Body image in the virtual world

Let us say, hypothetically, that those predicting the Singularity are correct, and one day our brains are all uploaded into computers. Sort of like “The Matrix”, but without that pesky Agent Smith and his friends using us as batteries.

At that point, we would presumably experience our bodies only in a virtual sense. Our faces, hands, feet and other bodily parts would exist in our minds only as cybernetic simulacra of themselves.

I would be curious to learn whether, in such a world, our body image would drift over time. Would we allow ourselves to become translucent, to fly above the treetops, to teleport instantly between locations? Or would our uploaded brains reject such options, or any reality that radically deviates from the last several million years of evolutionary development?

I realize that in shared virtual worlds used for entertainment, such as Linden Labs’ “Second Life”, the laws that govern our physical bodies are suspended on a routine basis. Yet we don’t actually live in those worlds — they do not encompass the entirety of our sensory experience.

If we were to migrate our existence entirely into cyberspace, just how far would our virtual selves drift from the sensed experience of this everyday reality? Or would our brains ultimately reject radical change, opting instead for the biologically evolved familiar?

One Response to “Body image in the virtual world”

  1. Actually, in one of my very first and most notable 2nd Life experiences, I ended up smooching with a beautiful young virtual woman (at least she appeared to be a woman). Sadly it was one of the best romantic experiences I have had in recent years.


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