Who are we when we are not us?
I think about Mum who died with Alzheimer’s disease. I think of how in the end, she stared so very blankly. She looked like Mum, her hands were Mum. But the Mum I had grown up with, had already left.
And why stay here anyway, trapped in a body that no longer works? But what if her consciousness, with all her memories and personality could have been uploaded and saved, before the slow creep of amyloid plaque set in? What if an artificial brain could have been inserted and Mum downloaded again? Would that bypass the disease? I’m thinking such a large part of who we are resides in our heart that fixing the brain may not help? Or would it? Because her heart would have still been fine. Mum had an enormous ticker. But did her wonderful love reside in her heart? Or somewhere else?
Where does our consciousness reside? Is it inside, outside, within calling distance sometimes, and at others, not so much? Do the many accounts of out of body experiences, mean that consciousness can indeed float around nearby? Lurking? Witnessing?
I’ve been watching Blindspot on Netflix intermittently, people with amnesia have no idea of their likes, dislikes or what their body can do or has done. Their history is erased. So who do they become?
Is consciousness based on memory or does it run deeper, wider than that?
In the future, it is probable that our brains will be able to be uploaded into computers. Then downloaded into robots or at least robot human hybrids. Versions of this scenario are already happening as people become more involved on social media, happily passing huge swathes of information about themselves into the internet. We create avatars of and play games with those avatars. Is it such a giant leap. Sadly no, it’s little more than a shuffling step.
When we die, does consciousness die with us? And if so, how does that affect our brain which has been uploaded elsewhere? Is it possible our consciousness will simply be transferred to a mechanical body that is therefore impervious to disease and decay? Will we become immortal?
Where does that then leave religion? Spirituality? Morals? Ethics? Humanity?
Is this how we bypass not just disease but also the problem of consumption? Pollution? Environmental degradation due to the massive amounts of farming and grazing area that are required to feed an increasing population that is impervious to death?
Will procreation even be a thing?
What will happen to the natural world? Will everyone be hooked into a virtual world and creepers and trees reclaim the cities, or will robots stalk about gently tending to the bounty that is a natural world not so hard pressed to provide sustenance for humans?
I have so many questions. And none of these are ridiculous. All of this and more is coming toward us, at a pace that we haven’t been able to get ahead of to date. It’s alarming and interesting and weird to think about.
So I’m passing the thoughts onward and outward for you to chew over. Have a lovely day.