If You Transfer Your Mind to Robot Which One of You is “You”?


Kurzweil and others have been forecasting the coming of the technological singularity for some time. The term, coined by Vernor Vinge, describes the creation of “humans 2.0″ when man and machine become connected in the creation of a new type of being.  For more background information on this concept and predictions for it s coming in the future read here.  As Vinge writes:

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater-than-human intelligence.

Potential ways this may happen

  • Computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent. 
  • Large computer networks become superhumanly intelligent entities.
  • Computer/human interfaces blur distinction between man and machine. 
  • Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.
  • Betterhumans ponders a technological question which really delves into a metaphysical question of what makes a human human and where is the seat of the soul.  If you download increasing amounts of your memory and consciousness into a machine at what point does it become human and “you”

    (If) we have the technology to constantly back up our brains onto a computer through some wireless connection so that at any one time the computer has a snapshot of your brain in its current state. Now lets say that you get in an accident and 50% of your brain is damaged, so they take that backup and use it to replace 50% of your brain. Would you still consider yourself to be you and not some copy? what about 40% or 20%? What about 5%? Are you still you? 

    If you get in an accident and need 95% of your brain replaced and you use the backup image of your brain, are you still the original? Lets say that you get in an accident and are killed and lose 100% of your brain. But doctors take the image of your brain and put it into a new body that is exactly like your old body with all your memories right up to and including the accident which caused your death, are you still you? What if they replaced your brain while you were still healthy?

    Consider now a future technology which allows for the slow conversion of your brain from flesh and blood to hardware. It’s a slow process taking up to 3 years, no one really knows when the process is entirely finished. You notice no difference in your daily life as the process occurs but at some point in the future your brain goes from being 100% natural to being 100% artificial. Are you still you? Are you still the original? You obviously feel like the original but your brain is no longer original it’s just a pattern of your old brain running on hardware.  

    Generally speaking a person would be far more accepting of the slow replacement that isn’t noticeable over a complete replacement at one time but the two processes give the exact same result. It’s a pattern of your flesh and blood brain in hardware. So why is it that people have such a difficult time with the idea of mind uploading? It seems like the issue in the end is that people want a sense of being original. That is to say when you go to sleep and then wake up in the morning you believe that you are the same person that went to sleep in the same bed last night, but what if you aren’t? Would it really make any difference as long as you thought that you were the original?

    Image that when you die you wake up in a new body right after you die and you say, oh shit I just died. But you are on a bed in some room in a building with a new body but all your memories including every memory up until the moment of death are in your mind and you start thinking about how much it sucked to die but how happy you are that you woke up in this bed and are alive and well. How is that any different than the idea of a soul being transfered at the moment of death from one body to another? Your soul if there is such as thing is nothing more than the sum total of who you are so it would be essentially the same thing? Your are just transferring the essence of yourself.

    If you have brain damage you are no longer yourself, it’s your mind not your body that makes up the essence of who you are, so why fight mind uploading when it makes so much sense?

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