Death – by Andrés Moya

This post is also available in: Spanish

How about death?

First, there’s a question: life is very persistent. From the point of view of personal self-awareness, a conflict is generated because one is aware of one’s own limitations in the sense that, sooner or later, we disappear. Well, I, as a finite being, disappear, but my heritage can go on, because I leave an offspring. If one thought about the genes as those little devils that control everything, then they have it pretty good because they remain, they never die. In that perspective, those beings are kind of immortal. It’s true they haven’t always existed, they appeared some three billion years ago. Life has also appeared. Can it disappear? One may talk about life and death, thinking about life in general. One can talk about life and death, thinking about his amazing evolutionary products, the genes. And one may talk about life and death talking about oneself and about the self-awareness that, as a physical being, one will disappear at a certain moment. And, even if we don’t leave any offspring, our genes are out there because we come from our parents and there are ramifications, in such a way that genes remain, somewhere out there. The exist. From the evolutionary perspective, we’re a pretty genuine product to the extent that we developed a self-awareness and that we know we have certain physical limitations. Our reproductive age is adequate at certain times, we can exert or not the capability to reproduce, and we know that, after a certain period, we will disappear. That, in the perspective I was talking about before, that of atheism. But from the point of view of how persistent life is or how persistent genes are, one may speak of a certain immortality. It’s worth thinking about. In my next book I reflect on our capacity to self-intervene. Self-intervention is all the rage: everybody talks about prolonging our lives. Of improving sociosanitary conditions or the capacity to intervene ourselves genetically, in such a way that our individuality may survive for much longer. Can we reflect on a certain immortality, the way I did before, of life and the genes, but in this case of ourselves? I don’t know if it would be good for us, to be honest, but we should think about it. The average lifespan in western societies is dramatically increasing. The human species, when it appeared on the planet, had a lifespan of 25 years. Now it’s between 75 and 80. The lifespan has been increasing. This, without intervening in a way such as I mentioned before. How far can we get? Here we start with exercises akin to science-fiction. Let’s imagine: will we be able to reproduce a being from cells? Will we be able to perform brain transplants? And what will the transplanted entity be? Because it may be transplanted to a mechanical entity, made from materials which will not be necessarily biological, like some kind of robot. A cyborg. There’s some science-fiction in this, but not so much. 15 years ago, nobody could imagine the Internet emerging with the characteristics it has nowadays. Can we go against individual death? Technically, we can approach it. We can think about the possibility of avoiding it. We can think about it, though historically we can’t avoid it. It would be an exercise of supreme intervention in ourselves, in the times to come.

Would that imply replicating consciousness and memory?

A transplant of that kind… if I talk about the spirit, which is the interaction of matter, it’s true there’s a certain context of interaction with the environment and that individuals are absolutely singular. There aren’t two individuals, no matter how similar, even genetically identical, who are exactly the same. Their vital and developmental experiences are of such nature that they end up with different consciousness. Now, the same way Einstein did, let’s imagine one of those hypothetical experiments that will never be carried out. What would happen if we could transplant a brain? What would that new being be? Because, what do we move with it? All the complex mental operations reside in this box we have in our heads. I see consciousness as something, some kind of permanent emergency, as a consequence of an extraordinarily complex interaction that happens in cerebral processes. Many people have argued about whether it will be possible to transplant one’s brain to a new physical medium. I have doubts. Probably we will need to know a lot more about the brain’s biology, about its cells, in order to decide whether we will be able to carry out this kind of experiment. The times will change so much that things like that may actually come.

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