilitated by assistive technology that encourages active, graceful aging in a social context. In addition, it provides preventive warnings for increasing risks of poor health. Social resilience is called upon to tackle this together.

Identity is linked to beauty. Appearance that shows how healthy you are based on measurements, while also giving you the opportunity to change behavior or gain access to care. It shows fragility and resilience, it plays with maintaining versus improving and has a consequence for self-esteem. The body, and therefore identity, is connected to digitalization and the hyper-connectivity of everything.

What if the beauty of the future is linked to health, to the will to collectively keep healthcare costs as low as possible and promote health?


New beauty ideal

The majority of the population considers appearance important. Body appearance and perception changes over time. The physical body is sculpted with accessories (or interventions) and thus contributes to our identity. The creation is a combination of our own strengths and outside influences. It is linked to a subjective image of beauty. The influences of social, behavioral and environmental aspects influence health and thus become part of your identity. This leads to a renewed ideal of beauty, where boundaries between inner and outer become blurred. A new system for a healthy lifestyle that also makes you more beautiful. As we age, physical, sensory and cognitive changes occur. Wisdom increases, while the ability to process new information decreases. Herein lies the opportunity to provide a preventive, social, intergenerational system. By responding to social health, personal beauty and self-perception, you get a preventive system that goes hand in hand with greater environmental awareness.


Prosthetic X is a vision of the future for such a scenario. This speculates on how non-invasive tools will give us insight into physical and mental health. It strengthens empathy, celebrates knowledge and combats the threat of loneliness, isolation and health problems. The dark side of aging fades and a new ideal of beauty is unleashed. Prosthetic X is a technological artificial data organ that is very reminiscent of a natural organ. They are prostheses that serve as aesthetic indicators for the functioning or not of (parts of) the body.

This also raises questions about how much health promotion we accept, for example. But also issues surrounding equality and whether or not to ‘grow old healthily and gracefully’ be mandatory as part of health insurance. This has consequences for choices and our autonomy: should we want to measure and know everything about our body?

Moving, colorful intuitive tool

Just as animals in nature give signals, demonstrate skills or display attraction, through Prosthetic X offers people new body extensions that live, breathe, move, change color, just like the organs in our body. They provide real-time insight into our internal processes and beauty.

PROSTHETIC X Overview locations on body and hands

Classification and visualization are interesting topics in prosthetics. These determine what they look like and how readable these tools are. This is very important because they become part of someone’s identity. The colors differ from person to person, depending on, among other things, subjective perception of beauty and cultural interpretation. For example, red means danger to some, and love to others. By linking color to a second dimension of change, size or movement, they show our well-being and its degree of development. Such a tool stands or falls on its safety and personalization options (personal reading key), where there are sufficient trigger points to stimulate social interaction. However, this requires a society that is less alienating compared to wearing interactive high-tech tools, and a social system that encourages healthy behavior. A form of digital, non-invasive bio-prosthetics, added to life, that can be adjusted by the user.

In the future there will be a system of smart sensors that you wear visibly in places where signs of aging appear. These digital bio-prosthetics continuously measure certain aspects of our physical and mental condition. You will receive an overview of the improvements: whether in real time or weekly. Not on an app, but on your body. This leads to questions about privacy and social etiquette. Is it desirable that we address each other about healthy behavior and support each other in case of decline? Should someone always make an active request for help or can it arise passively by letting the body speak and is it an open call for everyone to anticipate this?

To make these forms of identity possible, conscious and responsible handling of data is necessary. A system where the user has ownership over personal data for scientific, commercial or other purposes. The data must only be accessible if the user grants access and indicates for what purpose.

How much technology can we connect to our bodies? This is an open question. This also leads to questions about sovereignty over the data, its visibility and vulnerability. But also questions about expressing identity; Can it also lead to exclusion? It’s great if everything goes well, but what social effect does it have to publicly display unhealthiness? History is harsh with the stigmatization regarding the outward symptoms of disease (leprosy, plague, physical illness), and does not shy away from exclusion for fear of contamination. How contagious is a lifestyle? How much does someone want to have their own health monitored? Will you then crave confirmation from others?

Blossoming: healthy together

We are ready for different perspectives on expressing identity and growing older. The marketing of anti-aging beauty products emphasizes a negative, problematic interpretation that drives shame and stigmatization. On the other hand, there is wisdom and life experience. In the future, this will be a part of beauty for which there will be more space. And by encouraging social interaction, also understanding.

As far as we are concerned, the future of the body lies in enabling social interaction (to reduce isolation and loneliness). And in promoting healthy aging (by providing signals for a longer, healthier and more beautiful life). By linking this to an effective motivation strategy, a system is created where prevention is the starting point. This is translated into organs of beauty and identity where practical monitoring is an aesthetic, stylish addition. There is no shame in symptoms of physical deterioration or mental loneliness, but digital prostheses actually help us accept ourselves and ask for or offer help.

In the future, health tracking tools will dominate our street scene. Better to be transparent and visible, calling on support, with a personal reading key, then secretly, hidden away, with untransparent tracking of data. In short, proudly carrying the tools like a peacock as part of the identity and form of personal expression. Growing old in good health starts early.

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