Becoming Self/Less

by Nate Sala

Rich real estate mogul Damian (Ben Kingsley) is dying of cancer and his wealth and intellect cannot save him. Or can it?

His daughter wants nothing to do with him (or his money). He has no wife or other loved ones to comfort him. And his competition can’t wait for him to be dead and gone. Yet, with just months to live, he is presented an opportunity by a mysterious scientist named Albright (a rather passionless Matthew Goode with cool specs) to live on in a new body via a process called “Shedding”. “We offer humanity’s greatest minds more time to fulfill their potential,” Albright explains (although it’s not quite clear how Damian is one of humanity’s greatest minds). And so, with some melodramatic fanfare, Damian transfers his consciousness into a lab-grown body and reemerges with a new alias, a new home, and a new life. Everything seems perfect… until the hallucinations start.

Self/Less is just one of a number of transhumanist stories coming out in the era of Kurzweil-esque end-times speculation. That is, the futurist and director of engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil, has speculated that at some point in the future humans will be able to extend their lives by uploading their minds into computers, thus achieving immortality. This is, in my estimation, pure fantasy (for more on this see my review of Transcendence) since it trades on the erroneous belief that minds are physical. But, as I’ve argued here, minds are immaterial aspects of souls and, therefore, cannot be downloaded anywhere. Nevertheless, transhumanist views provide some interesting fodder for science fiction…

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