Is another human living inside you?
Are You Know? Another Human is Living Inside You
You may think your body and mind are your own. In fact, you are a fusion of many organisms – including, potentially, another person. Words by David Robson, photography by Ariko Inaoka.
By David Robson
Once upon a time, your origins were easy to understand. Your dad met your mum, they had some fun, and from a tiny fertilised egg you emerged kicking and screaming into the world. You are half your mum, half your dad – and 100% yourself.
Except, that simple tale has now become a lot more complicated. Besides your genes from parents, you are a mosaic of viruses, bacteria – and potentially, other humans. Indeed, if you are a twin, you are particularly likely to be carrying bits of your sibling within your body and brain. Stranger still, they may be influencing how you act.
A very large number of different human and non-human individuals are struggling inside us for control
“Humans are not unitary individuals but superorganisms,” says Peter Kramer at the University of Padua. “A very large number of different human and non-human individuals are all incessantly struggling inside us for control.” Together with Paola Bressan, he recently wrote a paper in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science, calling for psychologists and psychiatrists to appreciate the ways this may influence our behaviour.
That may sound alarming, but it has long been known that our bodies are really a mishmash of many different organisms. Microbes in your gut can produce neurotransmitters that alter your mood; some scientists have even proposed that the microbes may sway your appetite, so that you crave their favourite food. An infection of a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, meanwhile, might just lead you to your death. In nature, the microbe warps rats’ brains so that they are attracted to cats, which will then offer a cosy home for it to reproduce. But humans can be infected and subjected to the same kind of mind control too: the microbe seems to make someone risky, and increases the chance they will suffer from schizophrenia or suicidal depression. Currently, around a third of British meat carries this parasite, for instance – despite the fact an infection could contribute to these mental illnesses. “We should stop this,” says Kramer.
In this light, it becomes clear that our actions are not entirely our own. It’s enough to make you question your sense of identity, but the idea of infiltration becomes even more eerie when you realise that your brain has not just been invaded by tiny microbes – but also by other human beings.
Even non-conjoined twins could be sharing organs without realising it
The most visible example might be a case of conjoined twins sharing a brain, says Kramer, but even regular twins could have shared organs without realising it. During early development, cells can be passed between twins or triplets. Once considered a rare occurrence, we now know it is surprisingly common. Around 8% of non-identical twins and 21% of triplets, for example, have not one, but two blood groups: one produced by their own cells, and one produced by “alien” cells absorbed from their twin. They are, in other words, a chimera – a fusion of two bodies – and it may occur in many organs, including the brain.
Attackers can send very convincing emails that look like they are from TalkTalk but are actually trying to gather your personal information.
They may even refer to the cyber-attack in an attempt to appear genuine.
Be suspicious if an email asks you to reply with personal information or click on a link. Criminals can set up official-looking websites to harvest your account details.
“I would caution against clicking links in emails you are unsure of – it’s always better to type the website address manually, to avoid the risk of being redirected to a phishing site,” said David Emm from security firm Kaspersky Lab.
If you suspect an email is not genuine, call the company’s customer service line and ask whether they have sent one.
Monitor your bank account
Although it can be a nuisance for victims of a cyber-attack to monitor their bank accounts, it can help spot problems quickly.
Look through your recent transactions for any payments you do not recognise, even if they are very small.
“People will try and take a small amount first. TalkTalk has four million customers. If they do four million £1 transactions, that’s not a bad haul,” said Mr Dresner.
If you spot any unusual activity you should contact your bank and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Never reuse passwords
TalkTalk is advising customers to change their account password as soon as its website is back up and running.
It is especially important to change your password on other websites, if you have used the same one across many accounts.
Attackers may have harvested usernames, email addresses and passwords from TalkTalk which could let them unlock other services such as your email.
“It’s a growing concern that many use the same password and personal details across multiple online accounts, meaning if their details have been compromised by one attack they could find other accounts suffer too,” said Mr Emm.