How to get your mind into the machine
Let's face it, our bodies suck 🧍. They only last up to 100 years before conking out 💀. We can do better than that. Unless you believe in some version of the "Big Guy Upstairs", our consciousness won't exist when our bodies finally decide to check out. And I like existing. I don't want it to stop for me or anyone else. Sounds like our contract is due an upgrade 📱⬆️.
Transferring our consciousness into the digital ecosphere 💻 seems like the obvious choice. Imagine being in a lovely optimised processor, enough RAM to choke a mechanised elephant and all the upgrades you need, as you watch your old body decay into nothingness. Centuries of happy digital living await 🥳 (1).
The tricky bit is getting you (your consciousness) inside the machine. I'm assuming what defines you can be explained by the physical nature of the brain 🧠. No souls here please. This is following ideas from Physicalism and Determinism.
The classic idea is to take a detailed scan of your brain, the makeup of the neurons and the processes that are firing. And then recreate that structure in a digital host (a very advanced computer). Then press the big red button 🔴 to turn it on. Given you have the technical ability to do this, I don't think this will result in your consciousness transferring to the machine. I reckon you will have cloned yourself into a machine. But that still leaves the original you, the you reading this post in its floppy biological mess of a body 🕺. You won't feel like you're in the machine or have a shared consciousness between your body and the machine. They are completely separate entities.
What we did there was copy and paste, we didn't change the original files, or move them anywhere. So why would you be in the machine. We need to move the original files instead. Doing this on a computer is easy, doing it with your mind, less so 🧐.
My proposal (I'm sure this isn't original, let me know who else is talking about this) is to slowly migrate your consciousness into the machine 🧠🕰💻, adding digital enhancements to your brain and gradually replacing biological parts with more reliable digital counterparts. Supplanting big chunks of your brain in 1 go leaves little of the original you in place. You'd need to be pretty confident that what you're replacing it with won't compromise your consciousness (2). Doing it in slow incremental steps seems like a safer way to retain you.
For example, imagine you could get a cheeky calculator 🧮 chip installed in your brain, that lets you compute things your squishy biological brain could never do, just by thinking. Nice 🙌. It's not a big dramatic personality shifting change. Just a little improvement.
The more you extend your mind like this and replace degrading parts of your brain with new digital versions, the closer your consciousness is to running entirely in the machine without compromising what makes you you.
Eventually you may have replaced all biological parts of your mind with digital counterparts. Congratulations, you are the machine 🤖. In which case upgrading to better hardware will be much easier. You'll pretty much be able to live indefinitely (murder and accidents aside 😬) (3).
This idea does rely on whether adding any digital enhancements to your mind compromises your consciousness 😱 4. To me upgrading incrementally like this is similar to how our brains develop from when we're young and first feel conscious, to the person we are decades later 👩👦 (5) with a different brain makeup, and different outward personality. Yet we still feel like our consciousness has persisted throughout those years (6).
Maybe there are some parts of the brain that are too important to your consciousness to be replaced with technology (so replacing them would destroy your current consciousness). I'd like to know more of the science behind all of this. At the time of writing, this post was more about me exploring how I currently think about consciousness and transferral with the limited knowledge I have on the subject.
The goal of this article is to explore my thoughts on consciousness and transferral. Identifying areas I lack in knowledge and any points that aren't particularly strong.
I'm assuming that if someone with any real scientific understanding of this has a look, they'll probably rip most of it apart 👍
- I should write a post about why I think living in a digital host would be great. Out of scope for this article.
- I wouldn't be surprised if at some point it would become possible to migrate consciousness into digital counterparts in larger chunks. But it seems unlikely to start there.
- Definitely want to write an article about why we want to live indefinitely. I've had too many surprising conversations with people who say they wouldn't want to live forever (but often believe in an afterlife).
- This is one of the areas I really need to look into from a more scientific point of view. Turns out neuroscience is complicated.
- Not from a biological point of view, more from a philosophical view of what consciousness is and how it develops.
- Reminds me of the idea of the sword that's been passed down through the centuries. Sure it may have had a new hilt replaced every now and then. And a few times the blade had been sharpened so much it got replaced. But it's the same sword. Even though no part of it now is the same as the very first version.