Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Black Emptiness

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolman, Manse Everard, assumes, as I do, that, when a world line ends, so does the person, i.e., when a body dies, its consciousness ends. I remember my consciousness going out like a candle flame when I was given a general anaesthetic and, on another occasion, when I lay down exhausted. If I had died under the anaethetic or in my sleep, then my consciousness would not have returned. Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, waking up very weak after an operation to remove a bullet from her brain, thinks:

"If death was the black emptiness from which she had just woken, then death was nothing to worry about."
-Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (London, 2009), Chapter 3, p. 61.

Poul Anderson assumes survival when he writes fantasy but this is only a fictional premise. However, if we assume, for the sake of argument, that each human being has an immortal soul, then we have to ask whether such souls are also possessed by:

Artificial Intelligences;
multiple "uploads" of human personalities (see here);
"emulated" human beings (see here);
tripartite Didonians (see here);
duplicated human beings (see here).

Can not only bodies but also souls be duplicated or would God create a new soul in each of these examples?


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    We have divergent (to use and overused word!) views of survival after death, so no need to go into that.

    I have wondered, thanks to an author like Anthony Boucher (see his classic "Quest For St. Aquin"), whether, assuming self aware, conscious AIs are possible, if they too would have souls. I'm not sure if Poul Anderson ever thought of the issue along lines similar to Boucher.

    Multiple uploads of human personalities? Can a COPY of a human soul also be a soul? Interesting, and what would such a "copy" BE like? Would it be different from the original "you" or "me"?

    Emulated human beings? No, here I think the issue is clearer. The "emulations" Gaia created in GENESIS were mote like unusually skilled and accurate fictions or movies.

    And the philosophical implications of the tripartite Didonians (to say nothing of the bipartite "vanRijns" discovered by Old Nick are skull cracking. I don't pretend to be able to resolve them! And the same for duplicated human beings!

    It might be simpler if we became convinced God created new souls in these examples. All the more reason to get OFF this rock and try to find out!!!


    1. Sean,
      But the emulations are self-aware and some even believe that they have souls.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      I know. But,are the "emulations" TRULY self aware if they were created by Gaia? I'm simply not sure!


    3. Sean,
      I think that the texts say that they are but this would have to be checked. It would make all the difference. If an emulation can be self-aware without a soul, then so can a human being.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      I have difficulty imagining a fictional character within an "emulation" being truly self aware. And this would be an example of the admirable skill shown by Poul Anderson in his later years, of continuing to write boldly "far fetched" works. It would been so easy for most writers to simply rest on their laurels and either mostly stop writing at all or reusing only earlier themes and tropes from their works.


    5. Sean,
      I will check GENESIS. There is a philosophical discussion here.

    6. Kaor, Paul!

      Please do! Like all truly GOOD writers, Poul Anderson touched on many themes in his works.