Friday, January 10, 2014

The bearable lightness of being uploaded

I have told you several times about my transhuman dream.

One day, through the wondrous advancements of transhuman technology, I connect myself to a device.  This device removes the contents of my brain.  I'm talking memories, knowledge, personality, consciousness, et. al.  That ethereal matter is then downloaded into a cybernetic construct.  Someone at that point asks me how I feel.  I reply:

"I feel nothing."

That scenario may sound terrifying to several of you.  To me, it is nigh paradisaical.  It would bring about an end to depression, self-hatred, and the constant fatigue of middle age.  At that point, I could simply think and be.

A recent article explains the benefits of uploading one's self into a supercomputer.  Responsibly, the author points out that we are still a very long way from being able to do this plus there are ethical questions (say, how spirituality views the human body) and potential hazards that are both known (you could still get a virus, this time a digital one) and unknown (who the hell can tell?)  But there are definite benefits.  Let's take a look at a few.

There would be an end to all bodily function.  Inside the computer, you would be a stream of zeroes and ones.  No longer will you age, get sick, or even need to use the washroom.  You won't even feel a single ache or pain.  If you absolutely must have sex, a routine could be programmed that would simulate the experience.  On a related note, you will have complete governance over your emotions.  I'm not talking about in a pop psychology or "I'm a man" method, I mean switching it all off and choosing the feeling you want...even if it's nothing...and not have that choice overridden by brain chemistry.  I am tired of hating myself for being a failure.  Solution after upload?  Just stop.

But wait...computers crash and lose data all the time.  What if this happens here?  We do the same thing as we do with current files: back them up.  Imagine multiple, redundant copies of yourself.  I freely admit that this brings all manner of questions with it.  Which one is the real "you?"  What if consciousness isn't even located in the brain?  What about the soul?  As I mentioned earlier, still many questions out there.

You could very likely get smarter.  Right now, even a kid in a slum in a city in Africa has access to nearly the sum total of human knowledge if she has an iPhone.  Just a few decades ago, not even the wealthiest and most politically connected had that.  Now imagine that same access only with no hardware required.  You would also have greater memory and accelerated processing speed.  This would likely lead to a "hive mind" situation, however, leaving one wondering if there would be a way to opt themselves out of such a construct or would it be a necessary or altogether unavoidable facet of your new condition?

One fascinating point that the article makes is about how this may benefit space exploration.  It is an arduous matter to determine how to keep human beings alive long enough to undertake an interstellar voyage of nearly any length.  Even a journey to nearby Mars is fraught with problems.  Not so with an "e-crew."  These astronauts uploaded into a spacecraft's onboard AI would be able to carry out their mission with no need for food, water, air, or radiation shielding.  This point really has me thinking both in terms of fiction writing and UFOs.

The article does mention downloading into a cybernetic body so that you would have mobility in meatspace, just as I originally envisioned.  After reading the above points, I'm now wondering if I even want that much.  Existence inside the supercomputer might be just fine with me, especially if you can customize your perception of the environment.  Why wamble about in meatspace?  I can imagine my uploaded self looking over at the remains of my meat form, all limp, ugly, and lifeless.  A voice might ask me "what do you want to do with it?"  My answer?

"It's an empty shell.  Treat it as such."

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