The body electric

The opposite of what I was talking about yesterday is the place I visited this evening. Body Labs offers to scan your body. The resulting scan can then be animated, used for fashion, placed in a computer game or virtual world, and otherwise deployed as a visual proxy for your actual self.

There is an odd quality to the trend represented by this capability, since we have so many associations with the human body that are connected with its inherent physicality. For our body is the thing that grounds our mind to physical truth.

Bodies are earthy — they are our connection to the animal kingdom. Through them we smell, taste, feel pleasure and pain. We use them to dance, to grasp things, have sex, eat food and excrete waste.

Bodies are primal and they are messy. We love them and we hate them, and it is hard to think of our very identities without them.

But as our lives become more computer mediated, our perception of real bodies might be gradually replaced by their electronic simulacra. A virtual body is both more and less than a physical one. It can be idealized. It can exist in many places at once. It can fly and change shape. But it is not, and cannot be, a physical, animal thing.

A body in cyberspace may look, and perhaps one day even feel, exactly the same as a body in the physical world. Yet its meaning, in the most profound sense, is utterly different.

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