A conversation I engaged in a while ago while researching some info for work I’m doing in another quarter got me to thinking. (I know, I know, that’s a dangerous habit.) There has been a lot of talk among science-ey types about the extension of human lifespans, which is something I’ve written about in these virtual pages. It’s something I find interesting and would cheerfully agree to – I could easily live a thousand years and never run out of bucket-list items.
But then you have the folks who like to gas about the Singularity. That is, in its more optimistic form, a merging of human and artificial intelligence. In its less optimistic form, it is the destruction of human individuality by humanity’s incorporation into some all-encompassing AI.
The ultimate expression of that latter path, of course, would mean the possibility of “uploading” your brain into a virtual world space. That, unlikely as I think the prospect is, would rate a big fat “hell no.”
See, I could live a thousand years in my physical body. And I suppose I could learn to see the appeal of some kind of virtual reality, on the condition that I could unplug whenever I wanted.
- It wouldn’t be me. What that set of data on some file server somewhere would be, is a computer simulation of me. It might be a good one, but it wouldn’t be me. I’d be dead. Gone. And as I don’t ascribe to Descartes’ concept of duality, I don’t see how any metaphysical “me” could somehow be uploaded. And let’s be honest, this wouldn’t be an “upload” at all. It would just be a file copy, a backup, so to speak. Not a person. Not a human, with continuity. No self. Not me.
- There’s so much about the physical world that just can’t be replicated. I could live a thousand years easily if circumstances were right, but if it meant not being able to hold Mrs. Animal’s hand or see her smile, it wouldn’t be worth it. There are physical aspects of the world, of our lives, our experiences, that I don’t believe can be duplicated. If, somehow, that metaphysical “me” made the jump to a virtual space, I’d know it was fake.
While I can imagine living a thousand years and would love to have to chance to do it, I’m accepting the fact that it almost certainly won’t be possible in my lifetime. And that’s OK. My life to date has been great, with a great family and a happy marriage to a woman I love, and you can’t really ask for much more. I’ve already been lots of places and done lots of things – for one, I spent a good portion of my youth running around with a pack and a rifle doing all kinds of screwy things, and for another, I spent most of my middle age globe-hopping as a consultant. All in all, I’ve had a hell of a good time. If I’m only to be allotted the traditional three-score and ten, well, then that’s likewise OK.
After all, going to the showers is part of the game, too. One should accept that with a certain grace.