I don’t want to die. The prospect scares me. I’m an agnostic so I don’t have the faith in the possibility that there’ll be a pleasant afterlife for me that the devout religious folk get. Also I’m not certain if oblivion (which seems the most reasonable assumption for what occurs after brain death) is as good as existence. I need a way out, some way to preserve my being, my ‘soul’ if you like. Science may well have the answer with ‘Synergy’. I say that it may work, it’s difficult for me to back that claim up with evidence. The form of Synergy I’m thinking of is a very difficult thing to Google for. All manner of rubbish comes up, such as ‘spiritual synergy’, ‘team synergy in the workplace’ and a Synergy festival. Nearly everything is called synergy these days. Just yesterday I bought three puppies and named them all ‘synergy’. People would probably like the leader of the Nazi party more if his name was ‘Adolf Synergy’. Presumably people love it because it’s a pretty cool word and is to do with cooperation. People like cooperation.
The synergy I wish for is between humans and machines. ‘Augmented Cognition’ as it is sometimes known. Its the topic of many a science fiction story, appearing recently in the third instalment of Mass Effect as ‘that stupid thing we don’t talk about’. The subject is generally viewed with much trepidation. A lot of old-fashioned people would use the old ‘it’s unnatural’ argument. Personally I can’t wait. Once my body has had enough of carting around my brain I want my favourite organ to be plugged into a computer so my conciousness can live in a virtual world. According to my favourite thing on the Internet (http://envisioningtech.com/envisioning2012/ I cited it last time when talking about virtual reality), we’ll have augmented cognition by 2037, creating ‘revolutionary human-computer interactions’, a few years after fully immersive virtual reality. Now while that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be the masters of our own virtual domain straight away imagine the potential! If we could interact with computers using only our brains what would happen if we got rid of the rest? If we could find a reliable way to keep brains alive after (or just before) body death might we be able to connect them up to this virtual world? One could visit friends and family both living and dead on the Internet (or create your own, what with advances in AI). You could conjure up your perfect fantasy and reside there. You could even spend an eternity playing Farmville! If that’s your thing. Scientists would effectively have invented Heaven. People would spend their lives doing boring things, like fixing bugs in the super network, cleaning the brains and working out where to store the ever-expanding number of jars of grey-matter, then when they pop their clogs* the real fun begins.
It would be a system open to a lot of exploitation, I could imagine a world where your Heaven is better depending on your contribution to the current government’s ideal society, every action in life contributing to some sort of morality code**. How would you function properly in the new world if you had a severe mental illness? Or worse, if your death was caused by a brain problem, like whacking your head against a robot porcupine? It’s certainly not an infallible system, it may not even be possible as I envision it, I’m no neuroscientist. It does make me marvel though, and also make me think hard about my own mortality. In an episode of the US sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Sheldon decides to devote his life to living longer so he can be around when humanity achieves Synergy. He gives up in the end, but he does have a point. If someone could guarantee me that my dream would happen I wouldn’t be opposed to living out my life as a vegetarian social recluse. Synergy could be great, they should get on that. Now I don’t advocate Technocracy, but…
*Is that a known euphemism for death?
**Don’t nick that, I might write a novel about it one day.