Friday, October 27, 2017

Is Consciousness Immortal?

Rene Descartes (after Frans Hals)
Can consciousness be immortal? Eventually the earth like the body will die and human beings will have a choice. They could create enormous modular biospheres, floating civilizations that will propel them into new galaxies which are hospitable to carbon-based life forms ("Two Promising Places to Live, 1200 Light-Years From Earth," NYT, 4/18/13). However,  it would take generations for mankind to travel to a new star around which it could orbit along with a number of like-minded other planets. But what if it turned out that consciousness could be separated from the body to which it had always been shackled and finally drowned, at death? What if in a version of secular dualism, that had nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God, scientists found a way in which self-reflexive thought of the kind that humans employ could flourish in cyberspace?  What if there were a solipsistic ether and in the absence of corporeal existence mind would prevail over matter? It would be a world of illusion, though none of its inhabitants would be worse for the wear. You would still have your gourmet meals and vacations at all-inclusive resorts. There would still be all the aspirational elements, love, ambition, sex, even war—that characterized real life, only it would all exist as bytes in a high level A.I. program. Naturally there would be philosophical problems that had to be worked out. After all how would birth and death be represented in such a virtual reality? On the other hand the answer to these kinds of questions would not be totally off the grid since in any simulation, whether in a computer game or other faux universe, the stages of human life are generally central parts of the puzzle.

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