In Defense of the Senses
The human body is an amazing thing. Its design is incredible, a magnificent network of cells, neurons, organs and blood all orchestrating the greatest feat imaginable--Life. Living in the body is what makes the human experience real. Our bodies and our five senses allow our human consciousness to navigate life on Earth in all of its complexity. This life is so fantastic, we never want it to end. Which is why we're spending millions of dollars trying to find ways to the prolong our lives and perhaps even stop death.
In eHuman Dawn, I've created a world where one of the many potential singularity solutions has been implemented. In this case, humanity leaves their carbon based bodies completely behind in order to live in synthetic, humanoid forms. Think Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but with an actual human consciousness operating it. These forms are upright, and grant us much of the same mobility we have now. In fact, these bodies in many ways are better – the eHuman can run for days without rest, never needs to eat or drink, and can't die, at least not naturally. Sound far out there? Just check out the 2045 Initiative. This organization plans on having the ability to transfer the personality to an avatar by the year 2030, and into a hologram-inspired form by 2045. The year 2045 not too far off.
For many, the avatar, or the eHuman, is the perfect solution for life on Earth.
At least it seems that way at first.
Still, some people might want to keep their carbon bodies, where the five senses rule their daily existence, no matter what alternatives may exist.
Why would anyone wish such a thing? One of the most interesting parts about writing eHuman Dawn was the distinct lack of body responses that I could draw upon in writing any given scene. My main characters don't have carbon based bodies, therefore they lack the organs, skin, and sensations that produce reactions to normal life events. When an eHuman meets the girl of his dreams, he still feels the same emotions, but without the racing heart, butterflies in his stomach, or sweaty palms. Imagine fear. Can you experience a cold chill down your spine if you have no spine? Dry mouth? Goosebumps? Or even tears? And what would sex be like without the heat, the friction, the moisture, or the climax? I'm sure you've got the point.
Writing about such a world truly opened my eyes to the way my body talks to me, and to the numerous events in my life where I rely on my five senses to guide me. I've only touched on a few here, but I must admit, I'm a bit suspicious of life without these things. I love the smell of warm flesh, the thrill of my stomach turning as I fly down the hill on a roller coaster, the rush of blood through my veins before I try something dangerous. I enjoy the fluttering of my heart as I dance to a fantastic lead guitar solo. Just the act of moving my hips to the beat of the drums brings sensations of complete joy and satisfaction, and I feel this because my ears and skin are receiving the notes and my body responds by dancing.
Of course I wouldn't miss hunger, pain, or sadness. But part of me wonders if we turn off the annoying parts of life in the flesh, can we keep the joyous ones? Many people who suffer from depression or anxiety take drugs to help stop the painful feelings that trigger their episodes. Most of them complain that this also stops their ability to feel real happiness, sexual desire or excitement. It seems we need the dark to experience the light.
In the end I think the pursuit of immortality will lead society down many exciting paths. It's many, many decades away, but in the meantime I will continue to advocate for research and technology, as well as for the rights of consumers. And as I do, I will remain in this body, flirting, laughing, riding roller coasters, having sex and dancing until the natural end of my days!
Even if it does mean I'll shed a few tears.