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January 14th, 2007
In 1769, Diderot, editor of the Encyclopédie, wrote three whimsical essays known as "D'Alembert's Dream" recounting imaginary dialogues between himself, his friend d'Alembert, a cultured lady friend, and a physician. In these dialogues Diderot proposes that, since human consciousness is a product of brain matter, the conscious mind can be deconstructed and put back together. Science will bring the dead back to life. Animals and machines can be redesigned into intelligent creatures, and humanity can redesign itself into a great variety of types "whose changes and whose future and final organic structure it's impossible to predict."
It seems likely that this century will see Diderot's prescience confirmed. In the coming decades, as pharmacology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology converge, life spans will extend well beyond a century. Our senses will extend to perceive sights, sounds and sensations beyond our current abilities. We will remember more of our lives, with greater fidelity. We will master fatigue, arousal and attention, and give ourselves more working intelligence. We will have greater control over our emotions, and be less subject to depression, compulsion and mental illness.
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