Chaotic Awesome is a webseries hosted by Chloe Dykstra and Michele Morrow, generally focused on all things geeky, such as gaming and technology. But the good influence of correspondent Christina Ochoa ensures that there is also a healthy dose of real science on the show. It was a perfect venue for Jennifer Ouellette — science writer extraordinaire, as well as beloved spouse of your humble blogger — to talk about her latest masterwork, Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self.
Jennifer’s book runs the gamut from the role of genes in forming personality to the nature of consciousness as an emergent phenomenon. But it also fits very naturally into a discussion of gaming, since our brains tend to identify very strongly with avatars that represent us in virtual spaces. (My favorite example is Jaron Lanier’s virtual lobster — the homuncular body map inside our brain is flexible enough to “grow new limbs” when an avatar takes a dramatically non-human form.) And
just for fun for the sake of scientific research, Jennifer and her husband tried out some psychoactive substances that affect the self/other boundary in a profound way. I’m mostly a theorist, myself, but willing to collect data when it’s absolutely necessary.