To Live Forever
“Ashes to ashes; dust to dust…” Words of finality that are the hallmark of a human life at its conclusion.
Those of a religious persuasion will comfort themselves with the hope or promise of eternal life and that death is just a “crossing over”, but as far as our earthly interaction with the deceased is concerned – it’s over. Or is it? The key to a new future might lie in the internet. Scientists predict that human thoughts, emotions and even memories could be transferred to a digital file where others would be able to access them. It brings a new perspective to the concept eternal life.
The idea has come from the Hieroglyph Project based at Arizona State University. It brings scientists together with science fiction writers to share thinking.
To understand how we could leave part of ourselves on earth forever more, we need to know how our brains record experience. In simple terms, the process centres on the action of brain nerve cells called neurons that fire in response to stimuli such as light, heat, or some chemical trigger from the body. When we remember something, it seems to involve those neurons repeating their activity. What if that pattern could be encoded digitally and replayed? Easy! Well, of course, it isn’t. How can the content of a brain be captured in digital form? And even if that becomes possible, how much of an obstacle is it that, even though all brains operate generally in the same way, it cannot be assumed that at the microscopic level there are not important differences. Can these problems be addressed? Perhaps 50 million Euros from the European Commission will help.
However, imagine the implications of the encoding process going awry. Could one’s reputation be scarred for evermore? Bad enough others having access to your thoughts without them being the wrong thoughts! Maybe the ashes option is not so bad.
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