Absolutist thinking is a vicious falsehood, creates only confusion.
For years, scientists have said that the human brain is nothing more than a complex computer system. Organic rather than inorganic, our neurons and synapses work together to form our consciousness; in other words, our soul. But if our soul is nothing more than the firing of electrical stimuli in an organized environment, does that mean our souls can be recreated or passed on? Theoretically, yes.
While our current technological level does not allow us to build computers to the complexity and flexibility of the human brain, the speedy progression of improvements allows us to envision a time when that is no longer true. Not only could the computers, in their own way, become sentient, i.e. self-aware and in possession of a soul equivalent, but we, also could download our consciousness into such a system, thereby indefinitely preserving that which makes us essentially us.
But would we want to? Would you want to live inside a computer? What if it was a computer in a robot, complete with the ability to interact with its environment? Would that make a difference to you?
Moreover, if the soul can be transferred into a computer, does that make it more or less real? Regardless of the transfer process, the soul will never be a tangible object we can examine. The very transitory nature of the soul is what makes it so precious: that thin silver line that connects our ‘selves’ to our bodies. That which is broken in death.
But if we can sever the line ourselves, does that give us power over death? Does that mean that, technically, we would never die, barring accidents or errors? Or do the deaths of our physical bodies have some impact on our souls? Would cheating death be detrimental to us as a society or us as an individual? What of the religious impact? If there is no death, then there is no eternal reward or punishment. Would that affect our behaviors?
Beyond death and humans; what of artificial souls? If we can, at some future point, create the technology necessary to imitate a human brain, wouldn’t the coinciding appearance of a soul to match be somewhat inevitable. When that occurs, who then trumps? The organic or inorganic soul? Which is more valid? More ‘alive’?
Science fiction has dealt with this concept in varying ways. Some say that humans are above any machine, any time. Others respect the idea of inorganic sentience and right to exist. Still others warn of the consequences of our creations turning on the creators. Whatever the case, the foreseeable future alludes to a change on the horizon. A change in what line marks alive from dead, real from false, and soul from programming.