02 October 2013

UFO Sightings, Multiple Personalities and Where Ghosts Will Live in the Future

Bernard was animated.
"I think I've hit on something," he said in a voice tight enough with excitement that it nearly squeaked. 
He looked blankly at me. "What?"
"Nothing. Go on," I said as I sat down across from him at our favorite restaurant.
Bernard is my octogenarian, invisible friend. And for invisible, he looked good. He was rather nattily attired and would have looked ready for a job interview at AARP had he not been interrupted in the middle of shaving. The entire left side of his face had a five o'clock shadow while the left side was clean shaven. Bernard;s mind was an active place and he was easily distracted.
"Well I was doing some thinking," he said, "about two phenomenon I never hear about any more."
Only Bernard would be thinking about what he was no longer hearing about. I raised an eyebrow. He continued.
"UFO sightings and multiple personality disorders. Those are two phenomenon that peaked in the decades after World War II and then just went off the radar."
"Well yeah. UFOs never did show up on radar."
He scowled, and then doodled in the white patch of sugar he'd spilled on the table. 
"Wait a minute. You put sugar in your coke Bernard?"
"It's not a regular coke," he said defensively. "It's a diet coke."
"So you put sugar in it?"
"It takes the edge off of the taste. Makes it smoother."
"Well then why wouldn't you just order regular coke?"
"Because regular has too many calories," he told me, as if that were incredibly obvious.
It was my turn to stare at him with a puzzled look. Finally I just waved my hand. "Fine. You were saying about UFOs and multiple personalities?" 
"Well it got me thinking about how they might be connected. And the most obvious thought occurred to me. Aliens weren't abducting people. That was nonsense."
"Of course," I agreed.
"They were cohabitating consciounessness with humans. It was their way of learning all about us. I mean, if you think about it, they wouldn't have physically traveled all those light years. It takes too long to send anything like a human being through space from any planet that would host intelligent life. So they would probably send something like neural networks that would substitute for, or imitate, their consciousness. And that could be beamed into human brains, if they got close enough, right? So suddenly, people are walking around with what doctors think is multiple personalities but what is actually the presence of an alien consciousness that is cohabitating with human consciousness."
"You really did retire too soon," I said. "You simply have too much free time. Could I read the menu?"
"No," he said. "You always order the same thing. A turkey Reuben."
"Yeah but I might order something different. I like to keep my options open," I told him as turned my attention from him to the menu.
Unperturbed, he continued. "Think about it. UFO sightings. Multiple personalities. Over thousands of years of human history those two events coincide within a few decades and then .." he made a magician's sort of sweep with his hands. "Poof! Vanished. Neither phenomenon to be seen or heard about again." 
"And all because of alien neural networks that can be implanted into consciousness wirelessly?"
"Yes. See, I knew that you'd see it my way." 
"I do?"
"Of course. And we're next. We're never that far behind the aliens. We just had a spacecraft leave our solar system. Soon we' will also have neural nets masquerading as human consciousness. But think about what will happen when we start using neural networks to simulate consciousness."
"We have computers that can beat Grand Master Chess Champions? We're doing that Bernard."
He paused. For just for instant. "But think about mimicking your consciousness. It would be like cloning your mind."
"Cloning my mind?"
"Sure. and then you could multiply consciousness so that instead of toggling between reading an email and reading a book and chatting with someone online and ... well you could assign these little consciousness bots to do online tasks for you. Think how much you could get done."
"So these little you's, these multipliers of your personality or consciousness would be out there on the Internet basically doing all the things you've got the inclination but not the time for?"
"Yes!" And Bernard threw up his arms excitedly, nearly knocking my Reuben out of the hands of the waitress as she approached our table.
"Hmm," I scratched my chin. "Couldn't that cause a problem with ghosts?"
"Well let's say that you've sent all these little consciousness bots out into the Internet. And then you get hit by a truck. Wouldn't they still be out there reading things, leaving comments, chatting with your friends? Wouldn't that mean that you've essentially left behind ghosts on the Web?"
He was silent, contemplating this as he noisily slurped his matzo ball soup. "Well that couldn't explain ghosts," he finally said. "They were around long before the Internet." 
"But .." I started to protest and then decided to let it slide. "So, on a lighter note Bernard, who do you like for the World Series this year?"

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