Friday, January 02, 2009

Me - 2.0

My first expendable $1B will be spent outwitting mortality.

When I go, the usual sacraments are welcome - ashes urned (or set afloat on a holy river), garlands around an uncomfortable portrait, my organs donated in equal parts to science and the needy. All of this is acceptable, because I hope to have set grander schemes in motion by the time my ghost is called up.

The idea of living on after medical death isn't new. Certain religions make death less painful by introducing concepts of re-incarnation or of the soul simply shedding its clothes, or of how heaven's a better place. Amateur science toyed with cryogenics - freezing our bodies till a pre-agreed point in time, so we can get out in 2050 and see the flying cars. And then there's the romantic notion - a person lives on through the memories they shared with others.

For the serious death0phobic (or life-o-phile) though, there's cloning, but even that leaves behind a vacuoid, a kink in the continuum of self-identity.

The discussion of what constitutes identity is a large one. At the least, it comprises dna and nurture, as also memory and emotion. The thing is, even if I were to replicate each of these as they applied to me into a clone, and let myself die off, I still wouldn't have transitioned the uniqueness of me. This uniqueness problem arises given that for some non-insignificant duration, there would exist two of me (my clone and I), and also, if I'd indeed transitioned successfully into this clone, then what does it mean to let "myself die off"? What is it that's died if I'm still alive as the clone?

Even if the clone functions exactly as I would have (had I lived longer), I'd still remain detached from it, because I wouldn't have perpetuated myself.

*Aside: 'cloning' is an ambiguous term. I'd simply download my brain onto a hard-drive, the size of which is a finite number of terabytes. The brain download would capture my memories and experiences, separated into stimuli from the outside world and my own reactions to these stimuli. Through some careful analysis, an A.I. algorithm could be charted to say - if the stimulus is x, then from his past reactions, we predict his reaction will be y.

The other step would be to monitor my brain for the last few years of my life, and see which areas of this brain turn on/off during scenarios that trigger emotion. These too can then be uploaded into a table, and the magnitude of the emotion felt is plotted against the gravity of the scenario using a complex points system. These will help predict what I will feel in a future situation.

At this point, this hard-drive copy of my brain has perpetuated the notion of me. If housed in a basic shell, it would take decisions (career, family, etc) like I would. My creativity, since a function of experience, and random synapse firing, could be replicated by introducing wanton shocks to the system. The creativity would be kept in check ("this brain is insane".."no, it's just creative") by running its output against a list of all experiences that my sanitized brain accepted as sane or insane during my life. If the absolute insanity quotient of my digital creativity was outside my sanity spectrum, the digital brain would supress it.*

All of this perpetuates what I could have been had I lived, but none of this perpetuates me. As a result, my imaginary $1B then won't go towards more cloning research. I'll have to spend it on somehow blurring that marker called identity. Once we've managed to block that ceaseless stream of inner body perceptions that anchor the conscious self to the physical body, we can simply exist virtually or become one with a machine (bhatakti aatma). Woohoo.

Why aren't you popping the bubbly yet?


Priyanka said...

For a little while I actually thought you were being serious here and I began wondering about whatever happened to all that "Let them take me when they will" bluster :-)

- P

indra said...

I think I've obsessed with the death notion enough, so it was time to write about how much I wanted to live.

Kotoi rongo dekhi duniyaey :)