Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"But in contentment I still feel the need..."


Anne (my sister who lives on the desert mesa) retired from her regular Sunday pic here to pursue more personal work. She still sends me an image every week or so, but not for publication. They constitute a sort of graphic memoir. She says she is "downloading my soul @ 70 a la Ed Fredkin."

Ed Fredkin is the digital guru who thinks the universe is a computer and you and I are subroutines running on the big machine. At the very least, I suspect, the computer is a better metaphor for the universe than the organism of our animistic ancestors or the mechanical clockwork of the Newtonians. Certainly the great majority of science being done these days would be inconceivable without computers. Just look at all the computer-generated images of the molecules of life in any issue of Science or Nature. The staggering quantity of data to be generated by the Large Hadron Collider, when it's up and running, would be impossible to comprehend without giant elctronic brains -- a digitization of the beginning of the universe itself.

So, yes, I understand Anne downloading her soul into her art. The walls of her little house are covered with colorful computer-generated graphics. One can imagine her flesh-and-blood body vanishing and her self remaining, like a hologram, in the midst of all those shimmering pixels. I think I can remember when she got her first box of Crayolas, eight colors. Then sixteen. What was her biggest box? Forty-eight? Now she has millions of colors in her pixel palette. Does the soul have millions of colors?

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that I am doing the same thing with this blog -- downloading my soul into binary code. Impossible, of course. The soul increments day by day and I can only download a part of it here. Still, @ 72, one feels a growing imperative to lodge one's soul in an imperishable place. And so each morning I click "Upload" and a little part of me shimmies out into the Fredkinian universe of cyberspace.

Those billions of binary bits are presumably stored on a massive server somewhere in California. Have they found a more imperishable afterlife than the Heaven I was promised as a child?