I've spent my whole life fleeing from the consequences of my actions. Whether by treachery, cunning, or daring biplane escape, there's not a misdeed whose fallout I haven't escaped.
I actually used the biplane to flee the fallout from the expense report I filed for the biplane.
But sometimes, my indiscretions pose resistant to most conventional forms of flight. And with the authorities closing in on me, my mind has often turned to the possibility of swapping my body with that of some poor rube, and escaping that way. My schemes along this angle have never gotten much further than causing head injuries during a lightning storm, but during a recent spell of non-villainy, I had the time to sit down and do some proper research on the subject. Thus was I was happily surprised to discover that there are actual scientists -- wearing the crispest, cleanest of lab coats -- who are working on the same problem. Here, then, for your new-life-starting pleasure, are the five most scientifically promising ways that we might one day be able to swap bodies with some rube.
This is body-swapping at its most stupidly literal level, in which a head is surgically removed from one body and bolted onto another. Assuming all the plumbing is done correctly, which is kind of tricky, this should result in a whole new body via entirely mechanical means.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News
You probably did this yourself as a kid.
Because it sounds insane (and is also actually insane), no one's ever seriously considered ... ha ha, I'm just kidding. Of course someone's done this. On monkeys, at least. In the 1970s, Dr. Robert White did exactly this with a living monkey and some spare monkey parts. It worked, sort of. The poor f*****g thing managed to survive for a few minutes. One observer described its facial expressions as looking "like terrible pain and confusion and anxiety."
Well no s**t.
And because this ludicrous example of monkey torture was so obviously insane, it was never attempted again, and-- oh wait, no. Look, here's a Chinese surgeon who's done the same thing thousands of times to mice. There are pictures in that linked article, in case you're curious -- which I'd encourage you not to be.
AndraA Cerar/iStock/Getty Images
Here's one of a mouse humping a mouse instead.
And good news! At least one Italian doctor has plans to do this on a real man. In that particular case, the patient in question has a degenerative disease, so I guess it's only partially horrifying. Still, it seems a little reckless to waste an entire body, full of organs that could save many people, on a plot from a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Maybe let's just all cool it on the head transplants for a while, OK?
Finally, we escape the realm of mad science into the serene, sterile halls of mad computer science. The principle of mind uploading hinges on one simple fact: Our skulls contain precisely one brain. Computers, which work with a system of ones and zeros, should therefore logically be able to replicate the workings of a brain. Many scientists have been tirelessly working to fulfill this not-at-all-asinine statement.
"It does sound kind of dumb when you say it that way."
It is actually less dumb than that, and scientists have already made significant progress simulating brains at the level of individual neurons. So far, they've managed to replicate the neural structure of worms, and even squeeze those into the body of a Lego robot. More recently, part of a rat's brain has been mapped at a neural level.
"You spent several million dollars to make a computer love the smell of garbage?"
This isn't going to happen overnight; we're still a long way from simulating even a stupid human's brain. And even once that's done, we might find that although we're able to duplicate the structure, we can't duplicate the state of a living mind, preventing us from backing ourselves up or copying ourselves to sex robots or whatever.
Still, way less mutilated mice. We're starting to get somewhere.
I know this sounds like the opposite of science. In fact, it probably is the total opposite of science. But it might not be!
But yeah, it is.
To find out why it might not be (it is), let's first turn to the notion of biocentrism. This is the idea that we will never develop a full understanding of the Universe by studying physics or cosmology alone. There are some things which physics are nowhere near explaining. Consciousness, for example. Biocentrism suggests that a much deeper understanding of biology will be necessary to understand existence, and that things like space and time might exist more in our minds than as external objects.
Also, what if the Universe is, like, an atom in an even larger Universe?
There is actually some evidence which supports this hot nonsense. For example, reality has a number of apparently universal constants, which control things like how strong gravity is or how sexy chemistry is. These seem to be curiously well-tuned to allow for the existence of complicated life such as ourselves. Biocentric thinkers would say that maybe that isn't a coincidence; that it's all in our minds *huge puff of smoke* and that *lengthy coughing fit* yeah, man.
Anyways, to make a dumb story short: If we do develop a more complete understanding of the biological underpinnings for something like consciousness, and how precisely our souls or ghosts or farts inhabit our bodies, it could turn something like reincarnation from wishful thinking into an actual technology.
But for now, although there are some interesting physical and philosophical underpinnings to the idea, it's not actually science yet, in that it can't make testable predictions. Still, it's not completely crazy. So if you see someone with a lab coat smoking just a heroic amount of weed, leave them be. They're doing important work.
Now that we've all got a bit of a contact high from reading about biocentrism, let's step back a bit and ask ourselves what we're really trying to swap bodies for. If movies from the 1980s have taught us anything, it's that living in someone else's body is a great way to see the world as they see it, to experience things that you wouldn't normally experience, and to understand a little more about what it is to be human. Also, exploring your new body in the shower seems fun. If that's the goal of swapping bodies -- and not, you know, escaping responsibility for petty crimes -- well s**t, we can do that already with drugs.
Marek Kosmal/Hemera/Getty Images
*thunderous bass drop*
I'm pretty sure that if you get two people together with the right drugs -- ketamine or DMT apparently do the trick -- and added maybe some decorative wires connecting their heads, they'd believe they were in each other's bodies for a while. Certainly long enough to learn an important lesson about what it meant to be your mother or daughter or a black street hustler or big.
Or at the very minimum, long enough to explore their bodies in the shower.
If there's one lesson I learned from Silence Of The Lambs, it's that there are no downsides to slaughtering people and making a suit from their skin.
I only saw about 20 minutes in the middle. How did it end?
Obviously, there are some ethical issues here that still need to be sorted out. Is it wrong to kill a man and take his skin? Does his family have to love you and take you into their home on Thanksgiving? Would their Subway Club Card benefits be transferable to you? This is something that our finest Internet comedy writers are still sorting out. But they're making good progress. And they have to be, because this is far and away the most plausible body-swapping method we have; easily achievable with our current level of technology.
Nicholas Eckhart via Wikimedia Commons
I'd like to thank the staff of this Jo-Ann Fabrics for all their patience while I was researching this column.
The future is now, dear terrified reader. Everyone you know and love might be an impostor, wearing the husk of another, larger person. Trust no one. At least, not until you can give them a pretty big pinch.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and pinches every person he meets. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
Head swapping is a thing? Perfect. Swap our noggins onto some Terminator polymer bodies as seen in 6 Substances That Wipe Their Ass With The Laws Of Physics. And read Luke McKinney's vision of the future in 4 Ways Plasma Technology Will Change The World.
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This should have resulted in years of therapy.
Sometimes it's just a matter of making the US Department of Defense look, like, REALLY cool.
Actual impending doom like global climate change or mass extinction just makes people bored.