This is a cross post of something I wrote before. I liked this post too much to leave it in middle of nowhere, so I’m moving it here.
This is something I ran across in my visit to the Met today. It’s a funeral marker of the ancient Greece, around 500 B.C. or so. According to the description given by the little placard at the bottom, there was an inscription on the stele at the original site. The translated version of the inscription reads like this.
“My daughter’s beloved child is the one I hold here, the one that I held on my lap while we looked at the light of the sun when we were alive and that I still hold now that we are both dead.”
The time was almost three thousand years ago, but the human sentiment runs the same. I might even argue that the dying grandmothers of the old were much more articulate than the living young ones we have right now. Nonetheless, I feel saddened and glad at the same time when I remember this scene, bathed in a solemn and melancholy light, phrases and situations telling its story through subtle hints which later echo in the heart of a young man from three thousand years in the future. Will we leave something behind as such? Will we leave behind something so that people living in three thousand years in the future would shed a tear or feel their heart wrench at the tales of people long gone and forgotten? Will the human identity remain resonant throughout the times?
Another something I picked up. It’s from roughly the same era as the above funeral marker. This one depicts a little girl saddened to let her pet pigeons go. This clumsy photo of mine doesn’t do justice to the subtle nuances and expressions that were retained in this piece despite its age. People talk of evolution and change all the time, but what we consider to be fundamentally human trait doesn’t seem to have changed much, if we can communicate across space and time like this through frozen motions and facial expressions.
I am beginning to suspect that the fundamental nature of what we consider to be humanity is more closely linked with the body at deeper levels. Perhaps the overall nervous structure and its extent affects the development of consciousness itself to some degree. Perhaps there is a minimal template of what we can consider to be a ‘mind’ just like the minimal framework of gene for the base artificial life, and the traits we consider to be human consciousness arises from there just like how the base gene later expresses itself in multiple ways, as a complex synthetic life form. If so, human psychology, and much of the subtle traits of being a human being, is locked with the type of body to certain extent, and therefore can be engineered like genes and engines.