Mortality has long been a thorn in the eye of human, tormenting the mind for centuries. Cold, gripping realization that death is inevitable and the speculation of afterlife has always been an object of obsession for many. Through its many forms, death is a literal end of the road, end of a journey long started. What if that road could continue, if that journey was ongoing? If there was a way to achieve proverbial life after death, transcending universe and material existence?
With the rapid technological advancement, the desire to upload the contents of human brains into a machine grows with each passing day. There is a strong belief that this would allow anyone to live forever. Inside a machine entity, they’d form super AI. Every once in awhile, some neuroscientist reveals his or her project on brain mapping and other various similar themes. The trend is catching on and it slowly widens. Government-funded programs, such as BRAIN Initiative, focus on understanding the human brain.
These projects and programs will help develop and implement advanced technologies. They will explore how the brain stores and retrieves large amounts of information. All of it at the speed of single, coherent thought. Many related researchers cover the human brain in this respect, as well. One about storing it for future use, posing as another significant step towards reaching transcendence.
But what does this bring to the future?
At this point, immortality is nothing but a thought. The prospect of discovering the ultimate reward is too important, too valuable. Immortals are, at least in mythology, blessed with god-like qualities, or are regarded as gods in some respect. That could be the case here, albeit on a much smaller scale. Mind uploading is viewed by many primarily as an extension of life or as a backup of ourselves.
Just like a basic computer program, stored and ready to be used whenever necessary in future. From a strictly scientific aspect, this would provide an exceptional opportunity to have some of the best minds of the world at disposal for future, continuous use, even after they are physically long gone. Benefits and results would be immense and spectacular. Yet, all of this could also imply to an average human, allowing for another, this time much longer and very different life.
This loops back to aforementioned super AI. Computer-based intelligence, coupled with a exquisite human mind would produce an entity that could think much faster than a biological human. It wouldn’t even have to be more intelligent. This breeds a growing fear among many futurists and like-minded individuals regarding to a technological singularity, a hypothetical event where, simply put, cognitive abilities of artificial intelligence far surpasses human intelligence. Proposed ratio in this scenario would be that the AI would be far above human intelligence as human intelligence is above animals’.
Technological singularity also relates to when rapid technological advancement comes to the point of discontinuity, where continuing events from that point may become completely unpredictable or perhaps incomprehensible to human intelligence. These fears are merely hypothetical.
These fears are quite hypothetical, well documented and confounded. It is very unlikely for them to happen as described. There are far too many factors to counter in, primarily the human factor as the originator of AI, to allow for such development without taking appropriate precautions.
‘Uploaded astronaut‘ is another term promoting mind uploading or whole brain simulation. Unlike many mainly theoretical benefits and advantages of mind transfer, this application provides immediate and tangible facts.
The humanoid robot, coupled with the human mind, would be resistant to space conditions like zero gravity or cosmic radiation, as opposed to human body. This would also enable longer spaceflight and farther reaches through outer space. These projects would be easier to launch and maintain. We would no longer need large spacecrafts. We’re talking about unmanned spaceflights. Form of uploaded astronaut could very well relate to average humans, allowing them to do things and go to places impossible in our own bodies, like traveling close to the sun or other stars.
While the benefits are obvious, one big question remains unanswered: is the newly generated mind really the same? We are leaving our physical selves, creating one or many non-biological, yet fully functional copies of our brains. Is that really immortality? Or is that just a perfect copy?
Albeit, with same memories and same personality? Some believe that one’s consciousness creates a copy of the original mind while simultaneously the original dies. Others have argued that the mind merely moves to a new entity.
There is also the issue of the original remaining unchanged by the procedure, thus resulting in a copy which should, by all means, have equal but separate rights from the original. The possibility of generating a potentially unlimited number of identical copies of the original person presents a serious problem.
Both would exist at the same time. They would be distinct entities, with their consciousnesses. They would be separate mind from the point of duplication. Their only shared memory would be that one of the past.
One can argue what is really the essence that makes you you, beyond your biological shell. Many questions still need answers. Without a doubt, mind transfer unequivocally holds the key to a post-mortal human race. Digital immortality, in all its proposed forms, stands as form of Holy Grail, and someone will grasp it sooner or later.
Some see it as a mere medical procedure which could eventually save or prolong numerous lives. Others see it as a rather serious risk. Artificial intelligence can become super intelligent, effectively ending human race in the process. Other sort of global catastrophe is also possible. Such technology is nowhere near completion today. Still, it is clear that transcendence is the next and final step a human can make.
We will have to wait and see how and when to take these steps forward.
Image Credit: Flickr / bzztbomb