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My Robot
Nov 30, 2011
What percentage of my body needs to be alive in order for me to be considered a living person with full rights? Obviously a person can lose hair, teeth, limbs, kidneys, and whatnot, while still having rights. People in comas still have legal rights. Where is the limit?

I ask because my new plan for immortality is to keep a few skin cells in a petri dish to continue with my life after the rest of me dies. And I'll store those cells inside a robot that continues to live forever. The robot will have four directives after my death.
  1. Keep my cells nourished/cloned and alive in the petri dish inside its body.
  2. Keep upgrading itself whenever there are advances in robot technology.
  3. Replicate my personality.
  4. Make the world a better place.
As a public figure, and a writer, it would be easy for a robot to piece together a reasonable facsimile of my personality. The robot would have access to all of my writing, so it would know my sense of humor, my thought processes, and even how I choose words. The Internet has photos of me, video clips, audiobooks I've narrated, and most of my life story. In time, as technology improves, the robot could learn to speak and respond just as I do now.

There might be some issues with a robot accessing my bank account and investments once my only living parts are in a petri dish. That's why I'll set up a trust before I die, so a regular human can distribute my finances upon the robot's requests. But the human will rarely be needed because the robot will have all of my financial passwords and access to the Internet.

Robots can already walk upright with as much balance as a human. They can open jars, comprehend their surroundings (somewhat), and understand spoken language (Siri). Battery technology will continue to give them range, and they can learn to recharge themselves.

Any decent robot will have a wireless connection to the Internet and be able to search for new advancements in robot technology, especially in the field of artificial intelligence. For the first fifty years of the robot's autonomous life, the trust I will set up might need to make the final decisions on which robot upgrades make sense. I can imagine the trustee hiring a robot technology consulting company once a year to recommend upgrades and do routine maintenance. At some point, the robot will be capable enough to take over its own upgrade function.

After my scheme goes into effect, Congress will try to modify the law to say a few cells in a petri dish do not qualify as a living human with rights. When my robot gets wind of that, he'll leap into action, hiring lobbyists and lawyers, and creating online petitions. The robot will be programmed to vigorously defend the rights of my living cells. Cough, cough **Skynet** cough.

If my robot is destroyed or imprisoned, that's no problem. His software would always be fully backed up in the cloud and a second set of my living cells would be maintained in another location outside the country. In the event of my primary robot's demise or detainment, my trustee would be instructed to purchase a new robot from the robot factory, order some cloned cells from my backup petri dish, and recreate me.

Why wouldn't this plan work?
 
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Nov 30, 2011
because a few cells in a petri dish are not going to get rights. no amount of lobbying will convince anyone otherwise.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Have you signed up for cryonics? (If not, why not!) Your publicly doing so would do much to help the cryonics movement.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
I guess I won't bother to point out why it isn't really possible in the immediate future, because I think we're all aware of the fact that artificial intelligence is mostly artificial and not very intelligent. I'll just move on to "why would you want to do that?" Whether or not you could legally be considered alive as a few cells in a petri dish, it can't be a meaningful life on any level you'd care about at that point..
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
I am increasingly amused by your fascination with immortality. It’s a myth. You have already changed so much so many different times that its not illogical to say you have died already. A few times. I’m not talking about the fact that the cells in your body die and are replaced etc. I mean your views change. You grew up for instance. Became more mature. Learned some life lessons. Went from being a conservative to a bleeding heart liberal (ok slight exaggeration here).

In this example once again your creating a robot (instead of a program this time) to preserver your style and personality at the time of your natural death? What’s the point of that? Living is about changing.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Perhaps a million or so years ago, there was a population of viruses that invented mammals/humans for this very same purpose.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
I thought you'd already done this.

Anyway, I'm sure I voted for this facsimile in the last UK election.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
With the power of the 'cloud', i believe if you removed the portability requirement and the whole 'robot' element entirely, you could pull this off for quite a while. First, you do have to keep the brain actually 'functioning'. If you were willing to undertake the necessary medical procedures to maintain a functioning brainwave regardless of the condition of your body, keeping the brain 'powered' and 'fed' should be simple enough.

What you need to accomplish is develop a means of communicating the brains thoughts (intentions) to the 'cloud' where you can then do quite a few things. Including, directing a remote automaton.

LOL! Fun thoughts though...
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Jengineer brings up an interesting point. If society is saddled with billions of immortal petri dish robots, it will be forced to minimize their impact on resources. That would probably start out as requirements to limit power consumption. Later, strict quotas on metal would limit the size of these robots to rat-size.

Now you have a situation where a rat-sized robot containing sweet-smelling cell juices meets up on a dark night, face-to-face with a hungry rat. And not just any rat, but a rat that has evolved long, sharp petri-dish opening appendages. Gangs of robots might become necessary for self-preservation.

If you were a normal-bodied psychopath living in a resource-spent, crumbling society overrun with mini-robots and rats, what sort of sick bloodsports would you devise? How about a 110 yr old man looking for a robot host versus a gang of mini-robots? A white cell robot gang vs. a robot gang with black cells?

Here's another doomsday scenario: Say that your cloned cells in your backup petri dish are resisting some sort of financial blackmail. And say that your robot has maintenance bills that require you to continue with your cartooning. Now you have a situation where you and your clone cells would be drawing identical cartoons and fatally diluting your brand.


 
 
Nov 30, 2011
We are a sum of all our parts. Is what you describe enough parts to make a "you?"
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Let go, Scott...Transcend
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
There is already a precedent for cells living on after a person's death. Unfortunately - the legal rights for those cells are not exactly what you are hoping for:

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/henrietta-lacks-woman-cells-polio-cancer-flu-research-medicine/story?id=9712579#.TtZ2GHPx_-g
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
Scott,

I have to somehow see this immortality play as an extension to your pending presidency. Will
you get that same congress to modify existing law so your robot personnae could continue the benign
presidency in perpetuity? I mean, if you are going to plan things optimistically, why not pull out the stops?
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
The only glitch in your plan is that your lobbyists and lawyers will be fighting a real uphill battle unless you can somehow convince everyone that your petri dish contains a "soul".

I don't see politically-connected Christians going away anytime soon, and your "soul" issue seems just as contentious as whether a zygote has a "soul". So, your first move would have to be to throw in with the Fundies and scream for the Blessed protection of any clump of cells fresher than last week's nail clippings.

You'd need to jump on the Fundie bandwagon early -- before you built your robot. Also it might help to include a few dozen frozen zygotes in the robot design. You could say you were pregnant, possibly. Then the destruction of your robot would mean the killing of a bunch of souls, and no God-fearing fundamentalist voter would allow that.

For extra protection you could also include some "Prophet Guy" programming in the robot. For just a few minutes a day, a script could do some real interesting preaching, preferably about "End Times". Then condemn a few easy targets such as pedophiles, abortionists and people that don't like robots. Be sure to speak in a folksy way and end each sermon with a tittilating cliffhanger. You have to get them to like you until the dust settles.

Eventually we'll evolve into a non-theistic state and your immortal robot/petri dish will be home-free.


 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Version 1 of your idea could be accomplished by raping the Energizer bunny...
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
"What percentage of my body needs to be alive in order for me to be considered a living person with full rights? "

Enough of your brain must be working to be able to demonstrate that you have free will.

:-)
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
[Why wouldn't this plan work?]

Not fair, I only have an hour for lunch.
 
 
Nov 30, 2011
Step 4 is negated by Step 3.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
Well, my question would be...by the time this would be technically possible, why would you want to re-inject human qualities (read: failures) back into a superior "life" form? It's not like we're good in decision making or anything else for that matter. Also, in a world with robots so superior, things like "congress" and your finances have obviously become obsolete, they are outdated human concepts by then.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
If you are interested in thinking about stuff like this, check out the book "The Mind's I" by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. It is a collection of essays and short fiction that examines just these thoughts and similar ones as well (i.e. if I create a highly detailed computer simulation of a civilization, and I end the program, have I just committed genocide?).
 
 
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
Judging by your strips the last few years, I assumed you had already been replaced by a robot!


(I kid, I kid!)
 
 
 
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