Michael Battalio

Friday, July 06, 2012

Serious conversations (part 38):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth entries deal with extending one’s life artificially.

        Clearly you are still human if your body doesn’t work (see for example Stephen Hawking or Christopher Reeve). And I would suppose that you would still be human if we could find a way to sever the head and still provide nutrients to sustain life to the head. I am willing to say that our sense of self resides in the brain, and you can be your “self” without your body. So the question becomes does our sense of self rely upon being in the physical world? Even though Hawking and Reeve could not actually move objects around, they still interacted with the physical world by being a part of it - seeing and hearing etc. If we are living as a computer what (if any) mechanisms do we have to interact with the physical world? That to me is an important question because our existence is based off the physical. We matter only in the physical. Granted now that a lot of what we do is not necessarily manifested in the physical such as programs that we write or other electronically conceived works but it exists as storage in the physical world. If we were simply lines of code how would we interact with the objects of physical world ? Would we live in a machine then move ourselves to android like bodies when we needed to do something, and then move back to our machines when were done? (It would be awesome to have a body like an android to move into when I needed.)

        Another point is what component of fading memories makes us human? If we are a machine we will remember everything, yes? Is there some point where our consciousness has too much to remember that it becomes overwhelmed by the amount of memories? Maybe. I seem to remember there being cases of people who remember everything ever (I don’t remember the medical term for it.), but they have a limited lifespan. So how much can one consciousness remember? Is it a limit of our consciousness or is it a limit of the storage capacity of the brain? With machines our storage capacity is dramatically increased, but won’t machines run out of space at some point too? And even in that case what would it be like to live in a machine? That topic is covered in part 39.

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