We can't ask them, so scientists have devised an experiment.
- Humans have the capacity for conscious awareness of our visual world.
- While all sighted animals respond to visual stimuli, we don't know if any of them consciously take note of what they're seeing in the way that we do.
- Researchers from Yale have devised experiments that suggest that rhesus monkeys share this ability.
Creating an afterlife—or a simulation of one—would take vast amounts of energy. Some scientists think the best way to capture that energy is by building megastructures around stars.
- In a 2018 paper, researchers Alexey Turchin and Maxim Chernyakov published a paper outlining various ways humans might someday be able to achieve immortality or resurrection.
- One way involves creating a simulated afterlife, in which artificial intelligence would build simulations of past human lives.
- Getting the necessary power for the simulation might require building a Dyson sphere, which is a theoretical megastructure that orbits a star and captures its energy.
Dyson spheres<p>In 1960, the theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson published a <a href="http://www.islandone.org/LEOBiblio/SETI1.HTM" target="_blank">paper</a> describing a peculiar strategy scientists could use to detect signs of alien life: look for stars encompassed by gigantic megastructures.<br></p><p>Why? Dyson figured that if spacefaring alien civilizations do exist, then they must have figured out a way to generate vast amounts of energy. One theoretical way aliens could do that is through harnessing the power of stars: By surrounding a star with orbiting structures that capture solar energy, a civilization could theoretically generate far more energy than they could on a planet.</p><p>That's the basic idea behind Dyson spheres. Of course, modern science is far from being able to build such a complex megastructure, and it's unclear whether it'll ever be possible.</p><p>"An actual sphere around the sun is completely impractical," <a href="http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/about/staff/" target="_blank">Stuart Armstrong</a>, a research fellow at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute who has studied megastructure concepts, <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/deep-space/a11098/dyson-sphere/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Popular Mechanics</a> in 2020.</p><p>There are many questions about and arguments against the feasibility of Dyson spheres. Obviously, our modern engineering capabilities wouldn't enable us to build a structure that big and complex, and then transport it to the sun. And even if engineers <em>could</em> build an enormous sun shell, we don't have materials with enough tensile strength to hold together the structure once it's surrounding the sun.</p><p>Other potential problems: space debris colliding with the sphere, inefficiencies in transporting the energy back to Earth, and having to perform maintenance on a megastructure that's dangerously close to the sun. In short, the Dyson sphere is a very theoretical concept.</p>
Credit: vexworldwide via Adobe Stock<p>But some people think building a Dyson sphere is more feasible than it seems. In 2012, the bioethicist and transhumanist George Dvorsky published a blog post titled <a href="http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2012/03/how-to-build-dyson-sphere-in-five.html" target="_blank">"How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps."</a> His strategy, in short, calls for sending autonomous robots into space, where they would:</p><ol><li>Get energy</li><li>Mine Mercury</li><li>Get materials into orbit</li><li>Make solar collectors</li><li>Extract energy</li></ol><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The idea is to build the entire swarm in iterative steps and not all at once. We would only need to build a small section of the Dyson sphere to provide the energy requirements for the rest of the project. Thus, construction efficiency will increase over time as the project progresses," Dvorsky wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We're going to have to mine materials from Mercury. Actually, we'll likely have to take the whole planet apart. The Dyson sphere will require a horrendous amount of material—so much so, in fact, that, should we want to completely envelope the sun, we are going to have to disassemble not just Mercury, but Venus, some of the outer planets, and any nearby asteroids as well."</p>
Credit: ALEXEY TURCHIN<p>Turchin <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a35788050/dyson-sphere-digital-resurrection-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">echoed</a> a similar idea to Popular Mechanics, acknowledging that while humans currently can't build a Dyson sphere, "nanorobots could do it."</p><p>Still, even if scientists someday manage to create a Dyson sphere that's able to power a resurrection simulation, there's a good chance many people won't take part: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/16/dying-still-taboo-subject-poll" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveys</a> <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/03/02/would-you-opt-for-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutesvanity-fair-poll-the-afterlife/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> that most people would not opt to live forever if given the choice.</p>
They did really well considering joysticks are not designed for oral use.
- A quartet of porcine subjects at the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science learned to play a simple video game.
- All of the pigs scored well at the games' hardest level.
- Gaming skills were improved with human verbal and tactile encouragement.
The hunger games<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY2MTc3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTA4MDg3Nn0.Z04iG2j7O0G5sdCgRSH0i3KjPLedB0cOS0XCvpUHxRY/img.jpg?width=980" id="00289" width="1000" height="1173" data-rm-shortcode-id="140976c9727c67417506e764bc462204" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Croney with gamer Omelette
Credits: Candace Croney, Eston Martz at Pennsylvania State University/Frontiers Science News<p>The experiments involved four pigs: Yorkshire pigs named Hamlet and Omelette, and Panepinto micro pigs named Ebony and Ivory. All four were taught to approach and engage a joystick to move an onscreen cursor to a designated target. Doing so got them a non-virtual treat, a dog kibble pellet, delivered to a bowl next to the screen.</p><p>All four of the pigs were tested and found to be farsighted, so the monitor was placed 45 cm away from their eyes when they were in position to work the joysticks. During training, they were first taught to approach the joystick with the verbal command "joystick," followed by a pellet upon success.</p><p>The pigs learned that by guiding the cursor to one of the blue walls displayed onscreen, they'd be rewarded with a "bloop" sound, a pellet, and words of encouragement from a nearby human. Varying levels of difficulty were achieved by making either three, two, or one wall bloop-able in different sessions. All of the pigs did well when playing the difficult, one-walled version of the game.</p><p>All of the pigs succeeded well above the level expected if they were doing it by chance. And it bears mentioning that, lacking fingers and hands, they had to manipulate their joysticks by mouth — we'll wait while <em>you</em> try it.</p><p>In addition to being able to play this "game" well, the researchers found that the pigs' performance could be improved with human verbal encouragement. On those occasions when the treat dispenser was turned off, the players could be encouraged verbally or tactilely to keep working the joysticks. The researchers also found that for more difficult tasks, only verbal encouragement seemed able to guide the pigs to success.</p><p>"This sort of study is important," says Croney, "because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them. We therefore have an ethical obligation to understand how pigs acquire information, and what they are capable of learning and remembering because it ultimately has implications for how they perceive their interactions with us and their environments."</p>
Just a beginning<p>The pigs' performance did not match the success rate of primates playing similar games, but, again, primates have fingers. The study notes, "Limitations in the joystick methodology suggest that future studies of the cognitive capacities of pigs and other domestic species may benefit from the use of touchscreens or other advanced computer-interfaced technology."</p><p>The researchers had hoped to test their charges' acumen with symbols, allowing for more direct communication, but the project concluded before such work could be explored.</p><p>Croney says, "Informing management practices and improving pig welfare was and still is a major goal, but really, that is secondary to better appreciating the uniqueness of pigs outside of any benefit we can derive from them."</p>
In-depth research suggests BDSM practitioners can experience altered states of consciousness that can be therapeutic.
- BDSM is an acronym encompassing a variety of sexual practices that include: bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. The practice of BDSM usually consists of partners taking on specific roles in which one partner is dominant and the other is submissive.
- BDSM practitioners (individuals who frequently engage in BDSM play) can experience various mental health benefits from engaging in their scenes.
- According to the research, subspace is often characterized by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of epinephrine and endorphins, and a subsequent period of non-verbal, deep relaxation.
The psychology of BDSM<p><a href="https://www.ohsu.edu/womens-health/benefits-healthy-sex-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Many experts</a> have weighed in on the significant mental and physical health benefits of sex:</p><ul><li>Lower blood pressure</li><li>Stronger immune system</li><li>Better heart health </li><li>Improved self-esteem</li><li>Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety </li><li>Better sleep routines </li></ul><p>However, there is an increasing interest in studies that explore the specific mental and physical health benefits of BDSM practices. BDSM practitioners (individuals who frequently engage in BDSM play) can experience various mental health benefits from engaging in their scenes. For example, <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/bdsm-work-ethic" target="_self">one study</a> suggests that being dominant in the bedroom can boost your work ethic. <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/how-bdsm-might-benefit-your-health-and-your-relationship-4846462#:~:text=Improves%20Mental%20Health&text=The%20participants%20in%20the%20BDSM,less%20sensitive%20to%20others'%20perceptions." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Other research</a> in this area has suggested engaging in BDSM activities can boost your mental well-being and increase awareness of your attachment style in partnerships, which can ultimately lead to healthier relationships. Additionally, <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/bdsm-psychology-trauma" target="_self">unhealthy stereotypes and misconceptions</a> about BDSM have also been addressed by experts. </p><p>A natural starting point for more research surrounding the mental health impact of BDSM practices is to explore what happens in a person's mind and body when they experience intense sexual activity. While physical reactions (such as arousal and climax) are quite typical, there is something unique that happens to individuals who participate in intense BDSM scenes. </p><p><strong>What is "subspace" in BDSM play? </strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/blog/an-intro-to-bdsm-subspace-what-every-submissive-should-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Subspace</a> is defined as a state of transcendence reached by submissives through intense physical or psychological experiences with their partner. This can happen through sensory triggers (the use of paddles, blindfolds, restraints) or through emotional triggers (certain words or phrases, meaningful expressions).</p><p>This space, while experienced differently for many, can be described as a nearly-hypnotic feeling that takes over when the submissive partner is highly engaged in their role. </p><p><strong>What is "domspace" in BDSM play? </strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/blog/an-intro-to-domspace-what-every-dominant-should-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Domspace</a> is defined as an altered, elevated state of mind that Dominants (during BDSM scenes) experience through intense physical or psychological experiences with their submissive partner. This can happen through sensory triggers (using paddles or restraints on your partner) or through emotional triggers (expressing certain words or phrases to your partner, meaningful expressions, the notion that your submissive trusts you enough to be vulnerable with you). </p><p>While subspace can be described as a "hazy" or "blurry" trance-like state, domspace is often described (by individuals who experience it) as an intense, euphoric, and focused state of mind.</p>
Are there therapeutic benefits to submission?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY1MDkyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDc3OTgxOH0.ku49neryuoVZiLTFY2vmIzE2H7ufWjiOm6C2TX8CmK0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C385%2C0%2C386&height=700" id="32e18" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="a8a45a275cbdb28fa5584b579308e097" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="submissive male submissive man male sub BDSM therapy" />
Experts weigh in: there may be therapeutic and relational benefits to being a submissive person in BDSM scenes.
Photo by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS on Adobe Stock<p>According to the author of the study, Dulcinea Pitagora: "Because the BDSM community has been historically vilified due to stereotypes reinforced by negative media exposure and inadequate education, relatively little is known about the phenomenon of subspace outside of the BDSM community."</p><p><strong>There is a proven connection between BDSM interactions and altered states of consciousness. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308575318_Consensual_BDSM_Facilitates_Role-Specific_Altered_States_of_Consciousness_A_Preliminary_Study" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">According to a 2016 study</a>, there is a direct link between BDSM interactions and ASCs (altered states of consciousness) - the significant one, in this case, being that engaging in a submissive role during BDSM play can lead to transient hypofrontality. </p><p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-edge-peak-performance-psychology/201703/the-transient-hypofrontality-edge#:~:text=Transient%20hypofrontality%2C%20then%2C%20means%20that,with%20the%20term%20transient%20hypofrontality." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Transient hypofrontality</a>, a term coined by <a href="https://www.arnedietrich.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dr. Arne Dietrich</a>, is when the focused, thought-processing part of the brain is "shut off" by external triggers. An example of this is the difference between engaging in a competitive sport and running in a beautiful park. During a competitive sport, your brain will need to make a variety of complex decisions. While you're running a calmer path in a beautiful park, however, your mind can "let go" of that prefrontal engagement and you can experience an alternate (relaxed) state of consciousness. For a submissive, during BDSM scenes, this can result in reduced self-reported stress and increased sexual arousal.</p><p>Transient hypofrontality has also been used to describe severe "end-stage" addictions. This ability to <a href="https://www.practicalrecovery.com/prblog/biggest-lies-recovery-pt-vi-addiction-disease/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"shut off" the thought-processing</a> function in your brain can actually cause "involuntary" cravings for this feeling. This can be why many submissive practitioners become reliant on their BDSM activities. </p><p>The study explains, <em>"In order to examine an alignment of transient hypofrontality with </em><em>subspace, the authors collected additional self-reported data describing experiences of </em><em>subspace; a comparison of these datasets confirmed that the characteristics of transient </em><em>hypofrontality were consistent with those of subspace."</em></p><p><strong>Experiencing subspace during BDSM play can activate the sympathetic nervous system. </strong></p><p><a href="https://journalofpositivesexuality.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/No-Pain-No-Gain-Therapeutic-and-Relational-Benefits-of-Subspace-in-BDSM-Pitagora.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the research</a>, subspace is often characterized by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of epinephrine and endorphins, and a subsequent period of non-verbal, deep relaxation. This chain reaction can often lead the submissive in the scene to experience a temporary state of depersonalization and derealization (which are generally experienced as positive and pleasant in this context). </p><p><strong>The key to experiencing this trance-like state is having a partner you trust, research suggests.</strong></p><p>This state is highly sought after by individuals who identify as submissives in the BDSM context - and the key to achieving this state of being is having a dominant partner you can trust. This type of trust and reciprocal consent can provide an entry to subspace. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Because the participant who identifies as the sadist, dominant [or top] in a given scene is generally charged with monitoring and protecting their partner, the [submissive] bottom in the scene might be better situated for achieving an altered state of consciousness and transcendence." </em>-<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11133-010-9158-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Rethinking Kink</a>, 2010</p><p><strong>BDSM could be used as a way to heal from trauma and benefit your relationships, experts suggest. </strong></p><p>While there is no research to date that has sought to capture the specific experiences of subspace and how they relate to relationships and healing, many experts believe BDSM can in fact provide therapeutic and relational benefits to those who engage in the practices. </p><p><em>"</em>Given the associations between ASCs and subspace described above, the authors' findings on ASCs can be extended to the analogous experience of subspace. The study suggested that symbolic action can have a profound effect on psychological processes and connected trance (a type of ASC) with the healing properties of the trance state."</p>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.