Never, ever, have I agreed with you more than I did upon reading your TIME article.
But only the last two sentences.
I'll bet you already knew that, though, didn't you?
The rest of it is not only largely foolish but hardly original. There are only about a zillion Sci-fi books on this topic. To see some of them, here's a link to a Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_transfer_in_fiction
Not to mention: TIME Magazine? Have you seen their circulation figures lately? More people would read your article had you published it in the Prarie Home Reference Guide.
What if sentience, even if liberated from the flawed and perishable human brain, deteriorates naturally on its own? The unique blend of illogic, cognitive dissonances and irrational preferences, given that much time, may slowly resolve itself into clear knowledge; and then a purely dispassionate consciousness; and finally, perhaps, mere stored data â€” like letters scratched on a rock. In short, a natural death despite sentience being preserved in optimum conditions.
The sentience issue is huge. Without sentience actually measurable and transferable, you're only buying the ability to impose your personality and preferences on people who are biologically alive. What the rich and powerful traditionally achieve with highly conditional wills and executor/enforcers, or perhaps a loyal cult following.
This non-sentience option will still be seized by the most vindictive and unpleasant of the super-rich. Like the old Twilight Zone episode, where a bitter woman tends to her rich old SOB relative and counts the days till he dies. She ends up as caretaker for his equally curmudgeonly robot reincarnation, no release in sight. I can see a robotic Donald Trump being his final desperate monument, still snarling, self-promoting and generally being a jerk.
There's a certain grim comedy in the idea that the world may be left to a handful of non-sentient robots, endlessly simulating the tics and flaws of their human originals to an uncomprehending audience of !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$ effective immortality was possible, I think the people who could afford it would also be sharp enough to see where human civilization is going, long term (most of them became that rich by putting us on that course). They could choose to live in small luxury enclaves shielded from the real world (hey, there's a movie . . . ), or they could place their consciousnesses in a purely virtual world of endless resources, stored on a highly secure solar-powered server (hey, there's a movie . . . ).
I like your article, but I disagree with the execution. even in my organic shell, with milestone life events like graduating, getting a job, etc I find myself changing constantly. To say that being immortal or having a robot brain would not change me significantly would not be realistic - I would probably change to the point where I'm not recognizable anymore - heck, its that way for me now vs. 5 years ago. One of the few scenarios I can conceive where (I had a robot/cyborg brain/body) AND (my old personality would still be around) is a very artificial situation where I see in older people trying too hard to be teenagers again. I have a relative like that - a 50-ish woman who tries to act teenager - each LOL, each "partying all night" experience is just artifical and a little sad. I think that would be what I would look like if I still acted like my old self in a robot body - why be awkward when you can flawlessly communicate, etc..? each hiccup would be just pretend...
At first, I wondered who would pay the electric bill for the digital afterlife, but then I realized some despotic governments might be quite interested in it. If you support the right politicians, you go to digital heaven; otherwise, the 386 running Windows 3.0.
Your article implies that you believe in a soul. Because there can only be one "you," and downloading "you" to a computerized brain of some sort means that everything that is "you" has moved to the new location, and therefore nothing of "you" can be left inside your body. "You" = "soul," and there can be only one.
I believe in a soul too. But I also believe in technology. And the way I see it is that no one would be willing to undergo the process at all if it caused their current brain to stop functioning for any reason. They'd want a full copy of their brain made, and then they'd want to talk to it, to confirm it's actually them. Inevitably they won't believe it, since again, there can be only one "you." And they'll want full refunds.
I of course want multiple copies of me made, because I frequently talk to myself, and this way it won't seem weird. I don't mind that they will only be copies, and probably outlast me, as long as they agree to do my bidding while I am still alive.
To me this combines atheism with a (faux) concept of identety.
But there is no attached metaphysical beliefs or purpose to atheism. All definitions are therefore arbitrary. 'You' 'self' 'identety' are meaningless without a metaphysical backdrop.
When Cpt. Kirk goes into the teleporter is he destroyed?
What does it mean to be the same person when 'reconstructed'?
This is the same question (IMO) as when Scott tries to calculate odds he will become a successful cartoonist. he wants to define his present self as his identety and consider all alternate universe versions as not him or meeting a less fortunate fate. Both very funny wacky takes.
You need a working meaningful nonarbitrary definition of self to start this conversation from an atheist perspective. I think as soon as you take out belief in god you immediately reduce humanity to scatological ants. Immortal cyborgs, on the other hand, could be interesting. Hard edge naked capitalists allowed to simmer over time, with wealth acquisition only exacerbating.
What does it mean to be Scott? As best i can tell for this thought experiment, your entire identety is your mind. So then you wouldnt mind me telling the world you only have a 3 inch phallus. It wouldnt reflect poorly on you cuz you just a mind. I think its incredibly naive for any person to believe their identety has no physical dimension. You might think its true, or claim its true, but ive never seen anyone close to it. Not even abnormal ppl.
the concept of identety and consciousness do not lend themselves to atheism. IMO they really exist outside the worldview of atheism.
consider for a second a monster constructed of living organisms. scotts brain is harvested and sewn onto a collective named Billgates. Where is identety there? You need metaphysical concepts to define it in a nonarbitrary way. is scott still in existence, or has a new identety been created, thereby destroying scott?
when scotts thought patterns travel to the center of Billgates consciousness, when does the idea stop being scotts? was it ever scotts? or is he a new identety when sewn on?
saying scotts identety is connected to a monster is just as valid as saying scott was destroyed and a new entety was created. where one begins and the other ends is merely a matter of perspective within atheism.
a simpler version is to consider the collective consciousness of society. ppl are individual selfaware, but also collectively. society is a consciousness and is selfaware. where does identety of the individual being begin and where does identety of the society begin?
Though I'm with the skeptics on this one, I'll go along with your premise for this comment.
How does copying your brain into a machine change your mortality? It's creating a copy of you, but that's not a big leap from cloning (physical copy) or having children - a real legacy that seems much more interesting than leaving computer code. Your body and consciousness won't be changed by uploading your brain. You'll still feel (and be) mortal. You might even be jealous of the immortal copy, if it's an android.
Using this technology, a billionaire could create an army of copies of himself. What's the point? Will they make HIS life better? Isn't the copy of you just a very equal competitor?
Granted, the facts and figures of a living mind can be digitized, and even the personality to some extent. But the subtle fabric of sentience, the tingle of nerves, the exhilaration of a first kiss... can those be digitized? Accurately? Not just a preprogrammed sub-routine? Would I sense the the switch to the new robody? Or would the robody boot-up as watched from my death bed?
That, and the whole living in self imposed exile thing, I'll take a pass.
I don't see why time should be infinite after my mind is transferred to a virtual world. Time may be longer (because time runs faster in the simulation), but this virtual world still needs a running computer in a physical worlds with all the necassary resources. And when those resources or that physical world cease to exist, so does the simulation.
As I get older, I tend to think immortality is overrated anyway. Most really old people I know don't really want to live on, and that's not just because the organic body deteriorates. It is just not that interesting to live forever and keep doing the same things over and over again. Remember the one immortal person in "hitchhikers guide to the galaxy". He was so bored of seeing his favorit movie for the zillionth time, that he started to visit every living person in the galaxy with his spaceship and insult them, in alfabetic order.
I don't see the point of "leaping" to a computer simulator or robot. Basically it would be hosting a copy of our thoughts. Even if the leap results in a version of us that is indistinguishable from the "real" us to outsiders, I think that the part of us that we experience as sentience or "living" dies when our brain stops working. In other words, your personality may achieve immortality, but your consciousness won't.
I find it amusing that the Time article is written by "Dilbert's Scott Adams"-- a fictional character is invoked to give a real life human credibility instead of "Scott Adams, Dilbert Creator". If cartoon characters are vouching for people, maybe virtual brains are closer than I think.