Where do you go when you sleep? Where do you go when you die? To clear these thoughts in my mind I decided to write a little post.

Each individual has freedom in what to believe in and from a selfish point of view, it makes sense to believe in what makes the individual more comfortable. Believe in soul and face philosophical questions of “what is soul and consciousness.” The purely materialistic view of the world has reasonable answers for those but, as mentioned, it may be beneficial to ignore them.

  • Consciousness is an artificial categorization of things that we believe think in some manner. It has a value from 0 (rock) to infinity. From ants through snails it rises; through cattle and pets; through people and AI. There is no reason there is a limit other than the materialistic one.
  • The scale of consciousness gives rise to some traits such as self-preservation and self-consciousness.
  • As consciousness describes a current state, you have none when you are not conscious – in sleep, death, before being born. It may be diminished – after an accident, disease, or lack of sleep. And naturally, it may be raised.

Natural questions on life arise.

  • Through the various states described (sleep, accident) we can say that the object is still alive. However, we would like to exclude cases where the thing may be made alive with significant effort. So I’d define life as follows. Something is alive when it was conscious and still can be conscious.
  • Consciousness being on a scale implies that life is also on a scale from 0 up. Usually, this concept is tackled as a binary value: something either is or is not alive, which then raises a natural problem with drawing the boundary.

Classical problems of sci-fi become tractable.

  • When a brain is scanned and duplicated, what happens? We get two conscious individuals with the same memories and state of mind. Who is the real one is irrelevant – if the process is perfect, they are identical. Real could be also interpreted as the one who has continuous consciousness with the pre-scan one. This can be determined but has no deeper meaning.
  • Teleportation? One consciousness disappears another appears. If the target believes he is the original entity, does it matter that it didn’t exist for a while? Cloning would have the same effect except that the old individual would remain alive.
  • Is consciousness in the head? The full consciousness of a person comes from the whole body. The majority of it resides in the brain but we must not forget the chemicals which get to it through the bloodstream and change its function. For example, drugs affect consciousness and they do not normally reside in the brain.
  • Swapping two brains atom by atom? – This will probably just challenge the brain’s ability to heal itself. As the memory, behaviors, decision making, and personality overall reside in synapses I do not think the subject would be a person as before. Though conscious and alive it would not be familiar with its previous acquaintances, moreover, it will not be able to speak. If the swap would be perfect then it depends if the synapses are moved as well, or just joined as in the target brain.

What about the soul?

  • Soul is a concept of continuous being that exists independently of the body.
  • This comes back to the note at the beginning. Each person has to make peace with their decision on this subject. From a material point of view, there is no reason to believe in the existence of the soul. However, as a mortal being, it brings peace of mind, which can ultimately be the reason to genuinely believe in the soul’s existence.
  • About God the reasoning is similar. From a materialistic point of view, no evidence of God seems to arise. However, to believe in it can be a moral compass for a person mainly in situations when he knows that nobody is around. Punishing his immortal soul for sins makes one who genuinely believes in it think twice.