Eternal life?

On: October 19, 2007
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About Laura van der Vlies
Laura van der Vlies is currently a New Media master student at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing the New Media bachelor program and finishing the propedeuse year CMD at the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, this is the year to finally really learn the inside of new media today. This summer I participated in the Digital Methods Initiative. This really made me learn to use knowledge in a different way. With interests in the topic of journalism on the web and certain forms of censorship I hope to make valuable contributions to this blog.

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Eternal life is a fairytale. It is not possible to live forever. Or at least, this is the case these days. But what if it really becomes possible to live forever? According to three scientists, Anders Sandberg, Aubrey de Grey and Nick Bostrom, an endless life isn’t far away.

A technique that is developed to better understand the architecture of the brain, is being used to upload contents of the human brain onto a computer.

“Anders Sandberg describe how to scan ultra-thin sections of brain. First, embed the brain in plastic, then use a camera combined with laser beam and diamond blade to capture images of the tissue as it is sliced.”

If this really becomes possible it means that people can die physically but still continue living on a computer. Isn’t this a bit weird?

Sandberg and his collegues are called transhumanists. This is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death. Some people think these transhumanists are dangerous for the future of humanity. What if ‘the others’ take over?

This whole project raises a lot of questions. Where do digitized brains go to? Do ‘brains’ know they are digitized? What will happen if people can be uploaded to Second Life? Can digitized brains die?

An interview with the three transhumanists can be seen here
A really interesting article about Aubrey de Grey:

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2 Responses to “Eternal life?”
  • October 20, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    check here for his lecture

  • October 21, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the links. Even though they are lumped together under Transhumanism, it seems like there is a big difference here between a mind living eternally (the brain scan by Sandberg) and Aubrey de Grey’s ‘engineering’ approach to the problem of aging. Where one holds on to the idea that mind or consciousness can be exported to a hard drive, the other focuses on hacking the body.

    This is like the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, each with its own specific idea about the true locus of the self. A nice book on this subject (the assumptions underlying transhumanism) is How we became Posthuman by N. Katherine Hayles.

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