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Transcript for TransHuman Podcast

[1] Morris, Wesley. "The Year We Obsessed Over Identity." The New York Times. October 10, 2015. Accessed November 27, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/magazine/the-year-we-obsessed-over-identity.html?_r=0. [2]

[2] Quotes are taken and modified from Dr. Charles C.Miller, who has pioneer the way of cosmetic plastic surgery, and called “the father of modern cosmetic surgery”. It is hard to say, Dr. Charles C.Miller had contributed to the actual technical skills of plastic surgery, due to his published work being hypothetical. However he was able to predict how would articles and books ‘Beauty Pages,’ ’Beauty Chats,’ ‘Beauty Hints,’ etc... affect on women desire for beauty. Haiken, Elizabeth. "Venus Envy." The New York Times. 1997. Accessed December 1, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/ books/first/h/haiken-venus.html.

[3] Drummond, Katie. "Virtual Rx: How Oculus Rift Could Revolutionize Mental Health." The Verge. April 22, 2013. Accessed January 18, 2016. http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/22/4251926/oculus-rift-virtual-reality-therapy-mental- health.

[4] Freud, Sigmund, and James Strachey. The Ego and the Id. New York: Norton, 1962.

[5] Kellerman, Henry. "The Wiring of the Personality." In Personality: How It Forms, 37-52. New York: American Mental Health Foundation, 2012.

[6] In year 2010, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted a research where the subjects were required to navigate through a three dimensional maze then retested the same task after five hours. Subjects who took a nap in resting preformed better at retest. The observation suggest that dream experiences reflect memory processing. This was not shown in wakefulness states, which suggest that mnemonic processes are distinct to the sleep state. Wamsley, Erin J., Matthew Tucker, Jessica D. Payne, Joseph A. Benavides, and Robert Stickgold. "Dreaming of a Learning Task Is Associated with Enhanced Sleep-Dependent Memory Consolidation." Current Biology, 2010, 850-55.

[7] The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), In James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol. 5, 608.

[8] Breton, Andre. "Manifesto of Surrealism." In Manifestoes of Surrealism, 12. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969.

[9] Speculation based on research done in University of California Berkeley. Through use of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging technology), scientists where able to recreate the Hollywood movie the subject was watching in broad geometry shapes and brightness. Advances in technology will bring abstract shapes into photographic quality. Nishimoto, Shinji, An T. Vu, Thomas Naselaris, Yuval Benjamini, Bin Yu, and Jack L. Gallant. "Reconstructing Visual Experiences from Brain Activity Evoked by Natural Movies." Current Biology, 2011, 1641-646.

[10] The text is based on what psychoanalyst-as-theraphist are looking for in search of a person’s development in personality style. Kellerman, Henry. "Remembering." In Personality: How It Forms, 57-67. New York: American Mental Health Foundation, 2012.

[11] Why we forget our dream? Hartmann, Ernest. "Why Do Memories of Vivid Dreams Disappear Soon After Waking Up?" Http:// www.scientificamerican.com. May 1, 2011. Accessed January 10, 2016.

[12] Subjects were asked to navigate three dimensional maze and reach a goal and after the training half of them were assigned to take a 90 minute nap. Subjects who took a nap described dream scenarios; seeing people at checkpoint, being lost in a bat cave, or hearing background music of the computer game. Through the study we can see that the brain reflects on the busy task or problem confronted earlier. Wamsley, Erin J., Matthew Tucker, Jessica D. Payne, Joseph A. Benavides, and Robert Stickgold. "Dreaming of a Learning Task Is Associated with Enhanced Sleep-Dependent Memory Consolidation." Current Biology, 2010, 850-55.

[13] In the study, subjects were given an avatar creation task using weeworld.com, then when through a survey of their personality based on five-factor model of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Later on minimum of twenty different people evaluated each of the avatar’s personality. The research shows that avatars can demonstrate distinctive information of the users personality. Fong, K., and R. A. Mar. "What Does My Avatar Say About Me? Inferring Personality From Avatars." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 4 (2015): 237-49.

[14] In virtual reality, one is able to recreate their image dramatically. Based on this, Stanford University has done series of studies that shown the height and attractiveness of users’ avatar influenced one’s confidence and performance that influenced over to the face to face interaction. Yee, Nick, and Jeremy Bailenson. "Human Communication Research." The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Behavior 36, no. 2 (2009): 285-312. SAGE Publications.

[15] Freud, Sigmund. “The Dream Mechanism." In Dream Psychology. New York: James A. McCann Company, 1920.

[16] Kellerman, Henry. Personality: How It Forms. New York: American Mental Health Foundation, 2012.

[17] Horton, Karen. The Neurotic Personality of Our Time. New York: Norton, 1937. Despite the time and culture there are essential common attitude in our neurotic personality. The attitudes thus observable may be loosely classified as follows: first, attitudes concerning giving and getting affections; second, attitudes concerning evaluation of the self; third, attitudes concerning self-assertion; fourth, aggression; fifth, sexuality.

[18] http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/01/14/what-prevents-people-from-seeking-mental-health-treatment/

Introducing to Identity and Character Enhancement Salon.

Have you ever snapped at someone, to later regret and resent your hot tempered personality? Were you ever buried in thousands of favors because you could not say no? Have you ever thought to yourself to be pathetic for lack of determination at keeping those harmful at bay?

The I.C.E. Salon uses virtual reality technology to alter your dream. Once you fall asleep and start to dream, with the graphic processing technology in I.C.E. Salon will immediately read the dream and recreate into a virtual reality.[9] Once the virtual world is created they will slowly wake you up, however the seamless virtual world confuses the brain, into believing that you are still dreaming. At this stage, we will have opened a pass way to the memory and infinite possibility of operation.

I’m Jay Hong and this is The Transhuman Podcast.

For every bi-weekly podcast we have been speculating around the intellectual movement to enhance human condition, and by now you might be wondering how a technology-wise advanced psychotherapy might be related to our interest. Well, enhancing human psychological capacities is a part of transhumanism.

Immigration from physical beauty to psychological beauty

What motivate us to keep advancing, to a point we desire to become transhuman? It is our neurotic personality inside all of us that long for receiving approval or affection from others as our first priority.[17] Our neurotic need for affection is what motivates self development, notably on beauty, being a significant element in first impression. With magazines and publicized media creating certain impression on standard of beauty, if we fail to enhance ourselves with any of suggested requirements, the media makes us feel lacking and that we fall behind in society. Hence physical appearance became importance in our identity, and this eventually lead to use of reconstructive surgery, aim to recreated injured faces of soldiers in World War I, to modern day cosmetic plastic surgery. Many people fail to notice that cosmetic plastic surgery, in an extend, go into the first attempt to transhumanism. The surgery is a method of enhancing human body beyond it’s original physical capacity. In addition, the illusion of youth, that rhytidoplasty gives, fit into the thought of immoratalism.

Appearance has become an easy fix. With new methods in the field of plastic surgery’s and advanced technology advancement, people can adjust any of their physical complexities. It is not only the small fix win eye or nose but transgender and transracial could be archived. Not only we can easily access to cosmetic plastic surgery, but the tools that have been used by the magazines to encourage an ideal beauty have become available through automated smart applications. With the altered photos, we can now receive enough psychological acceptance through social media, although nothing changes in real life. This benefit is similarly shown through a mass population that is seen immigrating from physical world to virtual world. Many people are compelled to stay in the virtual realm. Within each virtual worlds, one is able to dramatically or completely change their gender, appearance, ethnicity, and even species.

“There’s a sense of fluidity and permissiveness and a smashing of binaries. We’re all becoming one another. Well, we are. And we’re not.” [1]
- Wesley Morris -

With people begin to see that personality is a component that makes individuals stand out, even more so than appearance. Although there are many successful video bloggers, only a diligent conversationalist is able to gain followers. In MMORPG everybody is suppose to be the hero that saves the world of evil, however this is only possible if one is extroverted and maintains good personal connections with others in the game. In the end, even enhanced or drastically different looks, one can not fully escape the nature of who he or she really is.[13] We are moving to an era where our psychology becomes the major factor in our identity.

Creator Gregorio Hans
Realizing the common struggle of identity and personality, Gregorio Hans, a psychologist, engineer and the chief operating officer of I.C.E. Salon, was the first man to propose a cosmetic psychotherapy through use of virtual reality in 2018. A psychotherapy that was not only for people with mental struggles but a causal treatment for the public to reshape personality, furthermore enhancing their identities.

There are many obstacles that Gregorio Hans had to uncover that continue on to the modern day. Even though the majority would agree that all people carry an illness of the mind in modern day society, there are still the misconception of taking psychotherapy as a weakness of character. Therefore, the need of taking the I.C.E. salon treatment to adjust personality is more easily negligible. Wanting to be more active in social occasions or (something) could be considered a minor issue in everyday life. [18] In addition, psychiatric organizations found the use of virtual reality problematic, pointing out that there are no short cuts into human psychology. The concept of virtual reality therapy, that Gregorio Han brought out, lacked years of study. Not to mention, the unexpected dangers brought by the use of virtual reality. Hans argues, “For years, online articles and e-books have been devoted many word counts to shaping a perfect persona and the people have gradually developed a desire for knowledge of those means which will enable them to appear to their best advantage. Desire to shape perfect persona continually hints at the possibilities of digital psychotherapy,”[2] Through cosmetic plastic surgery, people gain more self-esteem, therefore giving them more confidence. Similarly, the confidence gained by enhancing personality helps in improving each individuals’ image into a healthier and brighter being. It all comes down to how it is paraphrase, or designed. Virtual machines are already in use as a tool to treat various mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.[3] So then why not use it to enhance an individual’s identity or character? How is this treatment so different from a breast enlargement surgery, or having hair and makeup done in a salon?

“Treatments for improving the psychology cannot be botched. The psychiatrist must be skillful and fully capable in this field more than in any other.”[2] As a matter in fact, Gregorio Hans and all the so-called “identity designers” included, often had dual degrees in psychology and computer science. Finally Hans concluded with “promises to be, before many years, a most profitable and satisfactory specialty due to contributing to future happiness and peace of mind of the patient.”[2]

The Three Types of Makeover
By now many will be curious about the more specific detail of the procedure. I.C.E. salon provides three type of makeover, all involving a process of sleep and dream.Their method has shown innovation in enhancing human identity through virtual reality technology. It was revolutionary in terms of reducing the long periods and cost of psychotherapy, yet outstanding improvement.

The first makeover is expanding one single aspect of one’s personality. A person’s character is modeled with five factors: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. It is the intensity of each factor that determines who we are. For the first class procedure the customers do not go into the process of remembering, instead goes through a quick task of creating avatars in the five factor category.[13] When fallen into sleep, designers will be sending in five different avatars in suitable dreams. Once woken up, customers will be receiving flash drives, representing the five factors. Afterwards depending on the one’s next day needs, one will be plugging in flash drive into the I.C.E. virtual reality machine. In the dream, the flash drive will be sending in avatars to appropriate dreams. Avatar’s the height and physical attractiveness will increase while existing in a dream that will boost the avatar’s personality factor once the customer wakes up.[14]

Mark Jankins is one of the first few who had the opportunity experience this treatment. Before he had constant suffocating feeling about his own uptight personality. However, like most people, he was hesitant to go to a psychiatrist because of presenting his personal vulnerability. After coming back from I.C.E. Salon, everybody mentions that Mark is a different person.

“Why wouldn’t they,” he mentions. He did not seem to be disturbed by an acquaintance’s words. “I feel like I am a different person, myself,” he explains. “And because I am more loose, I go out more often to bond with people. They seem to like the new me much better.”

The second makeover is augmenting the story of the dream. Lets look in to case of John Kim, a customer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. John Kim was visiting the country side, free from modern society. Accidentally fell into a squat toilet and was trapped for two hours before the rescue. Since then, after every bowl movement, John would take two hour long shower. Through I.C.E. Salon, the designer can augment the happening to lessen time of the rescue or change the fallen of the squat toilet to a mud puddle. Exaggerating a little, we are time traveling back in time to change the course of past.

The third makeover is oppressing a certain memory and adding planting a new event. (for occasion where augmenting an event is not compelling enough for the logistic of the brain).

Alex Lee was grown under a stereotypical tiger mom. Through his childhood his mother would guide him step by step to thrive in academia. He found himself being repulsed by girls for being a momma’s boy, yet would go back to her mother for emotional support. In the dependent personality style of Alex Lee is gradually build up therefore touching one memory can created a negative domino effect to others, creating a chance of dementia or schizophrenia. In these kind of cases, rather than trying to modify we implant new dream.

Our brain remembers the change it will try to return to its previous shape, therefore it becomes important to trick the brain in not remembering. Between one or three days, depending on the makeover type, I.C.E. Salon anesthetists control the boundary of physical and dream world by controlling the anesthesia dosage, so that it feels like one continuous dream. People are familiar with selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRI), a drug used typically for antidepressants. SSRI has additional affect of decreasing the ability to remember dreams. In I.C.E., we use modified version that reduces the dream recall up to 98%. Our body remembers our existing form therefore in major change it always tries to go back to its original shape.

Why Dream?
Dreams are encrypted, often non sequential, and most of time we do not remember most of them. Therefore, dream were regraded to be useless and Morbid. In history, citing Sigmund Freud, unlike many in his era, believed dream to be more than a physical process that was useless and morbid. Freud believed that dreams was continuous and organized in its own limits of operation, how it helps us fulfill our desires. . He quotes,

“The interoperation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”[7]

Sigmund Freud’s interest in the importance of dream inspired Andre Breton to found Surrealism. He believed of future where dream and reality is resolved in to one, a ultimate reality, which lead to be called surreality. Supporting Freud’s claim, of dreams being continuous and organized, believed to be the real functioning of thought that was not constrained by outside all aesthetic and moral preoccupation. Hence, he asked, “When will we have sleeping logicians, sleeping philosophers?”[8] To practice the method of dreaming, an autonomous human action, Breton took into primitive practice through literature writing in effort to reach the unconsciousness. Inspired by Lewis’ The Monk, Breton saw similarity in the process freeing all constraints to creating a main characters to the freedom of dream. This further developed into spoken thought, a monologue spoken rapidly as possible without any interference. Linking the topic back, I.C.E. Salon takes on the spirit of surrealism. Through the sense of reality virtual gears provide, closer than ever, we are living in the two state of dream and reality. In that aspect, it show quite a lot of resemblances to Surrealism. The I.C.E Salon take the spirit of surrealism and uses virtual reality gear’s sense of reality to established the sleeping psychologist that Berton had been looking for.

It turns out, Sigmund Freud and Breton were in a right track. Based on a research done in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, dreams is a form of processing memory to the short- term and long-term memory storage. It brings the past and present experience to reflect and learn to prepare for the future challenges. [6] If we are able to see this technology even further, through dream we are reaching out for the massive library of knowledge that the brain have gained and organized. We would be gaining the ability to recall anything our senses had been exposed to, also known as Eidetic memory.

Before you run out to make appointments, I would like to mention the possible risk any identity enhancement treatment is exposed to. It is mentioned in their brochure, in a fine small text, that the potential risks and complications may include seizures, loss of awareness, involuntary movements, visual abnormalities, nauseated, dementia, dissociative identity disorder, singular Identity disorder, and insomnia. So it is recommend that you discuss the risks with one of our identity designers before any treatment begins.

All our stored memories are intertwined together. Therefore changing one incident in life spreads like a virus to all connecting memories, finally changing what defines you. However, crossing out a memory can lead to a domino effect of the brain denying the other linked memories, therefore leading to side effects such as amnesia or dementia. Hence the reason all of our procedures neither erase a memory completely nor drastically change it.

Further on, once a personality style has formed, it is etched. The style becomes rebellious to change. Our brain will remember the former condition, the state before any procedures. Soon or later, it will try to resist, fight, and restore back to its beginning form. Therefore, to keep the effect of the makeover, the user must periodically keep wear virtual reality head gear during sleep. It is the same reason a person keeps working out after a mass weight loss or one puts braces at night after straightening irregular teeth.

Finally, the last problem lies with the encryption of the contents of dreams. The encryptions take form in condensation and displacement. Through condensation, the dream combines and abstracts two or more concepts in to one. With condensation, the designers have to compare point of views and denote intersections or similarities in one idea, image, or person. There are dreams that are unusually vivid and at the same time dream ideas are the most obscure. This occurs because the displacement of physical value. The function is to protect the dreamer from negative feelings, such as guilt, once the dream has been recalled. So designers take also the role of analyzing and decoding the dream.[15]

Possible Risks and Nonetheless Temptation of the I.C.E Salon
The approach of I.C.E. Salon can not be considered to be completely perfect treatment. Before customers go through any procedures they sign a weaver form that has clear descriptions of the side effects such as seizures, lost of awareness, involuntary movements, dementia, dissociative identity disorder, and insomnia. Some of them are damages that can carry on for the rest of your life.

Many will remember two years ago, a famous case called Catherine versus I.C.E. Salon. Catherine was a shy middle school girl, and often had struggles when it came to socializing. She was one of the first human experiment participant for beta stage of the I.C.E. Salon. Her side effect was the first time singular identity disorder(SID) was introduced. Dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by the presence of two or more distinctive persona in one body. There is also times when persona is absent in a person, in this case the person is blind to the reality of the world. creates its own world with amusement and fantasy, hopeless dreamers. A person with SID is left with one persona and fails load other personas for different situations. At a glance, the patient with SID might look normal, but as interaction continues one will find out the patient’s behaviors or responses leaning to one side, lacking morality, and artificial. Unfortunately, the patient was not be aware of one’s condition. In Catherine’s case, she went through a level three procedure to change her passive and timid personality. At first it seemed like a great success; she was overall more engaging and actively trying new things. Problems were first noticed at a relative’s funeral, Catherine’s parents did not expect grief from her but a peppy attitude seemed awfully suspicious. It turned out that she could not display any sadness or anger. On top of that, she was overly engaging and she did not hesitate in actively using illegal drugs. Catherine’s parents immediately sued the I.C.E. salon, yet the jury took the salon’s side for two main reasons. First she was not careful about the instructions for using the supplied virtual machine. Apparently, for successful continuation of the treatment, one flash is not meant to be used more than five times in a row, Catherine failed to follow the instructions. Secondly, the salon argued that it is unclear if the condition was strictly created by the treatment or if the drugs had had an affect. Catherine, still unable to recover, is staying in a mental institution. Luckily for Catherine, she is positive about her stay.

A certain time ago, cosmetic bimaxillary operation was quite popular, even though there was a large chance of lifetime damaging side effect. Customers did not care about the danger that accompanies the surgery because at that point illness of the mind was endangered. In the end, like cosmetic plastic surgery, it is a method to boost self-esteem. They’re doing it for themselves to prevent their inner self from being hurt. To be a part of an evolution one has to be prepared to accept its price.

Cosmetic plastic surgery preference of body parts is divergent based on cultural or social desire, psychology also can not be mentioned without its cultural implication. So the question becomes, what is the personality our society require us to have?

What about me? by Paul Verhaeghe mentions in neoliberalism, because we reward me- first economy system, we are triggering our ethics and our personalities to change toward psychopathic personality. Similarly, The Wisdom of Psychopath by Kevin Dutton mentions that traits of psychopath such as, fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused, are fitted to succeed in the twenty first century. We could imagine a possibility where people purposely use I.C.E. Salon to become psychopath. We will be walking around the city with thousands of Patrick Baterman from American Psycho, Dr. Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, and etc. Everyday will be a thriller.

Looking at the Future
It is common to go to a hospital for an immediate care for a seasonal cold, yet one hesitates to go to hospital for a depression, which is considered to be a “common cold” mental illness. Therapy could benefit everyone, it is not only for people with severe mental illness. It can help with moderate depression, anxiety, or even with relationship problems. The I.C.E. Salon draws a bigger picture of of the generalizing psychotherapy. The most basic services are casual and psychotherapy not to heal a disability but for self-satisfaction, and in that aspect shows similarity with cosmetic plastic surgery. The salon provides a quick solution for individuals who wants to be more outgoing, cautious, spunky, mindful, etc. As people visit more frequently, or even by just being exposed, they will feel less repulsive against psychotherapy. It also one of the reasons why I.C.E. Salon was considerate in the branding of the facility; it is a salon not a clinic, there are identity designers but no psychotherapist, and sessions are a relaxing sleeping time not an uncomfortable conversation.

Enhancing the brain always a common transhumanist approach, and the opening of I.C.E. Salon help us overcome the limitation of our personality our brains have created. In addition, we might be able to construct a permanent dream bridge that will grant the ability of eidetic memory.

The proposal of the salon is tempting, however lets also consider the possibility of not only the side effects but also the misuses. With the help of the I.C.E. salon, a congressmen has submitted a petition to use virtual reality and psychology technology, for social welfare, such as rehabilitation of criminals. It already sounds similar to the plot of A Clockwork Orange. Even though we are able to modify personality in detail rather then simple conditioning like in the mentioned movie, what is a suitable character in today’s society? and does the government get the right to decided?

As for me, even though there are many changes I would like to make, I will keep my eyes out for the reviews for the next two or three years.

The Transhuman podcast was created by me, Jay Hong. You can go to my website jaystal.com to see the transcript as well as the supporting materials.