I’ve written a far amount of science-fiction both in novel form and in articles. But this idea may be closer than you think. Within the area of genetic engineering and the advent of supercomputers, the merger of man and machine isn’t that far off. We have mapped the brain and its functions. We’ve delved into which areas control which parts of our bodies. With that information, we can stimulate certain portions by using electrodes to re-energize previously lost vision, hearing, and even some forgotten memories.
On the other spectrum, we are making quantum leaps in the power of computers. We have flash drives that are the size of packs of gum that contain 4 gigabytes of memory. A few years ago, the largest computers only held one gigabyte. We can input human behavior and recreate those processes as virtual actions on the screen. We can teach the computer to behave as humanly possible by entering all the conditions that we, as humans, face, ala The Sims and various warfare games.
Therefore, consider this possibility. A few decades from now, your body is deteriorating, although your mind is sharp. Before you can’t sustain yourself any longer, your entire thoughts and memories are entered into a computer and duplicated. There is sits, dormant and ready. Once you pass on, it’s activated and you now reside inside a computer’s hard drive. You just have two senses, hearing and seeing. But this supercomputer connects to cams throughout the world. Depending on your reactions and mental attitudes, you can use whichever one you want to “see” what is available. Some have sound and allow you to hear what goes on. But your body has long since left you in this new world of little interaction. Assuming you deposited enough money in an interest-bearing account to fund and perpetuate this existence for all eternity, or until computers cease to exist, would you want to continue on in this fashion?
There are many religious questions I won’t go into. For instance, what happened to the soul or spirit at the moment of actual death? Because you have no emotions and can’t feel as a human could, is it still you, or just a virtual copy? Does it really matter if your life continues in some other form or another? You can’t really get bored, hungry or sleep in this new realm. You have a “caretaker” that you might eventually be able to communicate with and they could change your patterns of viewing for you. Otherwise, you’ll have few choices. But you will get to see the world unfold for an untold number of centuries, with all it’s marvels and interesting developments.
At some distant point, where perhaps you no longer wish to see the earth go down a particular path, like into a devastating world war, could you opt for death? Could you tell your operator to remove your present and past memory chip, virtually killing you? These are some questions for the future. Back to the present one. What if you could live forever? Is that something that appeals to the base instinct or is one lifetime ever enough? Would you even want to live without feelings, both good and bad? And finally, what is life? Can living inside a computer remotely be called living? Think about it and while you do, remind me to ask the I-Mac I'm typing on, that same question. And I’ll write a follow-up piece if I get an answer.
Jeffrey Hauser was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. He has authored 6 books and a novel, “Pursuit of the Phoenix. " His latest book is, “Inside the Yellow Pages" which can be seen at his website, http://www.poweradbook.com Currently, he is the Marketing Director for http://www.thenurseschoice.com a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.