EDIT: The new Atom article is up here, and you can Digg it up here if you are the type that is so inclined to dig. Also, my new Cracked article about how the sum of all human knowledge hates your penis is up over here, and you can Digg it here if you like it, or even if you don’t like it, just as long as you do what you’re fucking told, Sport.
Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?
Then you probably have self esteem issues. That’s your deal. This is about science, fucko, don’t bring your personal baggage here. But if you really insist, there may be a little something science can do to help:
Cognitive Neuroscientists (that’s just a fancy term for “thinky brain-thinkers,”) at a Swedish medical university have recently confirmed and recreated a “body swap.” Which begs the question, how do you get funding for something like this? Write up a proposal entitled Freaky Friday: Let’s Make That Shit Happen and submit it to the resident board of eccentric millionaires?
Well, regardless of how it came about, it was ultimately successful: The experiment entailed hooking up two cameras to the head of a mannequin that in turn broadcasted to two screens placed over a subject’s eyes. The subject and the dummy’s movements were then mirrored – you looked down, the mannequin looked down – while researchers touched both subject and the dummy at the same time, and in the same places. This illusion of physical contact while supplying separate visual stimuli, caused the subjects to feel as though they actually inhabited the bodies of these mannequins from that point onward. As a final measure, the scientists held a knife to the arm of the mannequin, and recorded increased stress levels in their subjects who, in actuality, had no such knife placed against them… because really, what experiment is complete without an impromptu display of total dickotry?
The scientists cite the potential use of this newfound discovery in everything from virtual reality to robotics, and that’s the truly interesting part – how, exactly, would this method apply to these fields? If, with a few quick sensory prompts, you could physically realign yourself to a virtual avatar – then that’s it!
Virtual reality achieved!
Have fun fucking cartoon tigers in space, internet, you’ve earned it!
Oh but then, there’s no word on how long this sensation lasts; it seems more along the line of optical illusion that sustainable feeling. I suppose you could be continually prompted with on screen cues that match up to your virtual avatar but really, what’s the point of an advanced virtual reality system if all it can simulate is getting poked with sticks every thirty seconds? I’m sure that’s probably enough to get off some very mild masochists, and maybe some exceptionally lonely people just yearning for touch, but for the rest of us it’s just spending thousands of dollars to be moderately annoyed…only now it’s in cyberspace! But what if there is a way to make this sustainable without being intrusive? That would open some pretty amazing doors. For example, I think we all remember a little movie called Strange Days where the concept of VR as a drug was first introduced:
Essentially, Strange Days had people who would wear sensation-monitoring rigs for a period of time, and others would then buy the recordings from these rigs to virtually live out episodes of the recorder’s lives. Usually they were doing something exciting, like getting intensely high, having sex with celebrities, jumping out of planes, or maybe fending off a gang single-handedly in a bar brawl – basically, like being Christian Bale on an average night out.
So if you could sustain this body swap, it could take just a few cues at the beginning of a high definition tape – filmed from first person – and you’d be set for wild adventures! That would certainly change the desperate–plea-for-attention-celebrity-sex-tape, for one: Now you could physically be Tommy Lee for a night, and afterwards you wouldn’t suffer from a new and enraged hepatitis infection. Even Tommy Lee doesn’t get to do that!
But perhaps more worrying here is that “cited potential use” in robotics. Most likely they’re referring to something like better syncing users to remote control robots in order to improve operation, but that brings about its own questions: Like if you could physically feel a remote control robot’s actions, wouldn’t you then have what amounts to a totally safe, completely anonymous real world proxy? You could sexually harass women, beat the shit out of a stranger, or just generally be the world’s most raging douchebag completely without fear of consequence – basically, like being Russell Crowe on an average night out.
That’s scary enough on its own, but there’s also this nagging little voice in my head that sees “body swapping” and “robotics applications,” and can only think “ROBOTS WILL STEAL YOUR FUCKING BODY!” I mean, you already know they envy your human feelings! What if it works in reverse!? What if the robots use this shit to steal your body and go on eternal, drunken, carnal-pleasure trawls, effectively turning your life into a never-ending orgy of amoral hedonism, while you end up trapped in the cold husk of an assembly line arm, feebly gesturing for help by rapidly snapping your two-pronged claw and swiveling back and forth because that’s all you can fucking do!?
I know you might not think that’s terribly likely, and indeed, it could be just another irrational Luddite panic at the hasty coupling of a few worrisome concepts, but then again…