Can you upload your conscience?

and have you heard about the singularity? An interesting concept.

The long and the short of the singularity is that, according to some forward thinking individuals (some of whom may be a little too optimistic) the current advances in microprocessor technology and the accompanying software will lead to an "explosion" of technological advance in the very near future. In other words, since Moore's law of microprocessor power has ruled the world of technology for the last 30 years or so, the rate at which computer power is increasing is exponential. Then, there will be a moment in time, very soon, when computers become so powerful that they can bring about the next generation of computers and the interval between successive generations will shrink from years to months to weeks to days...

At that moment, this technological "Big Bang" (hence, the singularity) will allow us to de-compile, so to speak, our consciences by fully understanding how the brain works. Then, we will be able to "move" our conscience from our soft and fragile bodies into the sturdy framework of silicon and titanium ... and then live forever, moving from mechanical body to mechanical body ad infinitum. And we will become inmortal.

Sounds good? There are opinions for and against the whole idea, the singularity and the posibility of inmmortality. Some people believe that the singularity is a pipe dream. Others acknolewdge the possibility but the idea of "uploading" your conscience into another medium, outside of your brain is more often than not rejected.

And, I think, with good reason. Consider your motivations and your desires. How much of that is due to "software" in your brain and the neural connections in that maze of neural connections, developed during your 10, 20, 30, etc. years of life and how much is related to your hormonal level, pain, exposure to light... disease...

Critics of the singularity consider the idea of likening the uploading of our consciousness to a data download as an extreme simplification. We may be more than the sum of our brains - we are corporeal beings who suffer hunger and pain and sexual desire. Would those be uploaded as well? How do you enjoy your favorite dessert when you have become a titanium bodied, silicon brained artificial lifeform?

Would you give that up?

Here is Ray Kurzweil, who is the leading proponent of the Singularity, at Stanford University during the Singularity Summit in May 2006. You can also search for Mr. Kurzweil's provocative thoughts at TED. Further reading about the singularity at IEEE's Spectrum magazine for June 2008. Enjoy and prepare to be uploaded!

No comments: