ENTRY 259: Ageshift
Throughout its history, transhumanity has devoted a considerable portion of its resources to altering its cosmetic age, both through primitive augmentations and the artifice of dyes, unguents, powders, and other make-up to conceal or alter the signs of aging. Children painted their faces like whores and danced around in skimpy sexualized clothing to ape their twenty-something rockstars as pimps and fathers shaved their children down and dressed them to look younger for their prospective buyers; old men and women clung vicariously to the fragile illusion of youth and beauty while hard-faced young men grew out their scanty beards and endeavored to hide their cracking voices. With advances in technology, the procedures and artistry grew more refined if no less ugly and undignified: implants, liposuctions, tucks, injections, shapings…centuries of set dressing, only to leave the stark realities of aging to limp along behind it. It is only in contemporary times that lifespans have been prolonged and cosmetic augmentations perfected to the point that age truly is a cosmetic matter.
Yet society has not quite caught up to understanding this masque on an intuitive level; old habits lend a quantifiable psychological deference to age and pedantic streak toward youth, though the prevalence of neotenics in some habitats has eased that cognitive bias. More difficult for habitats and individuals to deal with are the ethics and morals of age—the restrictions on interacting with individual morphs based on their apparent physical age/maturity versus the mental maturity of their ego. In some habitats it is considered statutory rape if one party is a juvenile ego in a mature body (or vice versa); in others the complexity of the situation or the lack of regulation has led to a more open environment, though public scruples usually mean that abuse, if discovered, does not remain unpunished. But in an autonomist habitat where individual privacy and freedom are cherished, who is going to permit snooping just to make sure all the participants meet unwritten standards of mental and physical maturity?
Most of the cosmetic details of aging in biomorphs can be handled cosmetic augmentations—wrinkles, graying hair, loss of skin elasticity, sagging boobs and butts, etc. are all fairly standard procedures; extreme cases of age (liver spots, dowager’s hump, etc.) require slightly more drastic correction, but in general looking like you’re in your 30s when you’re 120-year-old flat is not a tremendous challenge. Most of the same or equivalent procedures are available for other biomorphs, though few need it yet except for certain uplifts. Neotenics with their peculiar design still suffer some of the cosmetic effects of aging, though not maturity, which somewhere down the line could result in some quite interesting sights.
Ageshift is an extensive cyberware augmentation for biomorphs that allows them to control their apparent age to a degree. The effect is cosmetic, but extremely evocative: dental sets shift and replace, smart forms in the face reconfigure to emulate the saggy hollowness of old age or the babyfat-puffyness of youth, long bones extend or shorten to add or subtract height, etc. Neotenics with ageshift can change their apparent appearance from about seven to mid-teens; flats, splicers, and the like can mimic from the late-teens to early decrepitude. The effect is purely cosmetic, but adds +20 to Disguise skill tests when playing someone of a different age. The cost of the augmentation is Moderate.
The accepted age boundaries of sexuality have been a moderately popular topic in science fiction since at least the 1960s; depending on the people you game with this might or might not be an acceptable topic to bring up to the table, though in general acting out the events of Lolita against a space opera setting is in poor taste. Still, the question of apparent age when dealing with NPCs can be an important one without dipping into the poisoned well of pederasty and To Catch a Predator 3000. Neotenic characters might appreciate a way to better blend in with more grown-up morphs, and “surprisingly spry” centenarians are fun NPCs to spring on the player characters every now and again; literally old enemies might show up in young, fit bodies that completely change the dynamic of their relationship with the character—and synthmorphs might just shake their heads at the whole silly business.