This from an interview Douglas Hofstadter gave this weekend promoting his new book. I’m posting it for future use.
You write movingly about your wife, Carol, who died tragically in 1993, and suggest that her soul remains embedded in your consciousness. You can imagine a soul as being a detailed, elaborate pattern that exists very clearly in one brain. When a person dies, the original is no longer around. But there are other versions of it in other people’s brains. It’s a less detailed copy, it’s coarse-grained.
You make it sound as if a soul can be Xeroxed. You can’t duplicate someone exactly. I didn’t say exactly. I said coarse-grained and approximate. Lower-resolution.
Aren’t you just putting a clever gloss on the phenomenon of memory? Many people believe that our lives end not when we die but when the very last person who knew us dies. Memory is part of it, yes, but I think it’s much more than memory. It’s the fact that my wife and I, for example, became so intimately engaged that her essence was imported into my brain.