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LETTERS FROM BRIAN

letters from Brian

ONES AND TWOS

I can imagine up to $4 billion. $4,000,000,000. After that, it’s all a blur. Five billion. Thirteen billion. I can’t even begin to comprehend $1 trillion, the amount our last President overspent every year of his administration.

Maybe he couldn’t comprehend that number, either?

If you’re worth more than $4 billion, I’m not sure what you do with all that money. Maybe just earmark off chunks of your wealth for various causes, specific legacies. Ask one of those too-big-to-fail banks to print out your $30 billion, say, in twenties, then have the money tossed out of planes like they do those giant pallets of food and supplies to starving people in the jungle.

Those who own the dominant platforms of our age — iPhone, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft — all have far in excess of $4 billion.┬áProbably, it’s a brain-numbing, time-consuming activity, even for these tech geniuses, to manage all their wealth.

If I had that $4 billion, though? That I know exactly what to do with.

But I do not have that, not even close.

I wrote my will last night. It’s yet to be notarized, but the document is otherwise complete.

Writing the will was easier than I expected, thanks in part to software.

Normally, I hate writing.

My mind abandons its tracks. Convinced that writing is an excuse not so much for thinking but for thought engaging.

How do we preserve ourselves after death?

Not just our money, our possessions, not even just our digital remains, our Facebook posts, photos, emails, as obvious examples, but a alive memory or value or joy or dream or fear, that which most deeply reflects who we were? No, not DNA, not a video, but some element of us that is unmistakably us, which others keep alive forever.

Shouldn’t there be a way to literally share our (once-alive) self with all others who follow, literally everyone, each of them possessing a piece? Maybe it’s the same piece, maybe not.

Can’t there be a way for when I’m gone that a piece, an idea, ideas, a laugh or jokes, a heroic act, a kind word, something truly unique, is spread to all, literally all the people who follow after me, and they carry that with them, pass it on, that person passes it on, forever and ever?

Why not?

We’ve landed humans on the moon, returned them, and following a 50-year respite now have plans to send humans to Mars, possibly returning some of them. We have connected the Earth, replaced limbs with bionics, replaced work with robotics, replaced thinking with algorithms. I won’t live forever but some part of me should, somehow.

How does a real piece of us, or its analog, get consciously adopted by another, and another and another, forever, each of them consciously aware they harbor this piece, this tangible specimen, this essence, this instance, this fragment?

This has to be possible.

It’s alive — or at least real, which is not necessarily the same thing — and the carriers of it aware they carry it, hopefully all happily so.

10,000 years ago, some mad, brave human began practicing dentistry.

We have evidence of this.

Imagine the stories told of this, the men, women and children sitting around the fire reminiscing about that one person — an old woman, say — and her crazed ideas of easing tooth pain, her failures and successes.

Now imagine that story is told over and over again, correctly, fully, all details of it exactly true, for a generation, then another, then another, over 100 years, over 1,000 years, another 1,000, for 5,000 years, but then it dies off, no one alive has any knowledge of this person, who she was, how she lived, what she thought, what motivated her.

I don’t want that.

Your child dies, suddenly, tragically.

Shouldn’t literally all the world for all of time retain some piece, some glorious piece of them?

How?

I do not know.

Someone make this.

Maybe all of us make this?

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