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Sitting with Science

I’m a science buff. A scientist at heart, it’s what I eventually want to go to school for–one PhD in animal behavior, another in bio engineering (that’s more than just a Dream, I’ll have you know). At the moment, I have little more than a high school’s education as far as the sciences go. However, that doesn’t stop me from hounding every tidbit of interesting news that strikes the scientific community, and it certainly isn’t only animal science that consumes me.

Michio Kaku is my hero for a reason, so when I came across a blog of his on bigthink.com, I naturally spent hours absorbed in his many brief talks. One thing that he talked about confused me–or rather, it didn’t confuse me at all. What is supposed to be a confusing subject about self identity made perfect sense to me, though I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps it was a lack of knowledge in the whole that made a complicated problem seem so simple to me. What I can’t understand is why philosophy has such a time defining what makes a person, when it seems crystal clear to me that it is consciousness that describes an individual. In his video talking about downloading our consciousness, he brings up a point–the consciousness that we have newly downloaded onto a computer, would it still be considered ‘me’? To me, it’s as simple as two letters fused together to form a single word; no.

He uses the example of an intelligent tape recorder, a machine capable of learning your pattern of speech and, more than just mimicking it, but adapting the entire personality of your speech. Presumably, some would say that we are our personalities–after all, person is in the word. But if it was merely our personality that makes us, that tape recorder would suddenly become an extension of ourselves, an attachment to our person, we would become the tape recorder and the opposite would hold true as well. This is where personality fails as a means of definition. Personality is merely a means of recognition, true definition comes from your consciousness.

To make things clearer, take the tape recorder. Though it represents real intelligence, and is, for all intents and purposes, now a sentient being that has copied you down to the very nuance, it is, alas, its own consciousness, just as you are yours. If you made a clone of yourself that was identical down to the very atom and to every thought formed in its brain, it would still not be you. You cannot transport your awareness into any other body, you cannot be aware in your body and also aware in your clone’s body, or the tape recorder’s body, only your own. Just as you cannot be aware in my body as I type this, for we are two separate beings. As soon as the clone comes into existence, it is its own definition. It may identify itself as you, but it has become separate from you and thus is already having different experiences.

If me and my downloaded personality were to be one and the same person, that would mean that as soon as the download becomes active, I would have to be conscious in my body as well as whatever body the download inhabits. And that’s called inhabiting two places at the same time, something possible only on the quantum level, as I understand it.

If you want to go into the ‘why’ of it all, that’s where it gets confusing. Why am I aware in this body and not another? Why can’t I be aware in two bodies? Throw ‘why’ into any theory and it will gum up the works. Throw ‘why’ into this one and you start getting into a philosophical argument about life after death, or rebirth, even. Does my consciousness simply vanish, or will I suddenly become ‘aware’ in a different body? Of course, that all depends on your religious beliefs, and this is no place for a theological debate.

Even though this is a blog about travel and reptiles, science is my life, and I don’t feel I should exclude it from my blog. Science is, in part, why I want to travel, after all (that, and I’m too lazy to make a second blog devoted to things of this nature). So expect to see more rants like this, though I promise to keep them few and far between.

About herptraveler

With a passion for travel and for herpetology, I plan on embarking on a year-long Eurasian adventure early 2012, exploring many countries and getting to know their reptilian wildlife.


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