Where is the soul of your identity?

Who is this guy? Google tells me that he’s a Dutch master and that, with a reputation burnished with more than three centuries of wondrous respect, he is possibly The Dutch Master. At 63, he died relatively young – as I would be bound to say as I would have died six months ago had I been limited to his span. A popular comment among his biographers is that while he died a poor man, his passing scarcely marked, he has achieved immortality through his work. And now a story breaking this week tells us that a marriage of empathetic art curation and deep learning expertise has created a new painting in the signature style of Rembrandt himself.

In the week that another copy of the Shakespeare First Folio has been uncovered, we have been given plenty of grist to one particular mill that does not generally feature large in humanity’s reflections on immortality and the potential in the future intelligence of our species. What is the identity of any immortalised intelligence?

When we think about living forever, what is it precisely that is living, and for whom does it live? With the genius whose mind has been uploaded to the cloud, or whose remains have been cryogenically suspended and then restored, or whose DNA has enabled the cloning of the Spawn of Genius, who and for whom does this spawn exist? And how credible are its creative outputs? This is no small question. If we can imagine the painting that could be realised by Rembrandt’s revivified remains, and hold that up to the painting celebrated in this week’s story, in which artefact does the genius of The Dutch Master more authentically survive?

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