My recent article “Wherefore
do we spend our breath?” elaborated somewhat on the idea of
creating immortality by part-by-part exchange of the whole body,
including digitization of the brain. It was argued that identity and
even subjective, “perceived” identity would outlive this process. These
speculations brought me to some further speculations. Note that this
stuff does not represent my “new belief system”, it’s just a set of
experiments to detect and throw away some naive conceptions, in this
case conceptions of immortality and identity.
Demystification of the “identity” concept
The naive human conception of our own “identity” is probably thus:
In essence, I am a spiritual, atomic entity. My body is only the shell,
but the real “me” consists of spiritual matter. Because I am an atomic
entity, I am undividable, therefore also undestroyable, and therefore
of eternal existence. At least mine conception is (was?) that way when
you allow me to exaggerate somewhat.
However, let’s take a closer look. This naive, “intuitive”
conception is highly mystical as it postulates “spiritual matter” which
is orthogonal to human perception. It is a more economical explanation
to view “identity” as a learned concept:
- There’s nothing mystical about the fact that we can perceive our
own identity. Biologists explain this as learning from the experience
that there is a body/world separation. So the concept of “I” can
develop by learning.
- Probably, we learned from experience and contemplation the
following concept: a person can claim to have an “identity” because it
acquired its identity in a process which is unique world-wide. The
start was the inseminated ovum, carrying unique genetic substance that
resulted from a non-deterministic merge of chromosomes. Then, the
person was born as a baby and travelled its unique world line through
4-dimensional spacetime, experiencing its unique collection of
situations. So, our learned concept of identity is coupled to
uniqueness and “having a history”. Therfore, we would not assign the
same identity to an atom-by-atom copy of a person, as it has no
history. But as soon as such a copy starts living, it starts to differ
from its original, and step by step acquires its own identity.
- The way we learned it, identity is not coupled to our continuous
awareness of self: we think that a human being has the same identity
after a sleep, though there was no continued perception of
identity or body. Especially here it becomes apparent that “identity”
is no metaphysically pre-defined “thing” but a self-defined concept,
just as it seems meaningful to people.
- The way we learned it, identity is coupled to the possibiility to
exploit and extend the aquired set of memories, bodily abilities,
characteristics, qualifications etc. that are called together a
- The way we learned it, identity is coupled to “uniqueness”, i.e.
identity is not “by
our own virtue”, as, without a world that allows different situations
there would be no different people, i.e. no identities.
Seeing identity as a “learned concept” seems to work: it’s just an
unproven thought experiment but it deeply questions the naive
conception of “identity by being an atomic spiritual entity”
Demystification of the “resurrection” concept
What exactly do we search when longing for “eternal life”? We cannot
reasonably expect the uninterrupted existence of our human body here on
earth, seing the many people who died and do no longer reside here on
earth. So what we expect is not to preserve the body we have now, but
to preserve our identity in the sense of: our unique set of abilities
and experiences (see above). This includes bodily abilities but is far
from limited to that. Here is a natural science based explanation why
this identity does not die the moment the body dies. For this argument,
the following assumptions are made:
- The spirit is not made of “spiritual substance” but implemented
by using the material substance of the body.
- The body is radically mortal.
- Material substance
is interchangeable, i.e. atoms have no own identity.
- Identity is an emergence
made up of a complex system
of many parts.
- Sleep and coma do not destroy identity, i.e. identity is not
defined via perpetual awareness of self.
With these assumptions in mind and judged by our perception of self
/ identity, there is no difference between one night’s sleep and one
night’s sleep which is interrupted by a 1000 years period of
non-existence. The resurrected man would perceive his identity just the
same way as the man who just slept – because there is no difference
between their bodies, so no possibility to detect a difference. Of
course, this needs a being who knows atom-by-atom how to re-create a no
longer existing body.
That means: resurrection of a radically mortal body with a spirit
and soul which is implemented in the body is possible if only we know
how to re-create the body, esp. including the brain and all its
content. So death and resurrection does not destroy our identity, not
even our perception of our own identity.
Above, identity was identified as a “learned concept”, and
resurrection just adds another lesson: we have to learn / add to our
definition of identity that identity is not destroyed by a time of
bodily non-existence. During that time, a person exists just as a
non-living informational representation, one might say “in the
knowledge of God”. If God would forget a person, this would be
So the traditional concepts of “resurrection of the body” seem to be
overthrowable. For eternal life, no spirit made of “spiritual
substance” is necessary, and no re-collection of the atoms we
were once made of. The same identity is re-created with other
substance, including continued perception of our identity.
The interesting thing here is the finding that our very identity is
“informationally representable” (i.e. abstractable from matter).
Because of that, it is “informationally transferable” from
one body to another. So because identity is abstractable, it is
Implications for inventing eternal life on earth
If these ideas of identities and resurrection are correct, this
would mean for the natural implementation of eternal life: full
digitization of the brain content and exact description of the body
attributes are enough to “resurrect” a person lateron (e.g. after
the technology to create and program empty brains has been developed).
So one would have to develop the “brain digitization technology”
first; with it,
people could be “archived” and resurrected when it becomes technically
possible. Archiving people would even be possible if the brain’s
content is not yet understood, as interpreting this could be developed
later. One would just have to archive a large matrix that stores store
connections between the neve cells, and the “activation thresholds” of
each connection within this neural network. This would best be done
immediately after death by a
machine that digitizes the brain slice by slice (the brain is destroyed
during that process, but that does not matter here).
Another idea would
be to preserve the brain itself until the digitization technology and
“resurrection technology” is fully developed. This is the easiest
solution: it needs nothing more than non-destroying preservation of a
materially implemented neural network. Perhaps in fluid nitrogen?
However, you need to trust in people who live after you that they
will resurrect you when it becomes technically possible. These people
however might be selfish, or they’re just opposed to the opinions you
had while alive, or they think it’s just too expensive to resurrect
you, or the world is near to over-population (as always), or somebody
argues that there’s no reason to resurrect you as you cannot even be
sad if they save the effort … you’re dead, after all. You see the
problem. Personally, I’d really prefer to trust in a faithful God to resurrect
me rather than in us people. 😉
Start date: 2007-10-21
Post date: 2007-10-23
Version date: 2007-10-23 (for last meaningful change)