You will probably come up with a bunch of different answers: a singer or a manager or a designer, a daughter or a son, a husband or a wife, an extroverted or an introverted person, an enthusiast, a reliable person or a light-minded one
By Iffy Kukkoo
20 Jun, 2017
Do me a favour and ask yourself a seemingly simple question: “Who am I?”.
You will probably come up with a bunch of different answers: a singer or a manager or a designer, a daughter or a son, a husband or a wife, an extroverted or an introverted person, an enthusiast, a reliable person or a light-minded one. But, which one is the correct one?
All of them, believe me. And many, many more.
Because, even though you often forget this, you are something extraordinary: a unique specimen of the most complex organism walking this, or as far as we know, any other planet.
Have you ever looked at your existence that way? Have you ever thought what’s the thing which contributes to you being the way you are and not some other way?
Even as you read this sentence, billions and billions of neurons in your brain are actively working as a sort of mental filter which processes and sieves external data inputs, thus, contributing to your own unique experience. The processed information is afterwards “delivered” to your memory, where, regardless of what it is, it is bound to stay for a short period of time. If the usefulness of the experience isn’t proved by the necessity of reusing the knowledge in a future situation, the information is wiped out from your brain altogether. In the opposite case, however, it’s repacked into another box, where it’s stored for a much longer period of time.
This box is, more or less, the key to your mentality and mindset. It stores all the experiences your brain has deemed knowledge-worthy in the past. And every time you find yourself in a situation even vaguely similar to some of the episodes packed in this box, your brain unzips the relevant containers and shapes your initial reactions. Until a new reaction proves to be the more suitable one after being processed by the billions of neurons in your brain.
And so it goes, on and on.
This is you.
Now, if we are, more or less, familiar with the way our personality is shaped through the years, and if it’s mostly fashioned by our brains and not our bodies, a frightening question suddenly arises: why shouldn’t we be able to reconstruct someone’s persona outside of his physical existence? In other words: why shouldn’t we be able to recreate person A in person B’s body?
It may sound SF, but the question is neither new, nor unexplored. Even if you are unfamiliar with the number of scientists and philosophers who have delved into it ever since the beginning of civilization, you may have already seen films such as Dark City, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Mr. Nobody. Would you be you if you had other person’s memories? Would someone else become you if you share with him all of your recollections? Do we exist merely within the borders of our mental processes, or is there something anything else our personalities rely on?
We’re closer than ever to answering these kinds of questions. Because we’re actively trying to create a brain outside its biological environment.
One of the last things Richard Feynman wrote on his blackboard before he died was: