Volume 4, Issue 2
December 2009

What Life Might Be

Martin O'Dea

Page 3 of 6

One possible area of technological development

Researcher Li-Wei Ko [1] from the National Chiao-Tung University in Taiwan has developed a baseball cap that detects and analyzes the electroencephalogram (EEG) [2] signals from your brain in real time. The firm Hitachi [3] has recently developed a portable lightweight brain scanner which uses optical topography to generate electronic signals to be transferred back to a computer. These types of technology might be developed in conjunction with other non-invasive modes of all known measurements of brain function at high resolution, and, by coupling these developments with increasing sophistication in decoding, such information might be best represented by fitting such a headset with a preset virtual programme through which participant’s brain activity may be observed while the programme runs. Again, the content of such a programme, whether it can observe responses to all the senses, and can use open-ended questions to initiate a series of vast numbers of neural connections representing the vast number of ‘options’ open to a respondent/participant at any given moment, is an area that would require much ongoing work, the purpose here, again, is merely to highlight the principal behind such a virtual experience.

In short, what would be proposed is that a human might wear a headset with a mobile scanner while in a fully immersive virtual experience, and that their mental responses to the programme in the virtual environment would be ‘recorded’ in as many ways as possible, transferred into electronic representations, and relayed back to a computer for storage. This technology plus the individual’s DNA would be envisaged at this juncture, and would form the core of an individual’s record.

The concept of running a pre-designed and common programme which would be experienced in an immersive virtual context during observation should allow for a temporal point of reference during recreation as well as highlighting the individual differentiators among unique minds. This may also allow for multiplication being employed for much of what is scanned. In genetics it is apparent that much more of what constitutes individual beings is common than unique; repeating a pattern of code being built upon basic code allowing for comprehension of the existing complexity, its evolution, its hierarchical structure and ultimately the individual identifiable by its very deviations in the common code.


Some of the key obstacles in successfully creating ‘records’ of human beings which would prove workable for future revitalisation will be mentioned and addressed briefly here.

  1. There is insufficient computational capability to represent a human;
  2. There is not a computer capable of representing the complexity of a human brain;
  3. We will never understand the workings of a human because of its intangible ‘spirit’ or its intangible ingredient; and
  4. Consciousness is more than the sum of its atomic parts.

Regarding obstacle 1 & 2 above, the proposal of the concept of ‘Delayed Delivery’ is designed to address these concerns. This would be achieved by making the overall process one that is conducted over an extended period of time, in which the relevance of one’s own biological life time is lessened.
The concerns raised in obstacle 3 are not refutable at this juncture and, as such, are a matter of individual appraisal of the evidence available. One might look at evolution as a o2good starting point towards understanding our current modus operandi. What could be seen as encouraging here is the evidence that it is by a vast number of iterations of complexity that we have developed from relative simplicity (single cell organisms) rather than any incomprehensible initial level of complexity.

Roger Penrose [4] among others presents arguments regarding the nature of consciousness or the workings of our brains which place them beyond electronic representations, inferring the random nature of the behaviour apparent at the size of the quantum. Early in his work ‘What is Life’ Erwin Schrödinger [5] discusses the evidence that if at a sub-atomic level any organism was susceptible to the haphazard and random activities evident at that level when we view sub-atomic particles they would not be feasible; and yet the organisms themselves exist and are identifiable by the order that is contained within their ‘codes’ or scripts’ and perhaps one can infer then that in as much as anything can be understood, dissected and recreated so too can a human mind.

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[1] Li-Wei Ko, Ph.D. – Research Assistant Professor at the Brain Research Center, National Chiao Tung University, 1001 University Road, Hsinchu, 30010, Taiwan, R.O.C.  http://brc.nctu.edu.tw/  August 26, 2009 4:06PM EST

[2] Electroencephalogramn. Abbr. EEG - A graphic record of brain waves recorded by an electroencephalograph.
The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical dic·tion·ar·y, Second Edition . Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 254.

[3] Hitachi – Hitachi’s portable lightweight brain scanner - http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/hitachis-personal-brain-scanner  August 26, 2009 4:16PM EST
[4] Penrose, Roger - ‘The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics’, 1989, Oxford University Press, England.
http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Penrose.html  August 30, 2009 1:23PM EST  

[5] Schrödinger, Erwin - (1944) ‘What is Life’ is a non-fiction book on science for the lay reader. In the book, Schrödinger introduced the idea of an "aperiodic crystal" that contained genetic information in its configuration of covalent chemical bonds. In the 1950s, this idea stimulated enthusiasm for discovering the genetic molecule. In retrospect, it could be seen as having been a well-reasoned theoretical prediction of what biologists should have been looking for during their search for the genetic material.
August 30, 2009 1:39PM EST



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