Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I live you...I live you very much.

I'm still playing hooky from the next installment of my Combat Realism series. Let me float a different story idea instead:

Imagine a story setting in which you could assume the body of another person. Any other person, living or dead, complete with their memories. (This post was inspired by a friend's comment a while ago concerning spell check correcting her "I love you" to "I live you"--thanks, Teddi.)

Something like my idea has been done in a variety of ways in the past. An original Star Trek episode featured a machine that was able to transfer a woman's inner self, her soul if you will (though the episode didn't use that term) into Captain Kirk's body and vice versa. Later, in the movies, Doctor McCoy carries around Spock's Katra, the Vulcan equivalent to a soul (given to him in a mind-meld) prior to it being returned to a new version of Spock's body.

Stories have even featured robot surrogates that a person can project their consciousness into. Or on a technologically simpler level,virtual reality projections have been proposed in which anybody could assume the shape of anyone or anything in a highly realistic digital projection that hits all of a person's senses.

On a similar vein, I've proposed in the past on this blog the ability to save and recover a person's brain with electronic implants (in my post on Revive), a system that would act as a "black box" for a person's mind. And later in The Interchangeable Brain I took this idea a step further and imagined people could swap the brain data I previously discussed, effectively taking the place of another person. ("Or would they really?" I wondered.)

Let me develop the previous notions further. Imagine a story world in which a human being could be rapidly grown from DNA samples, (which sci fi has done numerous times). Then the brain of this new clone could be reprogrammed with a person's mind (again, as stated above, this has been written before). But to take this a step further, imagine a world in which careful genetic research could reproduce the bodies of people no longer living. Then implant their brains with recreations of their memories based on what is known of that person from history--and then place a living person into that system. You would not be yourself in another body--your very thoughts would be changed, merged with those of the person you entered.

Figures from history would be very popular for this sort of thing, but so would living celebrities. Imagine living celebrities being paid high royalties for allowing people to copy them. So that strangers could merge their thoughts and inner selves into the bodies of the rich and famous. Though this sort of procedure could be attempted so it isn't a merger--it instead could be set up so the stranger would be just an observer in another person's mind.

First of all, the ability to recreate historic people at all would make something like a Jurassic Park of historical figures, wouldn't it? Or at least would make it possible--imagine Napoleon vs. Genghis Khan vs. Julius Caesar. Though that's not my focus here.

The ability to load yourself into historic or celebrity brains would allow unique opportunities of learning about the lives of fascinating people from the past and present. Though for the historic figures, a lot would depend on the types of memories loaded into a brain and what DNA was used to create a person. People like Jesus or Socrates, for whom only some thoughts and experiences are preserved by history and any direct relatives from which DNA could be extrapolated are long since gone, would be especially controversial. (Especially an attempt to clone Jesus. I'd find such an attempt inherently foolish and doomed to fail--others would see it as blasphemy.) There would have to be multiple versions with radically different characteristics for further-in-the-past or obscure historical figures...

The same sort of thing could be done with digital modeling in theory. But genetic systems--what I would call in a story using this idea "wet modeling"--would develop a complexity that due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle digits may never be able to reproduce. And even if totally realistic virtual reality were possible in some super-technological future, some people would prefer "wet models."

The reason to tackle this sort of story as someone who has the Christian convictions I hold would be because it gives the opportunity to ask: "What is the difference between the contents of all a person's memories and the soul? What does it really mean to be who you are? Is it possible to think radically different thoughts, ones you'd never thought before, and still be yourself when you're finished?"

That leads to how I would end such a story. As I'd write it, merging your mind with another person's mind would be filled with unexpected failures and unpredicted reactions. Even in such a super-technological world as the one I'm imagining here, God is the master of circumstances, not we human beings. And I would say that thinking someone else's thoughts, even for a short time, would change who you are. There would be no going back to thinking the exactly same way as you had beforehand (which relates to another thing my friend Teddi said, that the Bible states in Proverbs that a person is what they think). So at the point where the protagonist realized this is true, that's where I'd want to use the line, "I live you...I live you very much."

Though that might be the sort of thing only my brain, under these present circumstances, would find clever. :)