“….an exact replica of your brain will hold your memories, will act and think and feel the way you do, and will experience your consciousness — irrespective of whether it’s built out of biological cells, Tinkertoys, or zeros and ones.” David Eagleman
If you could download the entire contents of your brain to a computer, everything you have ever said, thought, or felt, would you do that? Why? Or why not?
David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and bestselling author, estimates, in an article on his blog, that this will be possible in the next fifty years. Long before we fully understand the brain (if we ever will) we will be able to preserve, for all posterity, human consciousness.
The burgeoning industry of genealogy could take a whole new turn, if it became possible to find out, not just the facts of our ancestors lives, but their thoughts and feelings. No need to speculate or imagine what their lives were really like: we could experience their consciousness at first hand.
This idea gives the after life a whole new meaning, and it’s a topic that Eagleman explores imaginatively in his fictional book SUM, an international bestseller, presenting forty imaginary tales from the after lives. One of my favourites is the idea that your spirit can’t rest until your name is spoken for the last time on earth, suggesting an image of poor Elvis wandering around wishing we’d all just shut up about him.
Personally, I’d love to be able to access the consciousness of my ancestors. Part of my current novel, Honor’s Ghost, is an imaginary tale based upon the lives of my great grandparents; it would be so much easier (though a lot less fun) if I could just download their brains.
The question is, once I’m an ancestor myself, would I want my consciousness to be “read” or “experienced” by those who come after me? I’m afraid the answer is: only if I have full editorial control!