In the last few decades there have been a lot of fiction works, were the producers try to approach the complex subject about the separation between our mind, the perception we have of our reality thanks to it, and our own bodies.
I will share a brief summary about 2 of the most famous examples of these fiction works in case someone doesn’t know these stories:
It depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called "the Matrix", created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Cybercriminal and computer programmer Neo learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the "dream world." | Source
Ghost in the Shell
In this post-cyberpunk iteration of a possible future, computer technology has advanced to the point that many members of the public possess cyberbrains, technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with various networks… This high level of cyberization, however, opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who will hack a person to bend to their whims. | Source
As we can see, in the end, all these works are really about the same subject (our minds and our bodies). This obviously is not something that only belongs to science fiction and philosophy, but it is also something that is present in most of the religions around the world, where there are concepts such as the soul or the spirit.
I think it is fair to say that what religions call soul, science simply calls it mind. The big difference happens when we try to explain what is that thing we call mind, or soul, or spirit.
In religions, the soul or spirit is something people cannot really see, only believe it is there. In science the mind is nothing more than the result of the neural patterns in our brain. The first version, the supernatural, was created before the scientific one, and it is easy to understand why this happened, due to lack of knowledge.
Thousands of years ago no person had the necessary knowledge to know the origin of a lightning, or what were those bright spots in sky, let alone understand that the Sun was indeed one of those little spots with the only difference of being much closer to us, and that even our planet was similar to some of those other points in sky. They didn’t have much understanding about anything.
So people did the best they could with what thy had back then, their own imagination. They invented all kinds of theories, some kind of crazy and others maybe not too crazy, and in the process they invented concepts like the different types of Gods as well as different theories about our existence. And in a similar way, they had to look for an explanation to something very difficult, which is the concept of death.
It is clear the majority of the people don’t want to day, and therefore it is very comforting to think that when we die what happened is that we “ascend to another level” or that "we reincarnate in order to experience another life". But for that belief to be true people had to add something else, since it was obvious that when people died they ended up being eaten by worms and the body decomposing itself. Therefore, the concept of a soul separated from the body was created.
Today thanks to modern science, people can know without a doubt, that everything that defines us as individuals, from our personality and the things we like, to the things that make us sad and all our memories, as well as our wishes and emotions, are simply the product of our brains.
There are people who suffered damage in certain parts of their brains and this caused them the lost of some mental functionality, or it can also make them perceive everything in a completely different way, up to the point that their personalities can change, as well as their memories.
Obviously, if the mind were something operating on its own then a hit to the head should not cause any change in the personality, but the truth is that the change happens because who we are is determined by the countless connections that we have in our brains, and if those physical connections are changed by force, then we will also go through a sudden change.
Something similar happens with the software that we install on our modern devices. Any smartphone when they are manufactured, they all have the same configuration, they are all identical to each other, like clones of each other.
But when these devices arrive at the hands of the consumers, what happens is that people begin to customize them, add new apps, songs, video games, among many other things, and after a short time, each smartphone has kind of like a different personality, being virtually different to all the other models that came out from the factory.
Or in other words, the software can be seen as the smartphone’s mind. It is what makes it unique, which causes it to store in its memory a list of contacts different from those of other smartphones, and different pictures, and songs, and so on.
Something very similar happens to our minds, it is what happens after we start to gain life experiences that shape how we really are, our childhood memories, the lessons we learn from our parents and other people, these are the things that condition our development. We are what we are because of our experiences, mistakes, our sad as well as our happy moments, the accumulation of all that results in our current personality.
And our current personality is not something that remains the same forever. Today we are quite different from how we were 10 or 20 years ago. Maybe we have the same happy or quiet personality, but it is possible that our values, and way of seeing the world ended up evolving.
Therefore, taking into account everything mentioned so far, the concept of a soul could be seen as nothing more than the software of our brains (a physical process in our brains as a result of our experiences).
What do you think about this topic? Feel free to share your thoughts.