“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
Current work exploits the brain’s need to determine the location of a test subject’s body in physical space in order to recreate a physical identity separate from the actual body. Our goal is to use two subjects who will each experience the other’s body as their own.
In my junior year of high school Charles Tart’s
Altered States of Consciousness introduced me to a world of academic research into the nature of reality.
A year later I discovered R.L. Gregory’s observations in Eye and Brain. This text introduced me to a nether world where I discovered that it was no longer possible to trust what my brain told me my eyes were seeing.
In 1974 I developed what was to become a life-long friendship with Joseph Shapiro, O.D. who was working on a book whose focus was the distinction between sight and vision. The distinction between those concepts took me nearly thirty years to both appreciate and include in my works of art.
Last semester I wrote an essay which referenced Gregory’s seminal work on vision and consciousness. In it I referenced the physics of image creation as it occurs within the structure of our eyes and how our brains then reinterpret raw data to conform the “observer’s” perception of the physical world (e.g. up and down) in a manner which best allows for the successful negotiation of daily life.
In December of 2012 Joseph introduced me to the research of a friend’s colleague through a YouTube video. The experiment I saw set me thinking about a new feedback and measurement system which might be used to isolate the mechanism which so radically reinterprets – and homogenizes – what we perceive as reality.
After some discussion, I suggested my permutation of Henrik Ehrsson’s (MD, PhD) experimental mechanism as a method to begin to investigate the sense of self. Up until now, researchers have been using simplex communication between a subject and the outside world. Using a lot of DIY, parts from Amazon, and OpenFramworks software, we are constructing a double-duplex VR system designed for two subjects to wear and experience simultaneously.
Each subject wears a VR goggle with cameras mounted on the front, looking out at the other. Subject “A” would be seeing what Subject “B” would be “seeing.” Subject “B” would be “seeing” what subject “A” would show. Simply changing a visual point of reference is not enough to create the condition we seek. If it were this easy, every film would be an out-of-the-body, spiritual experience.
The stressor to the system is to use multiple deceptive cues with as little latency as possible. This is analogous to the reason why jiu-jitsu techniques are so effective. Most joints in the human body are meant to bend in one direction. You can even twist a joint a little and still be within limits. But bend AND twist at the same time, and a visceral wave of panic will flood the body. Through low video latency (bend) and haptic (twist) cuing, it may be possible for the two subjects to experience a transfer of the sense of body awareness from one body to another.
The premise of the experiment is not to pilot a machine with consciousness, or to examine the relationship between consciousness and computational media. We are interested in exploiting some of the cues which the brain uses to determine where it is in physical space in order to create a transference of the sense of self to that of another body. Experiments will explore the limits of what is currently known. Application of this technology may redefine experiences in play, romance, war, and work.
For this reason we are open to testing on wide segment of the population. Tests with same gender and similar physiognomies would most likely give rise to predictable experiences. For this reason we are interested in documenting same and mixed age, culture (language), gender, race, and physical disability trials.
• Not recommended for children or a mixed adult-child partner.
• Not recommended for individuals with with gender and/or race issues.
• Not recommended for individuals who experience anxiety or panic attacks.
• Not recommended for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Not recommended for fundamentalists (of any persuasion), individuals who are delusional,paranoid, recreational drug-users, schizophrenics, or those under psychiatric or psychological care.
Tisch School of the Arts