It’s been nearly three years since I arrived at the immigration reception center in Second Life. By the time I took the shuttle over to Help Island wearing my new avatar getup I felt like I had discovered the New World, a virtual echo of my Irish forebears coming to America. At that moment I had no idea of the adventures awaiting me, and even now I’m amazed at how much of my soul has been poured into this place since then and, conversely, how much I’ve received in return.
Since that day I’ve devoted myself to probing the mysteries of the human/avatar interbeing through art, writing, and most importantly, through the creation of avatars (one of them seen above) – creatures who have evolved into fully-formed adults over time, much the way a child eventually does in First Life. Though I’ve approached this alternate reality from many angles and had innumerable discussions about the “identity issue”, it’s still the mystery of it all which I find most compelling. The virtual experience is tangible in many ways, and that’s enough to satisfy me. But, hey, I’m an artist, not a scientist.
One of the jokes that has been around from Linden Time immemorial is the notion that some day we’ll all be able to upload our brains to a database, link that data to our avatar and, voila! be rendered immortal. Though some may find that a horrifying prospect (Dr. Frankenstein comes to mind), I’ve always kind of liked the idea, perhaps because I’m so comfortable in my skin, even though it is store-bought. Now, it seems, attempts to bring that idea into reality have already begun in the physical world.
In the latest issue of New Scientist, Linda Geddes documents these wide-ranging efforts and brings to light a surprising amount of activity, some with mixed success and all in the most rudimentary stages. Though I’m sure there will be as many opinions of this quest as there are individual human databases, just speaking for myself and my avatar, I’m prepared to dump all my data into that dude even if he only becomes a reasonable facsimile of me; hell, it sure beats those old home movies. Then again, they might just stick me up in the attic as well.
Read Immortal Avatars: Back up your brain, never die, at New Scientist magazine
Above: Camille Topaz; photo by Chrome Underwood, a reasonable facsimile of Mick Brady