Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A million years hence and the brain in the vat:

I was browsing through an online Photoshop art contest and I came upon the category called "Humans In One Million Years". I looked at this one picture and immediately thought of the following lines by Rama (V.S. RAMACHANDRAN, a neuroscientist, is professor and director, Center for Brain and Cognition UCSD).
You can browse all of the entries under the category here or browse the entire collection here

Lets advance to a point of time where we know everything there is to know about the intricate circuitry and functioning of the human brain. With this knowledge, it would be possible for a neuroscientist to isolate your brain in a vat of nutrients and keep it alive and healthy indefinitely.

Utilizing thousands of electrodes and appropriate patterns of electrical stimulation, the scientist makes your brain think and feel that it's experiencing actual life events. The simulation is perfect and includes a sense of time and planning for the future. The brain doesn't know that its experiences, its entire life, are not real.

Further assume that the scientist can make your brain "think" and experience being a combination of Einstein, Mark Spitz, Bill Gates, Hugh Heffner, and Gandhi, while at the same time preserving your own deeply personal memories and identity (there's nothing in contemporary brain science that forbids such a scenario). The mad neuroscientist then gives you a choice. You can either be this incredible, deliriously happy being floating forever in the vat or be your real self, more or less like you are now (for the sake of argument we will further assume that you are basically a happy and contended person, not a starving pheasant). Which of the two would you pick?

The complete text of Rama’s article is here with some comments…

Hope you enjoy this...

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