Escaping the Meat
This is a discomforting thing.
Being a sci-fi geek, I immediately turn to visions of the Singularity. A common aspect of visions of the Singularity is that we'll be able to escape our bodies - whether through uploads and branching instances (Accelerando), or a new life through clones and transfers of mentality (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Old Man's War"). My problem with those has always been one encapsulated by the ultimate question of Gaiman's Sandman - point of view. An uploaded copy of me *isn't* me. The point of view that's writing now will still be stuck in the meat. The singularity is no more immortality from this perspective than writing, artwork, or children. Your point of view is still meat-bound.
I have been sleeping in a chair this week to help my back recover. It's helped, but it's unusual enough that my sleep patterns have been disrupted. Last night, while falling asleep, I had a somewhat persistent sensation of being *more* than just the meat. I don't mean some kind of out-of-body stuff; I mean that I felt like "I" was the room, the chair, the dogs, my wife, the laptop, *everything* in the room. Yeah, it might just be the drugs and fatigue, but it was a very compelling sensation. And that makes me wonder.
There's parts of the brain that, when activated, make the person in question lose the boundaries of "self" at the meat. It's generally presumed that activating these areas (like activating the so-called "God Module") are *faults* in the system; short circuits that don't represent what's really going on. But maybe that's ass-backwards. The appeal of Mead for me - who basically posits that your consciousness is made up of interactions with other things and therefore isn't just in the meat - is that he gives a good explanation how consciousness could develop. His concept is rather compatible with the evolutionary biology and sociobiology in vogue as of late - while still maintaining some degree of (pardon the sociology joke) "me-ness".
So that activation might just be the meat being able to really grasp what's going on; that we are far more distributed and far more connected than we normally think. As a result, our separateness is an illusion, and actual Singularity-style uploads may be more accurate than previously believed.