I have often half-jokingly talked about “when the singularity arrives and i upload my mind into a new body…”. Of course, this is nirvana for many of the Singularitarian‘s. A way to cheat death and live forever.
Time for some thought experiments. Do i really think this is possible? If it is (or becomes so in the future), would it be a good thing? Would i personally want to do it? The biggest question: Would it really still be you? It seems like even if your mind was perfectly replicated it would only be a copy. I suppose as things go, if you did a weekly backup and died, at most, the “real” you who had died couldn’t complain. Because you’re dead. And the “copy” you would feel as if they were you (minus the memories of whatever had happened in the intervening week since the backup).
I can certainly see the allure of something like this. But then if you take some religious and philosophical viewpoints, things get a little fuzzy. “You can’t copy the soul” someone might say. So all you have is a soulless robot that thinks, remembers, acts, and might (or might not) look like you. But isn’t really you. What is the soul? Is it the sum of all your memories and likes/dislikes? What if all that is copied exactly? Is it something more elusive that can’t be copied? “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter“.
What about this. I back up my brain. I then go and kill someone, and then kill myself. My previous backup kicks in and downloads to a new body. Is that new “me” responsible for the murder? “I” didn’t do it. The “other” me did, right? What if you run two backups at the same time? Which one is “you”? Who has to pay the taxes? Which ones goes to work? Which one gets to be with your wife and children?
Of course, a thought that occurs to me is the tower of babel. This seems like a modern equivalent – man trying to reach out and touch heaven through artificial means. “let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven … and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen 11: 4, 6). What do you think?