One day we might be able to create a perfect digital “snapshot” of ourselves, but we’d be frozen in time.
There’s no instinct more ingrained into a species than self-preservation. To prolong our existence in this world, humanity has tried many things. We’ve improved health care to such an extent that many diseases no longer exist. But that isn’t enough.
We’ve frozen terminally ill people in sub-zero temperatures, hoping to revive them when we figure out how to cure them. We’ve cracked open a Pandora’s box of genetics to find genes responsible for our longevity and improve our odds against the ticking time bomb that is our life span. That, too, isn’t enough. You see, we still haven’t reached the point where our bodies can remain healthy and functional long enough to boast about longevity, let alone immortality.
But what if we take a different path? What if, instead of trying to preserve our bodies, we find a way to save our minds? In the movie “Transcendence,” a dying scientist’s emotions, memories and personality have been merged with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to create his digital replica.
Let’s pretend for a moment that we can upload our minds to a complex, life-like virtual world. The question that follows is simple: Under conditions of perfect data redundancy (that is, the data center storing our “essence” will never decay or be erased), would that grant us immortality? Also, once uploaded, do we remain ourselves?
Sadly, both questions can be answered with a resounding no, and here’s why. Remember, we’re not going down the “Matrix’s” route, because they’re simply hooking a living human body to an elaborate virtual-reality (VR) machine. We’re trying to transfer foreign, analog matter — consciousness — to a digital world.
A digital copy of ourselves
Something introduced into a computer system needs to be digitized, i.e. converted to a format that the system understands. In our case, it’s a digital format, based on series of ones and zeroes. Because of that conversion, our “essence” wouldn’t exactly be moved into the computer system, but rather duplicated. We would create a digital copy of ourselves.
That copy would then be uploaded into the computer mainframe, where it would become an integral part of the ongoing simulation. In time, our digital clone, a complex amalgam of our own needs, wants, personalities and more on one hand, and an elaborate set of code and instructions on the other hand, may accumulate its own unique experiences and memories that would make it even more different from its original biological blueprint — us.
Even if we consider this clone to be a living being, and say that it might live forever, safe within its digital boundaries of the virtual world, we – our real-world self — would still have no part in the experience.
Does this fictional technique of digitalizing one’s essence, then, seem obsolete? Not by a long shot. Forbidding our digital clone from acquiring new memories and modifying its initial characteristics that make it resemble a living person opens a huge number of possibilities.
That virtual clone would be a perfect digital “snapshot” of the original living person, only frozen in time. This “snapshot” would forever act and remember the same things as said individual in the moment of clone’s creation. It would not change its personality or gain any new memories.
This could be interesting for individuals looking to meet their younger selves to assess their own personal development and growth over time. It could also be a useful tool for offender profiling — imagine a future where police officers and psychologists can interview serial killer’s digital avatar and have it provide invaluable data about the killer’s traits and whereabouts that can help save lives and hasten his arrest?
Finally, imagine a future where these digital clones are used for grieving purposes. Instead of looking at photos or videos of your loved one, you could spend time with their digital copy — frozen in time. You would meet in virtual worlds and enjoy the comforting illusion of their presence. In fact, something similar has already been attempted.
Read more here: www.marketwatch.com/story/uploading-your-consciousness-to-a-computer-the-pros-and-cons-2016-11-03?siteid=rss&rss=1