A book I’ve been reading recently contains one central idea which has fascinated me greatly. It is both wonderfully simple and hugely complex; a beautiful paradox of human nature.
The book is called Kil’n People and is a science fiction novel by David Bryn. It has a central idea of people having what he refers to as dittos. In this alternate future, they have a special kiln, wherein if you lie on it, your thoughts, memories and desires are copied to a clay duplicate. These golems have a shelf life of 24 hours, after which they will either simply die or will be “inloaded”, giving the original new memories that they never actually experienced.
The first thoughts are what would I do with this? Would you get the other you to do all the chores and then never take the boring memories? Would you try new forms, use that to be a superhero/villain? The possibilities are practically endless.
There is always a tendency with any technology to use it for pleasure first and foremost. That is one thing the author explores by conjuring up a thriving sex industry with no barriers and violent war games played by thrill seekers.
One of the other themes mentioned in this book is something called the purple wage, which is slang for the rising unemployment. If a company has one employee who can do everything excellently, why not have him do everything, as opposed to training someone else to help him?
It was however the idea of the soul being copied which caught my attention. Mainly because if you feel any objection to the possibility, you have to define what the soul is to explain why.
I think it’s generally considered that there are three components to a human; body, spirit and soul. The first is easy to define, as it is physical, visible and has very noticeable boundaries.
The others are clearly debatable. Is your personality an aspect of your soul or your spirit, or a strange combination of both?
Rather than try to settle a debate which has been going on for centuries, I’m going to give you my thoughts and allow you to work out your own mind. Feel free to discuss it below, but I need a definition to continue.
The soul is the earth bound part of us, that which has feelings about oneself. It also considers external things, but predominately in relationship to ourselves. The spirit thinks externally and only thinks internally about change to benefit the greater good, whatever it believes that is.
Let me illustrate with an example. You’re with a group of friends and you’re all trying to decide what to do. It’s been five minutes now and you and a few others are starting to get bored of the debate. Your soul wants it to finish and is generally thinking about your own desires. Your spirit however is focussed more on the group and is trying to work out a solution that keeps everyone happy. Both can have a personality and moods, but they operate and prioritise differently.
This is a very simplistic view I know, perhaps too much so, but it does highlight two modes of operating. The labels may be wrong, but the differences are clear.
In relation to the book I mentioned earlier, it got me thinking that the majority of these dittos would be used for selfish reasons, to satisfy the soul. Those that did the necessary things, such as cleaning, going to work etc. could easily be discarded making your life easier.
I began to wonder what this near perfect lifestyle would look like. You would wake up in the morning and create some copies to do your chores. Then you sit back and work out what you want to do with the rest of the day. You create a ditto to cheat death, go have real-to-copy sex with that supermodel you saw on TV then just chill with two of your girlfriend for the evening.
One thing I have learnt recently is that the more we try to live that perfect life, the more we realise how distant a dream it is. If we focus on satisfying the soul, it will just keep asking for more. That’s its whole function, to give constructive feedback to indicate how we are and how we can do better.
Over indulgence in this side of our personality can lead to a circular pattern of misery. The soul informs you that it is unhappy, and that having x, y and z would alleviate this situation, but on hearing the advice, your reaction is one of disappointment, since obtaining them is hard. Your situation continues to worsen until you become so aware of your misery and lack that you simply cannot go on.
There are two ways out of this, either be picked up by someone else or get up yourself. The only way to do the latter is to engage with your spirit. By focussing on the larger picture, the problems that you’re facing and the suffering you’re going through lessen.
Let me be clear though that I am not saying we should disregard our souls. They are incredibly useful for determining our state of affairs, and their advice is often very useful. If we listen to just our spirit, then we could burn ourselves out by just pleasing everyone else.
This is the reason why I initially objected to the idea of soul copying, as without a spirit I do not believe we would last long as a species. However, the process becomes clearer as the plot progresses and to discuss it further would introduce spoilers. If you would like to borrow it, don’t hesitate to ask. I highly recommend it for anyone who is a science fiction fan and enjoys a read that invokes more questions than it offers answers.