Cloudy With a Chance of Brains

Waking up dead tired on a dreary Saturday morning is never fun, but even more so in November. The sky is grey and it never seems to stop raining, and for some reason only known to God herself (if you believe in that sort of thing) it has already started to freeze at night, adding the wonderful sensation of numbing cold to the mix. So I decided to read an article about neuroscience to wake me up, you know, as you do. And boy am I glad that I did. I will be adding the link below this text, but unfortunately it is only available in Dutch. For those of you who read Dutch: please for the love of all that is holy read the article. It really is incredibly interesting. In case you haven’t noticed from my previous posts, I will tell you right now: I absolutely adore wondering about confusing, possibly impossible and perhaps sometimes useless things. And by useless I mean useless to think about, because why think about why a thing exists when it’s maybe impossible to know the answer because, well, the thing exists, has always existed and will continue to exist –like for instance time. Anyhow, the thing I am talking about on this occasion is not useless to think about, because it doesn’t exist yet and can therefore be whatever you think of. Are you sufficiently confused already? I hope not, for I haven’t even started yet.

The article I read on that fatefully dreary Saturday morning came from the Dutch newspaper The Volkskrant. It was called Head in the clouds and it was about the curious concept of getting your mind uploaded into the Cloud after you die. I’m guessing we all have seen multiple science fiction movies and or series about this concept. I’ve personally always found this idea incredibly fascinating, for it invokes musings about death, the soul and what really makes a person a person. If you were to take out my brain and place it in a new body, would I still be me? It is a thought exercise we were given during philosophy class in high school: if you keep replacing rotting planks in a boat for new ones over time, eventually all the planks would be replaced. Would the boat still be the same boat as it used to be, or an entirely new boat? As I said, fascinating stuff (which often lead to intense discussions during class and many of my family dinners). The article was about this quandary. Even if we managed to upload all the information in a human brain onto a digital cloud, would that mean you have downloaded a person? Or perhaps just a memory of a mind that once was. Scientists conclude that the mind, the brain, is always evolving, learning and changing, so ‘downloading’ the information of a brain and calling it a person is just like taking a snapshot of a moment in time and calling it forever. It is just a version of a person which expires everyday, if not every second. And even if we did manage to upload our consciousness, what would that mean for our perception of life, of death, of time? Will we –the still living- become slaves to the omnipotent dead? Will time cease to exist? In any case, I’m not sure I would like my mind to be uploaded. Seems awfully tiring, living on for all eternity, don’t you think?

Article: Hoofd in de wolken by Maarten Keulemans in De Volkskrant