December 4, 2008
Body Swapping proven (theoretically) possible.
In what has to be major proof of science fiction becoming science reality, neuroscientists at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet have shown that a person’s ‘conscious’ can be moved between bodies by using virtual reality headgear. The people reported feeling like they were in the new body as if it was their own. The full report can be read and downloaded from the Public Library of Science One (PLoS One).
“The present findings could have groundbreaking industrial and clinical applications” write neuroscientists Valeria I. Petkova and H. Henrik Ehrsson of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “Experiencing ‘becoming’ a humanoid robot in tele-robotics and feeling ownership of simulated bodies in virtual reality applications would probably enhance user control, realism, and the feeling of ‘presence.’”
Freaky Friday… Any day of the week. While tele-robotics may be the most immediate application of the body-swap phenomenon, it’s possible to apply this to some more fun uses:
Imagine surfing the nets Tron-like, or engaging in online deathmatches or quests using tele-presence: Would you alter your tactics if you felt like you could actually die online? How would Deus Ex or System Shock feel playing inside the games? Would you feel the G-forces of a flight or driving simulation?
Of course, cyberspace would only be the beginning. How does a meatbot sound to you? A Remote controlled human fresh from the clone vats and piloted by tele-presence to do your bidding. Or maybe a “backup” clone of yourself that you can send into dangerous areas to throw would-be assassins and religious trash off. Or maybe “masquerading” as Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush (to undo the harm they’ve done), or as Ron Jeremy or Sarah Palin or… Your meatbot doesn’t even need to be the same sex as you!
In conclusion, these experiments have demonstrated how remarkably easy it is to ‘move’ a human centre of awareness from one body to another. This speaks directly to the classical question of the relationship between human consciousness and the body, which has been discussed by philosophers, psychologists, and theologians for centuries. The continuous integration of multisensory and motor signals in ego-centric reference frames thus maintains the co-alignment between the experienced self and the physical body.