Many people have been busy downloading all their Facebook content, before making the big decision about whether to pull the plug on that time and identity sink. Imagine if you were able to download your consciousness at this moment in time, to be retrieved later in life when memories have faded. Would this be a good thing or a bad thing? I had a photograph taken of the inside of my eyes last week, and it got me thinking about what we see, and what we remember–vital aspects of each of our identities. Then I came across this news that Chinese medical researchers have been able to download human consciousness, taking a first step towards digital immortality. Here’s a video about the Chinese research success. Click to watch this remarkable story.
Yes, this is an April Fools Day story, but there are plenty of scifi and even some science stories about “mind uploading” and “digital immortality.” Here’s Stephen Hawkings about alien life and uploading our minds to computers. And here’s an article about “back-up brains” from the BBC that made me think about retrieving memories. I have been trying, for example, to remember why I never went to one side of the office in T. S. Eliot’s flat. The filing cabinets and desks and bookcases were on the side nearest the door, but what on earth was on the other side? I think there was still a bed, because I know from other people that there was a bed in there for Valerie’s mother, and I think it was piled with books and items irrelevant to my work. But I’m not 100% sure. If I were able to download my consciousness now, the way everyone is downloading all their Facebook content and discovering just how much Facebook knows about us, would I find an image of that office, and maybe even a glimpse of Valerie herself? Even stranger is to imagine how it would feel to see my younger self reflected in a mirror.
This, in a way, is one of the things that we need to do as we get older, to retrace our steps and tell our stories, for our children and then our grandchildren, but also for ourselves. Who was I then? Have I made the right choices, and what has my life meant so far? Memory is one of the things we use to prepare for the future.
Finally, here’s a wonderful 1965 detective story set in the Great Smoke (London): The Mind Readers by Margery Allingham.