Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

The transfer of consciousness. Sound boring enough?

In Science Fiction on June 18, 2010 at 12:24 am

It turns out it’s kinda tricky to continually maintain a blog on a daily basis. It’s also easier to perform this task when you are a full-time student verus having a job with a daily four hour round-trip commute. Now, I know these things, as my accurately named blog has turned into an ironically named one. Something is certainly not daily if it is updated once every few months. So, again I am trying to get back on the horse and trying to write something on a more-or-less daily basis. We’ll see how it goes.

So, what to write about? My obsession with Red Dead Redemption or Alpha Protocol? My love affair with Justified? My interest in the HBO version of Game of Thrones or my nitpicks with the pilot of Rubicon? Maybe my thoughts on the upcoming Thor movie or the casting of Captain America? Where to begin?
Let’s start with an interesting conversation I had today. It was about the nature of consciousness and the idea of transferring one’s mind into a purely digital medium. I mean, it’s a pretty popular sci-fi concept, be it Tad William’s Otherland, the show Caprica, or the ridiculous Schwarzenegger flick, The 6th Day, the idea of downloading your entire’s life experience into a digital form has been explored at length in science fiction.
The weird thing for me, however, is the idea that this is often synonymous with being immortal. That the preservation of your memories, thoughts, and feelings means that even if your mortal form were to fade away, the essence of what makes you you would live on forever. And in a sense, this is true. Everyone you interact with would most likely feel like you were still you. Couple this with crazy cloning technology, and you could imagine downloading your consciousness into a new exact replica of yourself, in essence making a brand new you.

But, it wouldn’t really be you, would it? I don’t even mean that in a metaphysical, “do clones have souls?” kinda way. I mean, even if there was a perfect replica of your mind created, you wouldn’t be the one thinking with it. It would be something that thought just like you, remembered everything you did, and might even think it was you, but it would be a new consciousness. You, however, would be gone. Creepy right? You can reproduce the data, but not the consciousness.

So, wait. Is he Hauser or is he Quaid?

On the other hand, what is consciousness? If the brain is just a storage unit for the collection of data; a organic supercomputer, then wouldn’t the preservation of the data be a preservation of what makes a person who they are. Is consciousness or identity just an illusion? I’ve kinda gone back and forth on this subject since I started writing this post. Explains why it’s such good sci-fi fodder.

What say you all?

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  1. Hey! Welcome back. Too bad you don’t have one of those fancy ass new phones so you could post while on your commute… 4 hours!?!? That sounds terrible.

    Wait! Here’s something that might brighten your day and–strangely enough–is related to your blog….

    http://www.amazon.com/Altered-Carbon-Takeshi-Kovacs-Novels/dp/0345457692/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276868410&sr=1-3

    If you like Abercrombie, you’ll like Morgan. Sure, sure, once in every book he stops and throws in a porno love scene, but you grew up on action movies in the 80s, so you know what it’s like, other that that though: awesome.

    Basically, the world premise is this: There is no faster than light travel (of course), so humans all have a chip (called their Stack) in the back o their neck that they can download their totality into. They can then be beamed across the glaxy and, on the other side, get downloaded into a clone body, or a rented body (maybe even someone else who is off planet), or a genetically modified one maybe, or a completely synthetic one, etc…

    Sometimes people have multiple different bodies on different planets, like say… when someone is in prison and can’t afford the storage fees for their bodies while they’re Stack is kept on a hard drive, their bodies might get sold off to someone else to use as an alternate sleeve (which is what they call them) and then… bye bye old body, guess the prisoner will have to take what’s available and affordable when they get out…

    There even people who have clone banks filled with duplicate bodies and 24 hour automatic memory back-ups, rendering them virtually immortal. Those people are super rich, like the guy on Earth who hires our hero because someone killed him just before his next download, so when he gets resleeved, he’s missing a day. Something happened and the guy wants to find out who killed him.

    So he hires the hero, Takeshi Kovacs. Kovacs is what is known as an Envoy. In a time when bodies can be made super strong, super fast, even grafted with gekko DNA in order to stink to walls or filled with all sorts of prepared info and skills, the mind is the last way to create the super soldier.

    Envoys are preternaturally intuitive, hypnotic, super grifters… basically. The things they can do are so scary and wildly uncontrollable that, if you ever leave the Envoy Corps you are barred from holding most jobs… so most turn to crime, which is why Kovacs is in prison.

    It’s a great noir tale where the hero is sleeved in a disgraced cop’s body (one that I imagined looking like Old Bruce Willis), it’s a violent and crazy and cool trip through a world where the idea of “real death” where your stack is unrecoverable is the most terrifying thing of all and Morgan can really write too.

    Even cooler, the shifting tone of each book mirrors the whole re-sleeving/changing bodies thing. The first book, like I said, is noir and he looks like Old Bruce Willis. The second is a heist/military actioneer where he looks like a young Denzel. The third is Kovacs returning to his home world to settle some old scores and he is wearing a body closer to his original: a little Jet Li-ish. Plus, he has to fight a much younger (mentally: as in still in the Envoys) version of himself.

    It’s pretty sweet.

    Morgan has written some other unrelated books. His new Fantasy series is pretty cool too. Speaking of: How could the Game of Thrones trailer, while showing so little, get me so excited?

    • Perfect. Jon coming on and writing a comment longer and more informative than my post.

      I feel like I’m home. It’s good to be back.

  2. Its an interesting question…

    I have a favorite axe that I use all the time.
    It has the perfect blade and handle.
    Though a few years back the handle broke, but I replaced it.
    Last year, the blade wore down, but I replaced it.
    It is my favorire axe.

    I heard that a while ago and am paraphrasing, but you get the point.

    What is the essence of something or someone. If your body were not replaced in whole, but in pieces, I think it is much easier to say, of course that it you, even after everything was replaced.

    • And a co-worker brought up the point that your body replaces itself on a cellular level all the time and so-on. Your truly not the same person you used to be. So…what does that all mean?

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