TRANSCRIPT OF THE HEARING BEFORE THE UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
Monday, November 4, 2030
Testimony of Dr. Elizabeth Bennett
Senator John Rees (Republican Wisconsin): The committees on the Judiciary and Commerce, Science and Transportation, will now come to order. We welcome everyone who can join us in person and online to today’s hearing on Timezio, Inc. The issue on the table today will cover recent concerns that have been raised about privacy and consumer protection of individuals using Timezio’s rental services.
We will begin with an opening statement by the CEO of Timezio, Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, followed by questions from the committee. We have a lot of ground to cover today so let’s begin promptly. I recognize Dr. Bennett. You may proceed.
Dr. Bennett (Timezio): Chairman Rees, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Timezio is a revolutionary biotech start-up enabling people to monetize their most valuable resource: time. Since its founding two years ago, Timezio has focused on creating intimate connections between people using advanced micro-processing technology. We take the virtual out of virtual reality.
Why do we do this? The answer is simple. Everyone in this room is old enough to have experienced the anticipation and disappointment of digital universes. It has made shopping easier and created new online meeting tools, but I can confidently say that there is no one here that thinks back fondly on the time spent there. I think about my virtual world less than about my daily commute, which at all times of the day, still somehow smells like urine.
I don’t like that smell, no one does, but we remember it because we experienced it. Do I feel the chill of the water as my avatar goes for a swim? Of course not. Do I create fond memories with my avatar friends? No. We crave genuine experiences, even the smelly ones, because it is human nature. But not all the experiences that we want to have are possible. We might be limited by our age, our health, our social status, or gender, or even race.
Experienced discrimination is real. Timezio is here to change that.
Timezio’s proprietary Brain-On-Chip® technology allows, in simple terms, for one person to rent the body of another for a designated period of time. The technology is currently approved for renting a body for up to 6 hours, but we are aiming to extend this in the coming 5 years to a complete 24-hour body rental experience.
Becoming a Timezio user is easy. Anyone over the age of 18 can sign up on our website to be either a Patron (someone who pays to rent a body), a Donor (someone who rents out their body for a fee), or a monitor (someone who monitors sessions between Donors and Patrons for a fee).
We have a diverse, easily searchable database of potential body-rental sessions, which currently covers over a thousand common experiences that Patrons might want to have in a Donor’s body. These include everything from going for a walk in the park or attending a cooking class, to skydiving and exotic tropical adventures. The possibilities are as limitless as the imagination of our users.
(AUDIBLE WHISPERING AMONG CHAMBER ATTENDANTS)
As a Patron, you can search by either Donor-type or start by looking for a specific experience. Donor profiles cover basic information about themselves, such as their age, gender, and the experiences they agree to let their bodies be rented for. Donors can provide as much or as little information as they feel comfortable with.
For example, let’s say I am an elderly patient with advanced Parkinson’s disease. As a Patron, I can look for a Donor that I can rent to go out to a fancy restaurant and eat, without help, whatever I want from the menu. As a Patron, I get to briefly regain a freedom I might have lost years ago for a small fee. As a Donor, I get a free meal. Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? But I assure you, it’s as real as me sitting at the table in front of you right now.
How does it work? When a Donor and Patron match, they are each sent a chip in the mail with the instructions for use, as well as the appointment and terms and conditions for the rental that they need to digitally approve before any session can take place.
Applying the chips is easy and painless. The chip is fixed to a distinctive red headband so that anyone can easily identify a Timezio user and avoid any potential misunderstandings between friends and acquaintances.
Donors and Patrons simply place the headband with the chip on their heads and turn it on. It arrives pre-programmed for ease of use. They can activate it in the privacy of their home or wherever the activity is to take place. The Donor and Patron chips are linked so that the conscious mind of the Patron can be transferred to the Donor when both chips are activated. To put it in perhaps crass, but I believe understandable terms: when the chips are active the Patron is the puppeteer, and the donor is the puppet.
During sessions, the Patron has full use of the Donors body as if it was their own, allowing them to feel, interact and experience everything in the real world. Once the session is over, the chip automatically deactivates at the pre-approved time. The Patron retains full memories of the session, while Donors have little to no memory of the experience. For Donors, it is as if they had woken up from a dream. Our internal studies have shown that many Donors in fact report that they feel refreshed following sessions.
Safety is our number one priority at Timezio. To ensure the security of both Patrons and Donors, each session is closely watched by a remote Monitor that observes the session via an integrated camera and vital sign monitoring functions equipped on each chip. The monitor can, at any time, disengage the session if any unexpected situations or problems are experienced.
I encourage each and every one of you to read the testimonials on our website of Patrons and Donors who have had transformative, life changing experiences using Timezio’s rental service. If you do, you will read the countless stories of mothers who have tragically lost their children being able to hold a newborn as if it was their own one more time; stories of quadriplegics attending weekly yoga sessions; stories of hospice patients who can barely keep ice chips down while swimming with dolphins. This is the virtual reality we had hoped for. Timezio is making it a reality. Thank you. I welcome your questions.
Senator Timothy Sutton (Republican Texas): Thank you Dr. Bennett. As I am sure you know, in 1984 the National Organ Transplant Act made it illegal to sell or buy human organs and tissues in the United States. Your Donors are paid, and paid handsomely, for the use of their bodies, which if I am not mistaken also includes a whole bunch of organs and tissues. Can you explain to me how your company is not blatantly violating this law?
Dr. Bennett: Sen. Sutton, Timezio facilitates a rental service for bodies. There is a temporary use of organs and tissues by Patrons, but they do not get to keep them. The Transplant Act does not cover the potential for rental as it didn’t exist. We invented that.
But there is in fact a strong and growing body rental industry that has existed for decades without the use of Timezio’s proprietary Brain-On-Chip® technology.
Clinical trials, for example, use participants’ bodies to try out new medications and treatments in exchange for payment. As a rule of thumb, the riskier and more complex the treatment, the higher the payment. I think we can all agree that we would not like to take a medication that has not undergone extensive clinical trials. For the personal risk that participants take as well as the time commitment, they are paid. That is only fair.
At Timezio, Patrons pay Donors for the time and risk associated with any session, most of which are completely harmless. I would argue that a Timezio session is in fact safer than participating in a clinical study.
Surrogacy is another common example. It offers a way for couples to have children who otherwise could not. But let’s think about what it entails for a moment. Women who choose to become surrogates bear the emotional and physical burden of carrying a child to term, for which they might need to undergo substantial medical treatments, including surgery, for a child that they will hand off moments after they are born. It’s a noble act, it is perfectly legal, and for it she is paid very well. Here, there are no monitors, there is no way out if the woman changes her mind after 6 months. It’s a huge personal risk if we are completely honest.
Whether we like the idea intrinsically of renting a body or not, this is already happening. At Timezio we are simply using our proprietary technology to optimize this experience.
Senator Daniel Booth (Democrat California): Dr. Bennett, this sounds all well and good, but what about the increasing cases of abuse?
In my own home state of California, I see at least once a week in the newspaper a case of a monitor who was paid to look the other way by an unidentifiable Patron. Or Donors who say Patrons had sex while they were renting their bodies. Or took drugs. There was the very public and tragic death of Ms. Charlotte Williams, a 19-year-old college student from Berkeley, California that died of a heroin overdose while working as a Timezio Donor. Not to mention the Donors who are waking up in hospital beds from car accidents and bar fights with no understanding of what has happened to them or an ability to explain it to the doctor.
I don’t think Ms. Williams consented to being killed by a heroin overdose. I want to know where the Monitor for Ms. Williams was when she died? If they could have cut off the session at any time, why didn’t they?
BENNETT: Sen. Booth, The case of Ms. Williams is tragic. I have personally extended my condolences to her family and the Monitor that was responsible for that session was immediately removed from Timezio’s active monitors list. But I would also like to emphasize that cases like this are rare and are not representative.
We estimate about 6 million sessions are taking place every month. Most of these sessions take place without any issues whatsoever. But the media does not report on things going smoothly, they find and focus on the outliers. Ms. Williams, as tragic as it was, was an outlier.
At Timezio we believe that people are fundamentally good, and they will use their good judgement to ensure that neither the Donor nor the Patron are suffering in any way. Monitors are trained to identify suffering and to be aware of some key places where abuse can take place. But if 6 million interactions are taking place, it would be an illusion to assume that mistakes won’t eventually be made and that there will be some bad actors. We can either blame the system or choose to learn from it.
We don’t ban cars from the road when a child dies in a car crash. What do we do? We try to make the road safer, raise public awareness, improve driver training. None of these things can permanently prevent a reoccurrence, but they can reduce its likelihood. We increased our monitoring training time by 30% following the death of Ms. Williams. I assure you we are taking it and every accusation of abuse seriously.
Senator Peter French (Democrat Pennsylvania): Dr. Bennett, how many monitors does Timezio currently employ?
BENNETT: Monitors are all Freelancers so they can work flexibly for as much or as little time as they want.
FRENCH: So, zero? The answer is zero?
BENNETT: We have around 20,000 freelance Monitors globally and this number is growing every day.
FRENCH: I’m no scientist but basic math I can do. So, you have 6 million sessions monthly being covered by 20,000 Monitors. For the sake of argument, let’s assume everyone is doing the same amount of work, which they are certainly not. That is 300 sessions every month for every Monitor. Can one Monitor covering 300 sessions in their spare time dedicate their full attention to each one? We have one hearing now and I think most people here have checked their emails at least twice since we had our opening statements.
BENNETT: Look, we are a start-up and as with all start-ups there are growing pains. We are doing what we can to streamline the monitoring process. At Timezio, we actively discourage the monitoring of multiple sessions simultaneously in our training. But we also leave it up to the individual to determine what they can handle.
FRENCH: Ok, Let’s pretend I want to become a monitor, tell me what my training looks like.
BENNETT: Our monitors are trained on a fully remote basis with an online e-learning curriculum. It consists of 4 modules: Brain-on-Chip® technology (what are the chips and how do they work), anatomy of a session (how does the session start, begin and end), understanding billing and payments for a session, and Frequently Asked Questions.
The full e-learning course takes about 6 hours to complete. Monitors need to pass a short multiple-choice exam following each module to be approved as a monitor.
FRENCH: 6 hours? That’s it? You are telling me that I can, in 6 hours, play puppeteer with someone else’s body?
BENNETT: No, Monitors don’t play puppeteer. A Monitor watches and disengages a session if they think there is any cause for alarm.
FRENCH: And what about Donors and Patrons?
BENNETT: Donors and Patrons are strongly encouraged to carefully read our terms and conditions. There is no required e-learning curriculum for either Donors or Patrons to ease the onboarding process.
FRENCH: I’m sorry but this is not like ordering someone else’s coffee here. I can, with Timezio, do anything in someone else’s body if I want. What if I am an alcoholic? Is it ok for an alcoholic to rent out someone else’s body to go have a few beers?
BENNETT: Sen. French, we are not here to pass judgment on someone else’s chosen experience. I would encourage anyone with an addiction problem to seek appropriate help. But Timezio is not here to pass judgement on someone else’s chosen experience as this leads to the system we have now of oppressive experience discrimination. Our job is to facilitate a safe interaction. What is agreed upon between two consenting adults is up to them.
FRENCH: So, if a Patron and a Donor want to have sex, take drugs, and do it all while bungie jumping, they can do that with Timezio?
BENNETT: With all due respect, I don’t believe we have that specific combination in our current rental agreements.
Timezio sessions are based on a contract between two consenting adults. It is extremely important that both parties understand and agree to the terms and conditions.
Senator Timothy Sutton (Republican Texas): Dr. Bennett can you tell me more about the screening process for people using Timezio. Can really anyone rent out someone else’s body? Can an ex-con with a history of violent convictions just rent a young lady if they want to?
BENNETT: Sen. Sutton, personal privacy is very important to our company and our relationship with our Patrons. And I think you can understand why. This is more personal than dating. It touches upon a desire for an experience that cannot, for whatever reason be achieved without being in someone else’s body.
We make a sustained effort to keep our Patrons anonymous. We ensure that for our services, Patrons transfer money to us using a virtual credit card which is not directly linked to their personal accounts. They can provide their home address but they can just as well send it to any number of alternative locations for a safe and secure pick up. If someone uses their real home address, we honestly don’t know or verify this information.
SUTTON: So, you don’t know if potentially dangerous people are renting out other people’s bodies? You could have ex-cons pretending to be policemen for a day and letting their buddies get away with murder?
BENNETT: This would be against our terms and conditions.
SUTTON: Ok and what happens if I do that?
BENNET: You would be banned from using the platform in the future.
SUTTON: That’s it?
BENNET: Timezio is not a police force and does not aim to become one. We leave it up to the law enforcement community to decide how to deal with criminal acts.
SUTTON: But you facilitate it, don’t you?
BENNET: We facilitate these types of crimes as much as any form of communication or transportation facilitates criminals already. You don’t blame BMW for providing a car that could be used to flee the scene of a crime, do you? You blame the individual.
SUTTON: Ok, so I have security camera footage of a guy wearing a red headband robbing a bank. He claims he was being rented. Who do I take to jail?
BENNETT: As I said, Timezio is not a police force, and it is not for Timezio to decide.
Senator Kelly York (Democrat, Maine): Dr. Bennet, how do you know that the chips are safe? What happens to my own brain if I donate it 50 times, or 100 times, or 1000 times, for someone else?
BENNETT: Sen. York, I can assure you that we have performed extensive physical and virtual testing of the technology and are confident in its safety. From our data, I can say that it is significantly safer than anesthesia. We currently see no statically significant data correlating an increase in chip use to an increase of any self-reported adverse events following sessions for either Donors or Patrons.
YORK: Are there any known adverse events for Timezio users?
BENNETT: Donors have reported minor injuries sustained while using the chip. It takes a few minutes to get acquainted with someone else’s limbs and it’s not impossible that a Patron might trip and fall in a Donor’s body.
There have been some sporadic reports of flashbacks from Donors of sessions and in very rare cases, less than 5%, Phantom Patron Syndrome. Flashbacks of sessions can, for example, mean that you remember going to a restaurant and eating fish, but normally you would never order fish. They have been reported to feel more like a daydream by Donors.
Phantom Patron Syndrome is the feeling that once a session is over, Donors are not in control of their own body and continue to be controlled by a Patron. We do not currently know what causes it. We do know that in most cases, symptoms tend to decrease over the weeks and months following a session. If this happens, we encourage the Donor to take a break from sessions and seek counseling. The rare cases where this has occurred seem to have been helped by treatments for split personality disorder.
YORK: Dr. Bennett, can I ask you to pull your hair back for a moment. Can you describe what you are wearing?
BENNETT: This red headband is a physical example of our Brain-On-Chip® technology. There is a lot of fear around new technologies. Fear of the unknown. But I hope I have helped to show you that this red headband is nothing to be afraid of.
REESE: I think we should take a quick recess. We will reconvene the session in one hour. Thank you, Dr. Bennett.
BENNETT: Who is Dr. Bennett?
I am a new writer and a recovering academic with a PhD in biology. Originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, I have been an expat in Austria since 2008. I have one recently published short story and over 50 publications in science journalism. When I am not writing, you can usually find me hiking with my husband and son and mispronouncing the German names for sausages.