A Mechanism of Immortality

February 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm (By Amba)

. . . that even a materialist could love?

I’m not a convinced materialist (that takes belief, and I am not a believer of any kind—I’m as pure an agnostic as you’ll find), but I’m immersed in science all day long and so I am conversant with its core belief, which is—crudely put—that only what has a demonstrable physical, material basis is real. Let’s take that as our premise just for the moment, without taking it as truth or untruth.

We all have odd thoughts sometimes, and what follows was one of mine. It was spurred by hearing about someone who, late in his own life, had quite convincing hallucinatory conversations with his deceased wife. And more than one person my age who has said that it was only when their second parent died that they lost them both. And the truism, maybe especially a secular Jewish one, that memory is our immortality.

What if that’s literally true?

Another ingredient in this thought is having copyedited a book about the Singularity, the techno-geek fantasy that machines will bring us immortality (it’s been called “the Rapture for nerds”). Various mechanisms are imagined, but one of them is transferring our consciousness into a silicon substrate, a deathless machine. I am extremely skeptical of this and think it’s basically a religious hope of escape from death transferred lock, stock, and barrel onto science, but that’s beside my point here.

Which is: What if we actually transfer at least a part of our consciousness into another brain?

That seems less of a stretch than transferring it into the alien medium of silicon. And love is the technology of transfer. Longtime couples, besides sharing a lot of experiences, certainly incorporate parts of each other’s outlook into themselves. “Becoming one flesh” might be a metaphor not only for feeling one another’s joy or pain, but for an identification intimate enough to incorporate some of each other’s cognitive traces. When one dies, then, maybe some aspects of their consciousness literally live on in the other’s brain.

Just putting it out there. When I listen to jazz, it feels like Jacques is listening through me.

Cross-posted on A Cold Eye

About these ads

33 Comments

  1. A Mechanism of Immortality | A Cold Eye said,

    […] Cross-posted on Ambiance […]

  2. Icepick said,

    Immortality in a machine? I supposed these people have never had a hard drive die with critical information on it….

  3. A said,

    When I hear jazz my father listened to, I both hear and appreciate it differently than I did in his presence, or when he was alive to hear it, and seem to grok things about him and his life in relation to the music in ways I never had before. I don’t feel he’s listening through me, but more that I’m listening through him, through fragments of his experience and being, powerfully in the context of other times, including before I was born.

  4. karen said,

    Both your concept, amba- and A’s- are such beautiful thoughts and could possibly be a truism.
    I would like to think so, anyway. And why not?

    Although, in giving it more thought- i don’t think this pehnom(enon(“m”:0)) can happen just because we love, or are close- or have memories and share imprints. I think it is a Grace given to us by a loving God to give us the courage to continue the journey of life we have left. Encouragement and loving pushes &whispered conversations- aloud or under the covers… to keep our feet moving forward…

    Npr has had a lot of interesting things on these past few days. I heard a story on The Moth Radio- called ~Forgiveness~ that was so compassionate that it brought Sunday”s Gospel to life. The sound of this man’s voice was so filled w/conviction and humility. Tonight, it(as if it were real- talk about machines taking on life) talked of the Arizona Bill to be either signed or vetoed by their Gov’nor… my mind was stretched open. And, Life Insurance and Health Insure and growing up and Jane Fonda crying over how little time she has left and the two yr old girl who’s skull was squeezed so hard it fractured and she died two days later- crushed by her step Father- and the fracturing of families and the more we have the more we develop an apathy of sorts for all that we have…

  5. LouiseM said,

    I enjoy posts like this because they prompts thoughts, even though I don’t have an answer or even know if I’m thinking along the same track. Something in them resonates and invites consideration. Tonight, I opened the book, Wonderful Investigations to find this intro:

    Wonder, as a point of concern, denies its own consideration. It has the remarkable capacity to hide in the midst of its revelation. Wonder, to preserve itself, withdraws. It withdraws from the mind, from the willing mind, which would make of mystery a category.

    I remember being told a story about an old culture that believed the center of the forest was holy and could not be entered into. Even in the heat of the hunt, should the chased beast enter into the sacred center, the hunter would stop and not pursue. I think often about that line–which is not a line in any definite sense, is not certain marking but rather is itself somehow without definition, a hazy line, a faulty boundary–that marks the periphery. One side of the line is the daily world where we who have appetites must fill our mouths, we who have thoughts must fill our minds. The other side is within the world and beyond it, where appetite isn’t to be sated, where desire is not to be fulfilled, and where thoughts refuse to lead to knowledge. I like the moment of failure that finds us on that line, abandoned of intent, caught in an experience of a different order, stalking the line between two different worlds and imperfectly taking part in both. Such a place risks blasphemy at the same time that it returns reverence to risk.
    Dan Beachy-Quick

  6. karen said,

    The sad thing is– this line is not being shown to our younger generations coming up through life, IMhumbleO, of course. No thing is sacred anymore.

    Which led me to question… who asked that question-whom can i quote? So, i googled it, right? And i found this- which i didn’t read(no time- i’m late for work already:0):

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFsQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.beartronics.com%2Frushdie.html&ei=yt8NU-KyM87esASUuIH4DQ&usg=AFQjCNHHBDyOb1GgjjlLGGz2ioIogUIk2g&bvm=bv.61965928,d.cWc&cad=rja

    … but, i think it fits this thread. Or, Louise’s excerpt.
    I love these posts , too. Deep thought is so rewarding.

  7. amba12 said,

    Wow. Lookit you all carrying the ball. Should kick off more often.

    That by Dan Beachy-Quick (like peachy-keen?) remind me of this by poet Wendell Berry’s daughter when she was still a child:

    I hope there is an animal
    that nobody has ever seen,
    and I hope nobody ever sees it.

  8. amba12 said,

    Salman Rushdie! When I first read one of his essays, it felt like being reunited with my brother.

  9. karen said,

    I’ve never read anything of his- i am a very unstudied person.
    I did read through it quickly- like tasting a little of everything at brunch, but never able to enjoy completely each morsel. I think i will begin a Bucket List today and reading Mr Rushdie will be #1. I’m a person that actually likes ruts and the ~stucks in the ruts~ feel peaceful rather than confining and dull. The deeper the rut, the cozier the feel.

    Except the weather. I am heartily sick of the cold and the snow.
    Along w/the vast majority of our Country, i bet!

  10. A said,

    That’s a wonderful essay—thanks for the link, Karen.
    Voice-rooms. Oh, my.

  11. kngfish said,

    With immortality my investment strategy of saving a penny a month will finally work!

  12. mockturtle said,

    With immortality my investment strategy of saving a penny a month will finally work!

    There y’a go! ;-)

  13. Icepick said,

    With immortality my investment strategy of saving a penny a month will finally work!

    Alternately you could put $100,000 in a bank, and EARN one penny a month in interest!*

    * Before fees and any potential penalties, of course.

  14. mockturtle said,

    Alternately you could put $100,000 in a bank, and EARN one penny a month in interest!*

    * Before fees and any potential penalties, of course.

    Ain’t it the truth! :-(

  15. Donna B. said,

    But… back to science! I would alter what you call a belief and call it a definition: that only what has a demonstrable physical, material basis is suitable for scientific study.

    It is hubris to suggest that a physical fact about the physical brain can explain a thought. Or delusion. It can show where in the brain these thoughts, delusions, or whatever generate physical, material activity. And that’s a great help sometimes.

    However, there is nothing science can test about the memories/thoughts/lessons/love/feelings/ that I transfer to those I love and that get transferred back to me… then transformed and transferred again. And again. And again.

    Where science helps is in identifying — and perhaps sometimes correcting a defect — when this transfer goes awry. Believe me, when there’s a physical injury to the brain, or a hormonal/neurotransmitter problem, the transfer goes awry.

    To illustrate — the following conversation took place after an unpleasant adventure my two daughters and I had due to poor judgement and we were coming up with our excuses:

    Daughter #1 — Well, I’m pregnant.
    Me — I have a brain tumor.
    Daughter #2 — um… well… I’m a lawyer.

  16. amba12 said,

    That is hilarious. That’s the best.

  17. karen said,

    When a lost limb actually feels as if it’s still attached- how is that explained?
    Wouldn’t that also explain this- when we actually feel the presence of those we have lost, as if we were still attached?

    Yeahhhhh- Donna? i’m the chick that needs ~2 clues~. I take that literally, so that worries me(whereas amba thinks it’s hilarious) so i’m hoping that it’s a case of… “one of these things is not like the other” as opposed to reality?

  18. mockturtle said,

    I believe that man is a spiritual creature. We don’t know why but we somehow sense that this is true, material evidence notwithstanding.

  19. Donna B. said,

    nah Karen… nothing so complicated. It’s my daughter’s way of saying being a lawyer can be like having a mental defect of some sort. Or that she lacked creativity in excuse-making. Or something. Anyway, we laughed the night and misadventure away. It’s a memory that still makes the three of us smile. And laugh every time we remind daughter #2 that she’s still a lawyer.

  20. karen said,

    :0) i hate 2be a worrywart, but- i am a worrywart!

  21. kngfish said,

    This is one of those questions where both sides seem to have a vested interest in the answer, so I basically mistrust them both as well! Perhaps there’s an answer to this question….but why do they want this answer so badly? What would they do with the Truth if they found it? Say, “Ha ha, told you so!”? Feel “Vindicated”? Do you want to weaponize this truth? I doubt anyone wants to just “know” the truth with going to Step B which is….what?

    I’m not I want to know the answer to that one!

  22. realpc920 said,

    “I’m immersed in science all day long and so I am conversant with its core belief, which is—crudely put—that only what has a demonstrable physical, material basis is real.”

    That is definitely not the core belief of science. Maybe the core belief of contemporary materialism, which is not at all the same thing as science.

    What do you mean by a “physical, material basis?” Those words don’t have any meaning, unless you define them somehow.

    Is gravity “physical” or “material,” for example?

    No one knows what “matter” is made out of, but we do know it isn’t made out of matter.

  23. realpc920 said,

    “What if we actually transfer at least a part of our consciousness into another brain?”

    That assumes that consciousness somehow lives inside the brain. There is no scientific evidence for that. Materialists believe consciousness is somehow generated by the brain, but materialism is a faith.

  24. realpc920 said,

    “I believe that man is a spiritual creature. We don’t know why but we somehow sense that this is true, material evidence notwithstanding”

    There is no material evidence saying man is not a spiritual creature. That is just a materialist myth.

  25. amba12 said,

    “Crudely put” because I didn’t want to split those hairs, but of course they demonstrate (like calling “gravity” “physical”) that materialism is a faith. It is the faith that accompanies science these days, though, of course, it is not the same as science.

    This post was a thought experiment: Let’s accept for the moment the claim that consciousness lives inside the brain (suspending the question of whether it does or it doesn’t). Based on the scientistic (not scientific) fantasy of transferring consciousness into a machine, hey, maybe we’re already transferring it into another brain. That would be easier, since brain tissue is its accustomed medium. Or, if consciousness is immaterial but (during a physical lifetime) needs a brain as a point of contact with the tangible world, then maybe we give some actual part of someone else’s consciousness that kind of a pied à terre in the tangible world if we loved them and they are dead.

  26. kngfish said,

    This post reminds me of an idea of Fichte’s ” ‘I’ do not think. Rather, Universal World Thought thinks through me.” Sort of a proto Jung. Maybe this is how brains “swap thoughts”.

  27. Rod Jean said,

    I think the divide is between those who look at the world and think there must be purpose, and those who do not see purpose. The materialist can endlessly explore “how” things are the way they are.”Why” will always be the realm of religion and philosophy, because materialism ultimately does not posit a “why.”

  28. amba12 said,

    Certainly brains are not sealed compartments, and minds are not confined to a physical location at all. The “material world” is very porous.

    I suspect that evolutionary theory is eventually going to be upended by an acknowledgment that at least some of the mutation that provides fodder for natural selection is purposeful, responsive, proactive, and even inventive.

  29. realpc920 said,

    “. Or, if consciousness is immaterial but (during a physical lifetime) needs a brain as a point of contact with the tangible world, then maybe we give some actual part of someone else’s consciousness that kind of a pied à terre in the tangible world if we loved them and they are dead.”

    Yes, I think so.

  30. realpc920 said,

    “I suspect that evolutionary theory is eventually going to be upended by an acknowledgment that at least some of the mutation that provides fodder for natural selection is purposeful, responsive, proactive, and even inventive.”

    The universe is made out of information (intelligence) and it naturally evolves in the direction of increasing complexity.

    I am stating this like a fact because that is how sure I am that it’s true. I don’t expect anyone to believe it just because I said it, but if you really study the subject I am sure you will eventually agree.

  31. mockturtle said,

    “I believe that man is a spiritual creature. We don’t know why but we somehow sense that this is true, material evidence notwithstanding”

    There is no material evidence saying man is not a spiritual creature. That is just a materialist myth.

    What I actually meant to say was, ‘lack of material evidence notwithstanding.’

    PS: Your point about gravity is excellent. Most forces in the universe are unseen and, though ‘physical’, are not ‘material’.

  32. realpc920 said,

    The words “physical,” “material,” and “natural” are used but seldom defined. Supposedly, it’s a contrast with “supernatural” or “spiritual.” But we have no reason to consider spiritual worlds to be outside of nature. It’s just obsolete and confusing semantics.

  33. realpc920 said,

    [What I actually meant to say was, ‘lack of material evidence notwithstanding.’]

    There is “material” evidence for spirit. For example, look up Gary Schwartz in youtube. He has some very scientific, high-tech, experiments showing communication with spirits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35 other followers

%d bloggers like this: