There was something strange, I said, about the racial aspect of Instagram Face—it was as if the algorithmic tendency to flatten everything into a composite of greatest hits had resulted in a beauty ideal that favored white women capable of manufacturing a look of rootless exoticism. “Absolutely,” Smith said. “We’re talking an overly tan skin tone, a South Asian influence with the brows and eye shape, an African-American influence with the lips, a Caucasian influence with the nose, a cheek structure that is predominantly Native American and Middle Eastern.” Did Smith think that Instagram Face was actually making people look better? He did. “People are absolutely getting prettier,” he said. “The world is so visual right now, and it’s only getting more visual, and people want to upgrade the way they relate to it.”

This was an optimistic way of looking at the situation. I told Smith that I couldn’t shake the feeling that technology is rewriting our bodies to correspond to its own interests—rearranging our faces according to whatever increases engagement and likes. “Don’t you think it’s scary to imagine people doing this forever?” I asked.

Jia Tolentino on Instagram Face.

I mean, on the one hand, as a post-/transhumanist at heart I’m all for people modifying their bodies in whatever ways they want. On the other, as Tolentino quotes elsewhere in the article (from philosopher Heather Widdows): Choice cannot make an unjust or exploitative practice or act somehow, magically, just or non-exploitative