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Human Race Machine


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Television shows highlight all kinds of makeovers these days, but there's a device that will let anyone see themselves in a whole new way ... and maybe see others differently. Barry Simmons took a tour of the Human Race Machine.


(Locator: Fort Worth, Texas)

As exhibits go, this is what you might call, "in your face."

Phyllis Jefferson, Participant: "Let's see what I look like at 78. There you go, look, I've got some wrinkles."

The human race machine uses a software program the FBI's had for years, that projects what visitors will look like later in life.

Phyllis Jefferson, Participant: "This is 10 years later. I don¹t see much difference. That's good, right?"

But the program does something else: by mapping certain points on your face, it can change your race. And it works, usually.

Mavis Knight, Participant: "Can you see the difference? This is neat!"

Mavis Knight wanted to know what she would look like if she were Middle-Eastern. So she sat for a photo, told the computer where to find her eyes, nose, mouth, and chin, and moments later saw a very different face.

Mavis Knight, Participant: "We'll look at that. I'm telling you."

The program allows users to also see themselves as white, black, Asian, Hispanic, or Indian.

Anne Ewing, Participant: "You're so used to yourself. I kind of have an anticipation of what I'm going to see. And when it changes, it's like 'Hello?'"

John Coleman, General Commission on Religion and Race: "It's appropriately named the Human Race Machine because that's what we really all belong to, more so than our individual racial appearances."

The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race brought the machine to the denomination's General Conference to make a point, according to booth planner John Coleman.

John Coleman, General Commission on Religion and Race: "There's very little biological distinction between us as people in terms of race. There's more biological distinction whether you're left-handed or right-handed than what race you are."

Coleman says the machine has been a hit. But it doesn't just entertain. More than any other perhaps, this one transforms.

Anne Ewing, delegate from Philadelphia: "I think the lesson for me is we're still more alike than we are different, even when our features change."


The Human Race Machine is part of a larger exhibit by the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race called "The Journey to Inclusiveness." The display explores the struggles and triumphs of minorities in the church.

Also, see: Exhibit narrates the journey toward inclusiveness