“God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of”. Brilliant disguise – Bruce Springsteen.
Sometimes I ask myself: who am I? Does my body form part of what I am, as a person? Or does only my mind take part on what I call “myself”? This raises interesting questions about me. For example: If I could design a robot with an empty brain, would I be able to transfer the person I am and keep living on it? Would it be the same being as I am right now, or it would be another copy, someone independent? Would the robot act as myself, or sooner or later would diverge from the actions and thoughts I’d have taken, limited by its own hardware. Is our consciousness limited by the hardware (our brain), or we are just software and the physical part only provides life support but nothing more?
I’ve always defended the thesis that we are only our memories. What you do today, what you think, the person who you really are, is based on the things that we remember from our past. The good and bad experiences formed our personalities. If we change our memories all the erased past would simply disappear and to our perspective it’d be like it has never happened. Even the new memories would seem as real to us as any other memento. I always see this using the metaphor of time travel: If someone just traveled to the past and changed it in a way that a new “alternative future” formed, from our perspective only the alternative timeline would have existed, and we would never know or be aware of the original one. Only the time traveler would know both of them, and changing the timeline many times would be transparent to the rest of its inhabitants. Something similar happens with our memories, we trust them because we know they cannot be changed arbitrarily but, if it was possible, how could we distinguish between the original and real memories and the altered ones?
Even more… Can we say that we would be the same person as we are if we just lost our memories, if only we had the new memories from that moment on and not any other background information? I guess some amnesic people could solve that question for me.
From this perspective, what we are seems quite fragile: Just a piece of information coded chemically in less than 2 kilos of organic matter (and half of it is just water). And if that information is lost: an accident, an illness, or just by chance… Are we lost? Would the result be the appearing of another different person, independently of our DNA? Or we would still be the same person, and our personality and memories don’t mean too much in the process?
I believe that a person is not a body, but a personality. The accumulation of decisions you take and the actions performed. We are our memories and our choices, the way we relate with everyone else and the “algorithm” that decides what we will do, how we reason, in every specific situation.
In the picture: a graffiti painted in the walls of an abandoned building, reflecting in the water of a puddle in an oneiric way. The way the picture is taken and processed distracts the mind for a few seconds while it tries to interpret the reality shown. This is my way of representing the fragility of the mind, and how who we are is extremely dependent of a fragile and voluble organ which does its best to process all the information around us, but not always in the correct way.
Place: Sant Vicens de Torelló
Speed: 1/80 s.
Focal: 105 mm