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Chapter 8 ~ Survival

IN order to successfully negotiate bodily destruction, retaining self-awareness, our consciousness must somehow be preserved and safely removed from our corporeal remains.

While memories and bodies could theoretically be reconstructed whenever and wherever possible and desirable, any attempt to reconstitute our awareness after dissolution would allow a break in the time continuum and so would be too late.

Cognizant awareness, as we know it, must have at least a partial memory to function, but it need not necessarily be our present one— it could be someone else’s, a collective, or even a universal memory.

An entity consisting of only consciousness and memory could exist, but without the sensual and communicative abilities that our bodies now provide, it would find itself contained within a lonely prison.

Consideration of the survival of death in a meaningful form therefore posits the successful realization of these preservative and reconstructive challenges— (1) a new body, or equivalent sensing, responding, and acting mechanism; (2) the maintenance or reinstatement of memory; and (3) the transfer of consciousness.

Not only must the possibility and capability to effect these ends exist, but some agent or force be both able and wanting (or in the case of a force, unconsciously driving) to achieve them.

Let’s start by estimating the difficulty of achieving these goals, beginning with the easiest.

A new body can be virtually attained even via our present lowly powers, through cloning. However this by itself would be merely an identical twin (of possibly much-different age), a separate consciousness with its own knowledge and personality.

Now envision a process whereby such an individual is also the recipient of memory that is literally downloaded from a dying host, in the same way that one computer receives the contents of another, bit by bit. Of course it may be transmitted in a parallel (all at once) rather than serial (one after the other) manner.

Now our replica has the same knowledge, recollections, and idiosyncrasies as the original, but still would not be the original. Without a transfer of consciousness, what we have is still an entirely distinct person.

This last step, conceiving the additional infusion of self-awareness, seems impossible even to imagine. However, this might be due all or in part to our difficulty in determining the exact nature of consciousness. Still it would seem that accomplishing everything else would be easier than this task, relatively speaking...

There is no moment of death. It is a process similar to growth but operating in reverse, usually but not always much faster, incited by the collapse of the body’s support mechanisms.

There is never a prescribed instant before which a person is said to be alive and after which he is said to be dead. Only by attaching a very specific and usually very complicated definition to death can such a moment be zeroed in on...

(I plan to continue this section by outlining a remote but still perhaps possible means whereby our awarenesses might be saved, and sketch the nature of a subsequent afterlife. But as of now I believe the odds favor annihilation of individual consciousness at death.)

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© 1999-2008 Warren Farr — revised 1/25