Arash Christopher Eslami's Blog

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Can I Have an Avatar in Blue, Please…?


Dmitry Itskov actually believes we will have technology in 30 years to become immortal, kind of like a vampire.  That is even more optimistic than Ray Kurzweil.  I like to believe this stuff because I have a great imagination.  It feels great to think that once our bodies start to decline and die, like everybody else, we can simply have our brain transplanted into a machine.  That really implies that we are our brain.  If my brain was taken from my skull and placed inside a machine with a brain-computer interface, then apparently I would be the same consciousness in a different body.

This takes us back to an ancient argument when Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle contemplate the soul.  Is the mind the soul?  Is the brain the mind?  I remember taking a philosophy of mind course and saying to myself of course the brain is the mind.  It is only a difference in semantics.  But I would also say that the brain connects us to the mind; in other words, the brain, a physical substance, is the medium we use to connect ourselves into the intangible, spiritual realm.  So then to modify my earlier statement: we are the brain because we are physical and the mind is not the brain since it is abstract, not physical.

So this idea about Avatar is so amazing to me.  Digressing, just a bit, the movie Avatar was such a great movie.  To me it was as great on screen as Harry Potter was on print.  That is a bold statement for me because I am a huge J.K. Rowling fan.  But just like the movie, an avatar is any embodiment as of a quality or concept in a person, according to the Webster dictionary.  It is kind of like the personification of a symbol: the personification being the mind and the symbol being the avatar–the incarnation of god, a piece at least.  My avatar on the internet is a quality of my person.  Some people’s avatars have pictures of themselves along with their email, Twitter handle, phone number, and so on.  I love the root of words, hence, my classical training in Greek and Latin.  Avatar, though, is not a Greek/Latin root but Sanskrit: ava means down and tarati, a verb, means (she) crosses over.  In Hinduism, avatar is the incarnation of god.

What a connection!  I mean if we agree the soul and mind are synonymous because they’re both intangible, then both the Western definition and Hindu avatar implies the mind is god.  Some may think this is too great a leap in reasoning so let me elaborate.  The Avatar project claims by 2045, they will be able to download consciousness on a synthetic platform.  This could be an integrated circuit or by then a three-dimensional molecular chip in a binary code—our digital selves.  So the brain, the hardware, will no longer be needed since consciousness, the software, is successfully being downloaded into another body—a machine.  So corroborating my main point that if the brain is the person, and the brain connects humans to the mind—the universal soul—then ridding ourselves of the brain by downloading our consciousness, we are essentially incarnating a piece of god into an avatar.

This identity metamorphosis is already happening.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Eugene K. Chow, a Huffington Post writer, writes the following:

Essentially, the root of the problem lies in the gap between our digital selves and our physical selves. We’ve ceded power to our electronic profiles and now our physical beings matter less than the data — the person in front of the immigration agent, poll worker, or bank teller is meaningless compared to what is on the screen.

In other words, data now constructs our identity rather than vice versa. That is to say, if the Social Security Administration believes you are dead, then you are denied all the rights of the living, even if you appear in person.

Mr. Chow, I am sure, is a very bright young man who represents a contemporary understanding of what is happening in our culture.  Unlike a Stephen Hawkings or an Immanuel Kant, Mr. Chow is an average joe who relates with everyday people.  I think he hits the mark in that the transition of forsaking our physical selves for a digital self is already happening on a certain level.

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