austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead

Maybe you heard about this body-swap illusion thingy as a part of your current job requirements. If you didn't, perhaps you need different job requirements. It's a technology being tried out by a Swedish science project at the Karolinksa Institute, which I will pretend to have heard of before this news, that was hoping to figure out a way to let people think their bodies are off somewhere else. Thinking your body is somewhere else is important in Sweden as the country approaches winter months expected to last as long as 84 days each.

The equipment needed is simple: most importantly you need a pair of virtual reality goggles to make you certain there are people just outside the door pointing at you and snickering, and something to move your self-image into. It probably wouldn't hurt to have a self-image as well. Presumably when they start commercial operations there will be a service allowing egoless people to rent self-images.

The trouble then will be the truly egoless not realizing they should have one. This will require having experts who can pin down people who haven't got a self-image, who are otherwise very hard to shop for. They never even ask something like ``Why would I want this,'' as they can't get past the ``would''. The only approach is through continuing negations, and that ends up with ``why wouldn't you not want that other thing'', which could take any answer without being the best bit answerable.

Assuming all that's set up though, the procedure is simple. Start out with looking at where your body would be if the cameras weren't in the way, while the object goes looking in the same direction, and then you simply move your self-image over to the target. Make sure somebody is keeping track of where this target is and who you are, though.

Already there've been some pranks in which people's self-images were left tucked inside the broom closet, the bread maker that's used once a year to establish the constitutional principle that you could make bread, or the wallet photographs. And some folks have gotten back to their own bodies to find while they were out passing motorists ideated litter all over them or that raccoons have started visualizing a little fortress. Worse, a vengeful technician left one participant with a self-image component which was wearing a sock and stepping on a damp sponge, producing a lingering sensation of vague disappointment.

It's a new application of technology, and the researchers admitted that they haven't been able so far to fool volunteers into thinking they were a box. It's remarkable to think they published before they had achieved this goal. Maybe they were worried about a patent dispute if they waited.

Still, this failure shows they haven't been drawing volunteers from the right pool of potential applicants. Why, just last weekend the highly successful BoxCon 2008 wrapped up in the cardboard-mining capital of the world, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and over 650 enthusiastic and 120 modestly interested fans gathered together to talk about their box interests. In the main ballroom attendees set a new record with hundreds sitting in stacks both against the wall and in free-standing piles. Other activities included trading box tips, patching dents, comparing recyclable status logos, having a debate about internal cardboard supports which ended in a huge sealed-air pillow fight, and lining up to ride the freight elevator, which was broken all day Friday and Saturday. Excess styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap were donated to charity, and even the scandalous intrusion of a few people in Lego costumes didn't make the weekend any less fun.

Obviously any of the BoxCon attendees would be prime subjects for box-image implantation experiments considering the reams of fiction already written exploring the fundamental nature of box-ness. Perhaps the Karolinska Institute should underwrite an International BoxCon and get some volunteers more eager to see this goal succeed. The hotels say the box enthusiasts make excellent guests; you just need to set out some wooden palettes on the floor and they're happy. It's not too late to get the job done right.

Trivia: In the 1630s Anne of Austria, mother to French King Louis XIV, had a mirror so large it was considered worth going out of one's way to see. It was eighteen inches high and fifteen inches wide. Source: The Essence Of Style: How The French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Joan DeJean.

Currently Reading: Sun in A Bottle: The Strange History Of Fusion And The Science Of Wishful Thinking, Charles Seife.


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