Showing posts with label Brains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brains. Show all posts

November 9, 2016

We Don’t Understand Human Intelligence Compared to Animals





The guests lining up outside a Brisbane gallery were not your typical culture vultures; in fact, until recently they’d never seen a painting in their life. But with just a little training, they developed their own artistic taste, showing a clear preference for Picasso’s crystalline constructions or Monet’s dreamy soft focus as they wandered lazily through the different rooms.
It’s little wonder that their talents created such a buzz, considering that they were working with a brain smaller than a pin head: these bona fide art critics were your common or garden honey bees, trained to find a syrupy surprise behind one or other of the artists' work.
(Credit: Getty Images)
 We have around 100 billion neurons, giving us a huge brain compared to our relatively puny bodies (Credit: Getty Images)
In fact, the ability to recognize artistic style was just the latest in a long list of achievements. Honey bees can count up to four, read complex signs, learn from observation and talk to each other in a secret code (the famous ‘waggle dance’). When foraging, they can weigh up the distance to different flowers, planning complex routes to collect the most nectar with the least effort. And within the hive, their individual responsibilities can include cleaning, undertaking (as they tend to the dead) and even air-conditioning, as they collect water to drop on the honey comb during hot weather.



The human brain has nearly 100,000 times as many neurons as the bee brain, yet the rudiments of many of our most valued behaviours can be seen in the teeming activity of the hive. So what’s the point of all that grey matter we hold in our skulls? And how does it set us apart from other animals? These are some of the questions that will be discussed at the BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit in Sydney on 15 November.
ARE BIG BRAINS A WASTE OF SPACE?
About one-fifth of all you eat is used to power the electrical chit-chat between your 100 billion little grey cells. If a big brain didn’t give us any advantage, that would be an enormous waste.
And there are some clear benefits. If nothing else, it makes us more efficient at what we do. If honey bees are searching a scene, for instance, they will consider each object one by one, whereas larger animals have the extra brainpower to process it all at once. We can multi-task, in other words.
A bigger brain also boosts the amount we can remember: a honey bee can grasp just a handful of associations between signs signaling the presence of food, before it starts getting confused, whereas even a pigeon can learn to recognise more than 1,800 pictures, and that’s nothing compared to human knowledge. For a comparison, consider that a memory champions can remember the sequence of Pi to literally thousands of decimal places.
OK, SO WE CAN REMEMBER A LOT. WHAT ELSE?
(Credit: Getty Images)
Magpies are known to be among some of the most cognitively advanced birds (Credit: Getty Images)
Darwin described these kinds of distinctions as “differences of degree, not kind” – a conclusion that some might find frustrating. If you look at human civilization and all we have achieved, surely we must have some particularly special ability that is completely lacking in all other animals?
Culture, technology, altruism and many other traits have all been touted as signs of human greatness – but the more you look, the narrower that list becomes.

Macaques, for instance, have long been known to pick up stones to crack nuts while New Caledonian crows can craft hooks from a broken stick to help them pick up food - both rudimentary forms of tool use. Even invertebrates are getting in on the act. Veined octopuses, for instance, appear to collect coconut shells, dragging them along the sea floor for later use as a shelter. 
A chimp in Zambia, meanwhile, has been caught wearing a fetching tuft of grass in her ear – apparently for no other reason than that she thought it looked nice. Soon, many of the other chimps in her group copied her fashion statement, a form of adornment that some researchers have interpreted as a form of cultural expression. 
Many creatures also seem to have an innate sense of fairness, and may even feel empathy for others – as our colleagues at BBC Earth recently explored – again suggesting a kind of rich emotional life that was once thought to be our specie's domain. Consider the case of a humpback whale, which was recently seen saving a seal’s life, protecting it from a killer whale attack – evidence that we are not the only animal to behave altruistically.
HOW ABOUT CONSCIOUS THOUGHT?
Perhaps the answer instead lies in a “sense of self”, a creature’s ability to recognise itself as an individual. This navel gazing would be a rudimentary
(Credit: Getty Images)
Elephants can recognise their own reflection (Credit: Getty Images)








 form of consciousness. Of all the different qualities that might make us unique, self-awareness is the toughest to measure with any certainty – but one common test involved daubing a spot of paint on the animal, and putting it in front of a mirror. If the animal notices the mark and tries to rub it off, we can assume that the animal recognises its reflection, suggesting it has formed some kind of concept about itself.
Humans don’t develop this capacity until they are around 18-months-old, but a handful of other animals appear to demonstrated this kind of awareness, including bonobos, chimps, orang-utans, gorillas, magpies, dolphins and orca whales.
 SO WE’RE NOTHING SPECIAL AFTER ALL?

Not so fast. A couple of mental capacities may be purely our own, and they are perhaps best understood by considering a family’s conversation around the dinner table.
The first astonishing fact is that we can speak at all, of course. No matter what you’ve been thinking and feeling throughout the day, you will be able to find words to express the experience and describe it to those around you. 
No other creature can communicate with such freedom. The honey bee’s waggle dance, for instance, can relay the location of a flower bed, and it can even warn the other bees about the presence of a dangerous insect, but it can’t express everything the bee has experienced: it is limited to a few facts about the immediate circumstances. Human language, in contrast, is open-ended. With infinite combinations of words to choose from, we can articulate our deepest feelings or lay down the rules of physics – and if we can’t quite find the right term, we can just invent a new one.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Bees may be stuck in the present, with no concept of future or past (Credit: Getty Images)
What’s even more remarkable though, is the fact that most of our conversation is not rooted in the present, but revolves around the past and the future, which brings us to one of the other traits that may define us. We’ve already explored how we may be able to recall more facts than most animals. This is ‘semantic’ memory. But as Thomas Suddendorf at the University of Queensland will point out at the World-Changing Ideas Summit, we also have ‘episodic’ recall – the ability to mentally relive past events, picturing them in multi-sensory detail. It’s the difference between knowing that Paris is the capital of France, and being able to bring back the sights and sounds of your first trip to the Louvre.

Crucially, the ability to think back to the past also allows us to imagine the future, too, as we use previous experiences to predict future scenarios. You might imagine your next holiday by recalling all your past trips, for instance, allowing you to picture what kind of hotel you like, plan the sights you want to visit and build a menu of food you want to eat.
No other animal appears to have such elaborate personal memories, combined with the ability to plan whole chains of actions in advance. Even bees, with their complicated housekeeping in the hive, are probably only responding to their present circumstances; their thoughts don’t go beyond the next flower they would like to visit or the danger of an intruder. They are not going to reminisce about what it felt like to be a larva. 
Together with language, mental ‘time travel’ allows us to share our experiences and our hopes with many other people, building networks of combined knowledge that are continually growing with each generation. Science, architecture, technology, writing – in short, everything that allows you to read this article – would be impossible without it.  
— http://www.bbc.com/
  • David Robson
David Robson is BBC Future’s feature writer. He is @d_a_robson on Twitter.

May 1, 2015

Neuroscientists Perfected a Genetic Switch for Mice Behavior on/off /UR Next/




Neuroscientists have perfected a chemical-genetic remote control for brain circuitry and behavior. This evolving technology can now sequentially switch the same neurons — and the behaviors they mediate — on-and-off in mice, say researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Such bidirectional control is pivotal for decoding the brain workings of complex behaviors. The findings are the first to be published from the first wave of NIH grants awarded last fall under the BRAIN Initiative
“With its new push-pull control, this tool sharpens the cutting edge of research aimed at improving our understanding of brain circuit disorders, such as schizophrenia and addictive behaviors,” said NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Bryan Roth, M.D., Ph.D.  External Web Site Policy, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Michael Krashes, Ph.D.  External Web Site Policy, of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and colleagues, debut the second generation of the tool, called DREADD — Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs — on April 30, 2014 in the journal Neuron.
DREADD 2.0 improves on a widely-adopted technology developed by Roth, a grantee of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, and colleagues, over the past decade. It achieves remote control by introducing a synthetic brain chemical messenger system that integrates with the workings of naturally-occurring systems. 
Researchers genetically-engineer mice to have brains containing what they dub “designer receptors” in specific circuits. These are synthetic proteins on the surface of neurons that can only be activated by a matching synthetic chemical that otherwise has no biological effect – like a lock that can only be opened by a unique key. When the “designer drug” binds to its receptor, depending on its programming, it either triggers or blocks neuronal activity, thus giving researchers experimental control over the animal’s brain circuits and behaviors.
Updated DREADD
The updated DREADD (Designer Receptors Activated Exclusively by Designer Drugs) achieves bidirectional remote control of a neuron (bottom) and behavior by introducing a synthetic, experimental chemical messenger system into specific brain circuits in mice. It consists of a receptor protein (top) and matching inert chemical (middle) for increasing neuronal activity (red) and another set for reducing activity (blue). Source: Bryan Roth, Ph.D., University of North Carolina
Early iterations of DREADD could only control activity in one direction – on or off – in the same population of cells. DREADD 2.0 takes advantage of properties offered by a particular type of receptor, paired with a biologically inert chemical that binds to it, to add bidirectional control. Coupled with an existing DREADD, it can be used experimentally to probe circuitry of a broad range of behaviors via sequential, on-and-off control of neurons. It’s like having two sets of locks with their own unique keys – one triggering “on,” the other turning “off.” For example, the researchers demonstrated how the improved DREAD toolkit can bi-directionally control animals’ movement and feeding behaviors.

Since DREADD effects last about an hour – as opposed to milliseconds with an alternative optical-genetic technology – it may be the tool of choice for studies of behaviors requiring prolonged control of circuitry and/or minimal invasiveness.
Grants: MH105892, DA017204, DA035764, DK075087, DK075089, AA019454, AA17668, AA020911, AA02228001, AA018335, AA021312
The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at http://www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at http://drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found athttp://www.easyread.drugabuse.gov.
The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see http://www.niddk.nih.gov.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at www.niaaa.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®

Reference

Vardy E, Robinson JE, Li C, Olsen RHJ, DiBerto JF, Giguere PM, Sassano FM, Huang X-P, Zhu H, Urban DJ, White KL, Rittiner JE, Crowley NA, Pleil KE, Mazzone CM Mosier PD, Song J, Kash TL, Malanga CJ, Krashes MJ, Roth BL. A new DREADD facilitates the multiplexed chemogenetic interrogation of behavior. Neuron, April 30, 2015.

November 24, 2014

Bi-lingual people have a more efficient brain,/Arguments about speaking American come from a tired old brain


                                                                          
                                                              
Bilingual people require less brain power to complete tasks compared to people who speak only one language, suggests new research published in the journal Brain and Language.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Houston studied the brain activity of  18 monolingual English speakers and 17 bilingual Spanish and English speakers who scored similarly in working memory tests at the onset of the study. Dual language speakers were all fluent in both languages, having grown up speaking them.
During a series of language comprehension tasks, participants were asked to identify an object after hearing a word through headphones. For example, two images showing items with similar names were shown— such as “cloud” and clown”— and the item whose name was spoken through the headphones had to be correctly identified.
Although the monolinguals and bilinguals all identified the objects accurately and in the same amount of time, “monolingual brains had to work a lot harder, especially in areas of inhibiting control to accomplish the same exact goal,” lead researcher Viorica Marian, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University, told FoxNews.com.
“Basically the way the fMRI works is it lets us get a glimpse of what is happening in the brain,” study author Sarah Chabal, PhD candidate in communications sciences and disorders at Northwestern University, told FoxNews.com. “It measures blood flow and oxygen, so we see that these areas with more are working harder. In the context of our studies, when these monolinguals and bilinguals are hearing words, the monolinguals are working harder. There’s more blood flow to regions of the brain so [they have] to rely on more energy to complete the task.”
In previous research, Marian studied the eye movements of bilinguals who speak Russian and English as they identified objects on a desk. Prior to identifying an object, study participants heard a vocabulary word that sounded the same audibly but indicated a different thing in each language. For example, as the study participants heard the word “marker,” researchers tracked their eye movements to see whether they looked first at the actual marker or a stamp, which is called “marka” in Russian.
“When we started this line of work what we wanted to know was whether bilinguals switch their languages on and off,” Marian said. “Is my Romanian and Russian switched off as I am speaking to you? What I found in using eye movements and different measures was that the other language is not turned off.”
After determining that bilinguals had to execute inhibitory control— choosing one language and not the other while both are activated— to pick the correct object in that study, Marian’s team set out to explore how language impacted neurological activity.
Chabal noted that although the study participants grew up speaking Spanish and English, the benefits of learning a second language are also possible for people who decide to do so in a classroom setting later in life.
That bilingual people must constantly utilize inhibitory control during language co-activation acts as a form of brain exercise, which may point to why bilingualism offers a protective benefit from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, researchers noted. Previous research has also shown that bilingual children focused better in a noisy classroom when compared to their monolingual peers.
“We like to make a comparison to weightlifting in the gym,” Chabal said. “A bilingual has to lift more weight than a monolingual when listening to speech. They’ve been working out like this for their entire lives, so they’ve built up strength for managing two languages— so this makes their brains more efficient.”

February 15, 2014

Tom Arnold’’s Rips a Testicle Out for Valentine’s ♥Happy Valentines’ Arnie

Tom Arnold Ripped His Testicle Out for Love. Happy Valentine's Day!  
I don't think I have ever heard anything as chipper as Tom Arnold's description of his "agonizing testical surgery" (which, on top of the agony, was ultimately unsuccessful). Arnold and his wife had been through four devastating rounds of failed in vitro fertilization, when the doctor offered them one final option. To yoink out Tom's testicle.
Arnold recalls, "We went to the doctor to say goodbye... and she was so upset and sad and weeping and I said, 'Doc, I wish there was something the man could do; I wish modern science came up with a procedure for the man... I'll do anything.'
"He's like, 'There is a new procedure we could do, Tom,' and I said, 'Sign me up then, man, what is it?' And he said, ‘Well, we make an incision into your scrotum and pull your testicle out!' 
First of all I blacked out. I pulled the doctor aside and go, 'Dude, run that by me in the freakin' hall, man!'"
Arnold went through with the surgery, stating, "I had to do it, man.
"They take the syringe, they find two sperm... You've got a bag of ice on your (genitals) for, like, a week... I did it, it didn't work, but it's all good."
The testicle thingy didn't work, but a later round of in vitro DID. Tom and his wife welcomed their baby son last April. Congrats, kiddos! [ContactMusic]

June 29, 2013

Inmminent Immortality Is Comming. Do You Want it?

    A Copy Writter  wrote about this particular subject”Inmortality" which happens to be subjeect that came on Discover and the general media about some advances that are being done on auto robotics in car and robots to help industry but that both uses are already passe for the next generation of them even though we just got aware of them and we are still waiting for the car that drives it self. Actually there is the technology and the car is been built. But as we know from the electric car, one thing is to be built or know how to built it and another is for it to be mass produced for the market.
One thing in which many super smart scientists are working is to make a clone of themselves. But not a clone as we know it. It would be a robotic clone with the entire scientist brain in which they already know it will fit in three “Avatars”. That’s the term the scientist use and as I just mentioned one brain can have three different perosnalities or duplicates .  Talk about being bipolar! They are creating in the lab it would seem.

These scientists have put all their marbles on one subject and that is "eternal life.” Someone living for ever with all that your brain contains which is “You” and connecting it to robotics that will responds to those commands. For it to be pleasing it will have to not just do the actions of the human body but be identical in every sence. Skin, eyes, perspiration, emotions, you name it. When are they building it you might say? I know some might say I can't handle the 60 years I got You think Im going for 200? or they again might say I want it yesterday. When do I get it?

I don’t know if you will ever be one, probably not but they do have them. They have prototypes, sorry, avatars replicating their makers that can talk, sing, sweat, show emotions, etc.

I want to get to that time and ask you if you would like to have your brain downloaded to an avatar that is identical to you. While we are making things why not make it better looking than you, but you can’t look like anyone else. So get that idea out of mind of looking like Mr.Superstar.
What do you do now? How do you handle your life now? Is it a burden or is just joy from day to day? Would you like to continue your life for a few hundred years?  Only you can answer those questions but I tell you that as you start thinking about that it will take a long time for your brain to see all the posibilities right away.

Humans have always been told, no matter what race or place of origen that if you did certain things in a certain way it will buy you salvation or life after you die.  That is with the assumption that all we have is a body and a spirit to go somewhere and be a spirit.
No sicence is offering a better deal than the bible. I would imagine than when these comes to happen, what religion if any will play in that society. No hell and heave for these avatars.  May be they will deniy them downloads agains virus’.
 I invite you to read more on this from someone very different than me and if you aee interested in this subject we can go further. No sense waiting until they take all the avatars…..no as I explain that is not the way is bein planned, but I think that the future is also part of us because in many ways we build the future with wwhat we do on our daily lives.
{Adam Gonzalez} 
                                                           /*/
For as long as humans have wandered the earth, our mortality has been front and center in our long list of woes. In every culture, in every age, many people have attempted to cheat death, one of the most famous examples of which includes Qin Shi Huang, king of the Chinese state of Qin in the third century BCE. Obsessed with living forever, he ordered his alchemists and physicians to concoct an elixir of life. They obliged and presented him with what they believed might grant him eternal life. Unfortunately for Qin Shi Huang, what they gave him was a handful of mercury pills, and he died upon consuming them.
Qin
Maybe they were just tired of looking at his douchey headwear and debilitatingly huge shoes.
We’ve come a long way since Qin’s day, so much so that immortality — or at least unprecedented longevity — appears increasingly plausible sometime this century. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil seems so sure of it that he allegedly takes upwards of 200 dietary supplements a day to forge a “bridge to a bridge” when long life is the norm. The May 2013 issue of National Geographic, in fact, features this very topic.
120
For now, however, they say we die twice: once when we take our last breath, and again when our name is uttered for the last time.
Our greatest literature, both ancient and modern, seems to confirm this attitude. Countless examples suggest that as much as we strive to achieve everlasting life, death is our inescapable fate. To seek a loophole is folly and smacks of the worst kind of hubris. The earliest such tale, over twelve thousand years old, relates the ancient Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh’s quest for everlasting life following the death of his friend Enkidu. Although Gilgamesh ultimately fails in his undertaking, he achieves a sort of immortality in the minds of his people as a result of his heroic exploits. The same arrogance is seen in the character of Greek demigod Achilles, who was said to be impervious to harm in all parts of his body except his ankle, which his mother Thetis failed to immerse in the river Styx. Near the end of the Trojan War, he is slain by the lethal accuracy of Paris’s arrow, but Achilles’s courageous feats guarantee that his name lives on into perpetuity.
He wasn't known for his modesty.
One thing he wasn’t known for was his modesty.
For those of us who lack the godlike strength and derring-do of Gilgamesh, Achilles, Heracles and other ancient and Classical heroes, the only hope we have at gaining immortality is through emerging age-reversing technology and research into the human brain. Our two leading options appear to be an indefinite halt to the aging process or a sort of digital resurrection — uploading our minds into vast computer servers. But are either of these options desirable?
The former option, the perpetuation of our corporal bodies, seems at this point to be more scientifically plausible but far less satisfactory. Many stories warn of the dangers of unnaturally extending the shelf-life of our flesh and bones. The legend of the Wandering Jew, for instance, convinces us that everlasting life is a curse, a waking nightmare that results only in unfathomable despair and desperation. According to the legend, the old man scours the world seeking someone who will exchange his mortality for his cursed immortality. For two centuries now, Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus has terrified readers with the personal, societal and religious implications of reanimating dead tissue. Alphaville’s 1980s anthem of youth “Forever Young” rejects the notion of immortality for its own sake:
It’s so hard to get old without a cause
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse
Youth’s like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?
What’s the use of everlasting life, Alphaville argues, if we can’t maintain a youthful spirit? Better to die with a hopeful eye on the future than to trudge meaninglessly though eternity.
Immortality without fabulous hair, eye shadow and colorful jumpsuits? No deal!
Poets routinely insist that the only fulfilling way for us to achieve immortality is through our art and innovations. In Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18,” the speaker promises a youth or possible lover that “thy eternal summer shall not fade, / … Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade.” Because he has composed the sonnet in her honor, her memory will last for as long as the poem exists: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
Of course, there are just as many counterarguments to the idea that art leads to eternal life. Romantic poet Percy Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” tells of a wanderer who comes across a “lifeless,” eroded statue in the desert, whose pedestal reads:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Despite the once-grandness of the statue, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Even this mysterious king’s exploits and fame – whatever they might have been – couldn’t save his memory from the ravishes of time. Not only has he died the first time but, as evidenced by the wasteland of his forgotten realm, the second time as well. American filmmaker Woody Allen echoes this sentiment: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”
But the question remains — is not dying desirable?
If most of us one day have the opportunity to extend our lives indefinitely, how will that change the dynamics of society and culture? A typical person living to 80 years of age goes through several dramatic changes in his lifetime: his opinions and attitudes change, his interests, his friends, his career, sometimes even how he remembers the past. Imagine how much change would take place in a thousand years of life! You wouldn’t be a shadow of the person you once were. Some workers put in 30 or 40 years’ worth of service at a single company or organization, or work in a single industry for as many years, but how dull it would be to continue beyond that. We celebrate when couples reach fifty years of marriage, but could any of them reach 100 years? Two hundred? A thousand? A little over half of marriages end in divorce already. Would couples, knowing that they are going to live for hundreds of years, wed with the firm understanding that they will eventually split? How would immortality affect patriotism?
Let’s pretend for a moment that the Wandering Jew really exists. For close to two thousand years, he has shuffled down countless roads, cane in hand, trying to find some fool to take his place. He clearly cannot be the same person now as he was during the time of the Romans. He’s seen far too much and met far too many people to hold on to whatever prejudices he once had. What “science” he might have believed as a young man has since been obliterated. The language he spoke for centuries, Aramaic, will soon die out. His ancient brand of Jewish is no longer. He claims no country as his own. Having lived to be two thousand years old, he has seen the rise and fall of dozens of nations and empires. He has come to realize the arbitrariness and fragility of borders as well as tribal and national pride.
Leaving aside the unpleasantness of experiencing eternity as a decrepit old man and being charged with the impossible task of giving away your decripitude, what is it about immortality that attracts people so? As Caesar declares in Shakespeare’s play:
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Digital Rapture
The second option to immortality involves uploading our minds onto computer servers, a solution advocated by thinkers such as Kurzweil and Dmitry Itskov. Doing so would immediately eliminate many of the problems outlined above. You need not age in a digital landscape, for one thing. And since you’re whole existence amounts to lines of computer code, you could conceivably “program” yourself to avoid feeling depression, sadness, doubt and other negative emotions.
But there are other problems in this scenario.
If we upload our minds onto computers, we can “live” for as long as we wish, or as long as the data remains properly archived and resistant to fragmentation, viruses and hacking. After all, the official Space Jam website hasn’t aged a day since it launched back in 1996. But even if every last facet of our memories, temperament, interests, dislikes and habits carry over into the merry old land of ones and zeros,  are the digital copies really “us” — the essential us — or simply clever simulations? What’s lost, if anything, in the transfer from a carbon-based world to a silicon world? Perhaps the earliest available opportunities to experience immortality will be faulty and disastrous, resulting in regretfully botched versions of our psyches.
Something's not... quite... right.
Something’s not… quite… right.
Let’s say you upload your mind today. Now there are two “yous,” the analog you and the digital you. After your analog self dies, your digital self “lives” on. It will no doubt continue to assert that it is just as “real” as you ever were because it has the same memories, the same personality, the same tics and religious beliefs and tastes in women (or men, or both). Otherwise, how can it claim to be you? One of the problems here, if indeed there is one, is that you – the meat sack version — won’t survive to enjoy the immortality you’ve passed on to this immaterial copy of yourself.
Is “good enough” simply not good enough?
We place such a high premium on authenticity. Even if the digital copy of yourself isidentical in every possible way, it’s still not the “you” that emerged from your mother’s womb. The same argument can be made with regard to art forgeries, some of the best of which are sold at auction as the real deal. Shaun Greenhalgh, possibly history’s most successful art forger, was so good, he managed to dupe both casual and expert art enthusiasts for years and make close to a million pounds before being caught. Anyone who has one of his remarkably convincing pieces sitting in their house — one of his Rodin knockoffs, for instance — is reasonably entitled to tell visitors that they do indeed have a Rodin. There’s nothing about the piece that gives away its deception, other than the abstract notion of its inauthentic origin. But for most people, that’s enough. No matter what the piece looks like, either Rodin sculpted it with his own hands or he didn’t. Similarly, no matter how convincingly “real” a digital life might be, there are those who would refuse such a life because it lacks the nebulous idea of authenticity.
Of course, like Greenhalgh’s Rodin piece, and as we’ve already discussed, there’s no certifiable way to disprove that what you think is reality is actually a fraud. How do you know you’re not already living in a sophisticated computer simulation right now?
Gilgamesh and Qin Shi Huang’s quest for everlasting life might come to a close sometime this century. Before that happens, however, we must discuss the implications and consequences of a world in which death is no longer certain. Emily Dickinson, abandoning the desire to live forever, muses: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Since immortality will surely become a reality, we must reassess the sweetness in life. 

About Joseph Guyer

Joseph is a marketing copywriter living in San Antonio. Joseph on Google+

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