Friday, March 2, 2012
A common element in fiction is to have two characters exchange bodies. Guy A and Guy B swap, so now Guy A's body has Guy B's personality and mind, and Guy B's body has Guy A's personality and mind. How does this happen? It's hand waved away as inexplicable magic, usually, and the plot usually revolves around developing a greater respect for each other, with various comedic misunderstandings along the way, as no one seems to recognize the abrupt changes in behavior and knowledge, or any of the other clues that this has happened. Sometime before the end of the story, they get to swap back. The closest real life version of this is a brain transplant, or more pedantically, a body transplant. After millions of attempts, we finally succeeded with monkeys, transferring the brain of one monkey into another, and vice versa. This was significantly harder than it sounded, mostly due to the difficulties in reconnecting the nerves, and both monkeys were thereafter paralyzed below the neck for the rest of their lives due to the insufficient reconnection of nerves. But what if there was a cheap, reversible, reliable, consequence free means of completely seizing another person's body, which most realistically will be done by putting your brain in their skull and reconnecting every single nerve. (Again, way harder than it sounds. Especially because a living brain is about the consistency of a raw egg yolk, and every severed nerve is basically going to stay severed forever.) I'm imagining that this actually has commercial potential for a lot of people. A body builder and I go down to the transplant center, and we swap bodies. I am now a muscular 25 year old man, and he is now a 31 year old fat bespectacled nerdy man. We also have to register this for security and legal purposes, which I will get into later. Surprisingly, we can both get something out of this. My benefit is more obviously immediate. I'm no longer fat, I can run for miles at a time, I have huge muscles and the strength to lift small cars, or at least motorcycles. I can easily climb the stairs to the top of my workplace without breaking a sweat. However, on the downside, our bodybuilder has also heavily into steroids. This has taken a major toll on his body, and he can no longer work out, his favorite pastime, without breaking his arms. He also may have developed hormonal issues, which can lead to such strange issues and gynecomastia, in which he's developed a case of awkward, teen-esque breasts (likely misshapen) and will need to wear a bra. His body has bizarre pimples and random hair growth from a case of puberty that eternally mutates into a worse version. His genitals no longer function, much to the annoyance of him and anyone he's seeing romantically. Since I had neither the inclination to use steroids, nor the knowledge of where to find them, my body does not have these issues. For him, he regains the ability to work out, and while we should probably remain celibate for the duration lest we cause extremely awkward feelings with our respective loves, he can enjoy some alone time, if you know what I mean. I will also care similarly for his body, and while he'll lose muscle mass and probably gain weight, I won't do steroids, and his body will become more fit for exercise over time, and his hormonal issues will subside as his body, under my control, returns to equilibrium. Under my direction, his body will repair injured muscles as well. He will have significantly better gains when he regains it. With my body, he'll have to start over from scratch, exercise wise, but his exercise hobby will lead to him pushing it quite hard. I anticipate easily losing 10 to 20 pounds from his anaerobic exercise alone, and that's assuming that he doesn't also do cardio exercises such as bicycling, swimming, and other sports popular with weightlifters. We'll remain swapped for two weeks to a month. When we trade back, his body is weaker than before the swap, but still very muscular and strong, fully repaired, fed a balanced diet, and ready for some seriously awesome exercise. His hormonal issues are gone, which his girlfriend will surely appreciate. After just two weeks of exercise (which will be both fun and easy for him), he will be able to show off his body proudly, and people will be able to enjoy looking at it. For me, under his direction, my body has lost weight, and gained serious muscle mass. If he hasn't done steroids while using my body, then my body is now looking quite nice. If he has, then I can treat it the way I treated his body, and the issues will fade. I look quite nice, and my girlfriend will surely appreciate it. I imagine other people will also quite cheerfully swap bodies to handle mutual issues. A cancer patient who can't keep weight down can swap bodies with an obese gourmand. A person who loves a food they are allergic to swaps bodies with someone who has no allergies, but doesn't like that food. (or could live without it.) A person who's too ill to leave the house swaps bodies with a shut-in who didn't want to leave the house in the first place. All sorts of benefits could happen. However, on the security angle, this would have to be tightly controlled. Say I, in a fit of nefariousness, swap bodies with a hobo, and use the hobo's body to commit lots and lots of crime. After the end of my crime spree, I then swap back and leave the country. The police swiftly arrest the hobo, who was seen on camera robbing banks, breaking into houses and stealing from them, punching people that I didn't like, and other highly illegal things. If he's particularly illucid or incoherent, he'll find it quite impossible to defend himself, and spend years and years and years behind bars for my evil deeds. I meanwhile live off my ill gotten gains where they'll never find me. The only way I could be caught would be if there was a record of the body swaps, showing that I was the actual identity of the man on camera committing all that crime. They would also have to catch me before I left the jurisdiction in favor of one with no extradition treaty. There's also the issue of property. The hobo now looks like the man in my wallet, and unless my wallet is taken out of my pants and moved to the hobos at the time of the surgery, he could very easily take it and my credit cards to whatever store he felt like, and I'd have a real hard time arguing that it wasn't me. Of course, Neurology is currently way too primitive to pull this off yet, so this is all moot, at least within my lifetime. The possibilities are truly crazy.