Nick Desaulniers

The enemy's gate is down

Apr 29, 2013 - 8 minute read - Comments - death memory

The Persistence of Memory

I would like to die on Mars…

Well, isn’t that forward thinking? Granted, the full quote I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact is meant to sound hopeful of his company, SpaceX. I agree that some day, humans will be buried on Mars. But is it forward thinking, enough? Does it push the needle to where it needs to be pushed? Does it strive for innovation and push our imagination like Star Trek did? Or is it just a realistic goal for SpaceX?

The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.

Albert Einstein

While Elon would like to die on Mars, I think it would be neat to transfer my “soul” into a computer. We refer to data persistence within a computer as memory, using transistors and capacitors to store charges, effectively “remembering” a particular state. While neurons, dendrites, and synapses within the human brain don’t quite work the same as RAM, I believe we will find a way to interface them some day. If one could transfer to a computer, maybe they could transfer back, or swap even. One could theoretically trade entire bodies. The jury is still out for me as far my opinion of Google’s Glass, but I see wearable computing as a step in the right direction towards interfacing with the human body. I guess it reminds me of the Heads in Jars from Futurama. I recognize that the old guard must give way for the new guard, lest the new be held in place, bound socially by the old.

In database systems, there is this notion of Atomicity, where a set of operations is guaranteed to either complete as a group, or all fail should at least one fail. One of the most popular examples is a bank transfer. Say you’re transferring $100 from Bank A to Bank B. Bank A’s database should not dock your account $100 until Bank B has added $100, and vice versa. Imagine if the power went out after Bank A docked your account, but before Bank B added to your account; that money could just disappear. Bank B may have received it but not credited your account, or Bank A may have it, just not a record that it’s yours. You may have just doubled your money, or lost all of it. The notion of Atomicity provides for “transactions,” or sets of instructions that are guaranteed to all pass or all fail.

Atomicity would be important for a memory transference device. Once you were transferred into a machine, would it still be “you” if you remained in your body? A physical clone, is as much you as an identical twin, but will never have the same memories and experiences that shape their mind. If you merely copied your mind to a machine rather than transferred it, then you would still remained trapped in your rotting piece of meat.

This is what I mean by transfer my “soul.” An actual atomic transaction moving all of your memories and experiences from body to machine, all at once, or not at all. I probably wouldn’t want to be the first volunteer for such a machine, because if the machine failed at the atomic transaction, your soul would either be as lost as the $100 from the earlier example, or you’d just be copied, not moved.

In a world where diseases are too profitable to cure, I can imagine a world where the richest 1% live forever while the poor are forced to die. Frozen Walt Disney just sat up. An abuse of the technology, not too different a world from the one in Surrogates.

Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s Abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.

Pozzo Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket

They say that it is fear of death and what comes after death that makes men turn to religion.

Mustafa Mond Brave New World by Alduos Huxley

Ever since my father passed away, I’ve occasionally suffered from existential anxiety attacks. It usually starts with me thinking about those Discovery Channel shows about how the old the universe is, and how old it will become. Then my mind starts to think of all of the really cool technological advancements that have occurred in my lifetime, and how I wont be around to experience all future advancements, like a game that others get to play while I have to sit on the sidelines and watch. Of course, if I’m dead then I guess I won’t care. Currently, I calm myself down my telling myself that such an event is a long time away and I will live a long and happy life with many descendants, though I have no guarantees. My father only lived to be 48.

‘That’s such a weak excuse,’ said Valentine. ‘Everyone dies. Everyone leaves. What matters is the things you build together before they go. What matters is the part of them that continues in you when they’re gone.’

Valentine Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

Where before they would bloom and wither in the space of a single day, now they hold their blooms for three and four days at a time. Moistened by the dew of night, bathed in the light of the sun, the white flowers strive to live their lives to the fullest, beautifying the town as if striving to live out the portion of life denied to those whose “tomorrows” were snatched away from them forever.

White Flowers Lost Odyssey

Human beings, who cannot live forever, daring to take a journey without end. This might be the ultimate tragedy, but it could just as well be the ultimate comedy. Kaim knows one thing, however: one cannot simply dismiss it as an exercise in futility.

The Upstreamers Lost Odyssey

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture taught me that legacy is the greatest thing you can leave behind. While I haven’t yet started the business I’ve always wanted, my first legacy I will leave my kiddos is my collection of Iron Maiden vinyl records. They and their children will probably think I was nuts, but there is the slim chance they might really appreciate my taste in music. I also want to write a book someday, that way I can marvel at how my ideas will outlast me.

I like to think that something survives after you die, it’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures. But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch. “Click!” And you’re gone.

Steve Jobs Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

It terrifies me to no end to think what could possibly drive someone to suicide. What doom a person would have to be surrounded with to honestly believe that no matter what they did, that they could not change their current situation. I believe the journey is ultimately worth it. It terrifies me to think of all of the amazing minds this world has seen, among so many who choose not to develop their own, that have come and gone. Those who could change the world yet are snatched away.

This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality. Embrace this moment. Remember. We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion.

Parabola Tool

I’m sorry this post turned a little dark. By talking about my fears, I hope to not let them control me. I believe publishing this will be a relief. I think I’ll join Elon on Mars, but unlike Elon, I believe I will transcend my physical being. It’s important therefor, to treasure your body while it lasts.

‘But it [life] won’t have amounted to anything,’ said Grego. ‘If your children die, then it was all a waste.’ ‘No’ said Olhado quietly. Grego shook his head. ‘Yes it does, Olhado. Death undoes everything.’ Olhado shrugged. ‘Then why do you bother doing everything, Grego? Because someday you will die. Why should anyone ever have children? Someday they will die, their children will die, all children will die. Someday stars will wind down or blow up. Someday death will cover us all like the water of a lake and perhaps nothing will ever come to the surface to show that we were there. But we were there, and during the time we lived, we were alive. That’s the truth-what is, what was, what will be-not what could be, what should have been, what never can be. If we die, then our death has meaning to the rest of the universe. Even if our lives are unknown, the fact that someone lived here, and died, that will have repercussions, that will shape the universe.’

Children of the Mind, Orson Scott Card

There will allways be hope, wherever you are, until you yourself abondon it.

Old Revolutionary Lost Odyssey

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