“The Final Moments of Karl Brant” is a Science Fiction short created by M.Francis Wilson, starring Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-wee Herman). The premise is similar to the recent Singularity blockbuster called Transcendence (starring Johnny Depp). I didn’t see that movie because it received such terrible Rotten Tomatoes reviews from both critics and the general public, alike.
However, I appreciated this effort to humanize the transfer of human consciousness to a machine. If nothing else, it will make you ponder the concepts of immortality, personal identity, and the future of humanity…
There were some excellent comments over at the Singularity Hub, which I will include here. I think they are definitely worth a read…
From the TheLastSaneManOnEarth:
When it comes to common sense I’m probably smarter than anyone reading this right now. I boil things down to the essentials instead of cluttering my mind with smartass mindgames and myriads of information.
The answer everyone is seeking is clear, and I’m as certain as can be.
NEITHER digital nor biological immortality is objectively a “true” or “right” path for any individual. Both pursuits can be philosophically deconstructed to the point where there is simply no RATIONAL reason to pursue either.
That’s because “nihilism” is, in a way, true. There is no purpose in life, inherently. That means you have complete freedom to choose what goals, and what purposes you pursue (Or your “brain”, or your “personality” has that freedom …).
For me, I’ve set my goal to achive maximum longevity & happiness. But if you choose to pursue pain, unhappiness, and ultimately death – that’s your freedom and it’s not inherently wrong or right, it just is. Just as you just ARE. You’re a clump of molecules moving and interacting in a way to create what we call “homo sapiens”, “brain”, “personality”, “You”. That’s all you are. Molecules assembled through random processes facilitated by the laws of physics governing in this universe. “You” is just a word. Coincidental as the universe itself. No magic. Just a clump of matter that thinks that it “exists”.
You can choose whatever you want to define as the word “you”. You can define it as your information and personality. Or you can define it as your atoms, and your physical brain. There is simply no “true” definition, because reality, words, feelings, it’s all completely subjective and “un-true”.
Ok, that’s a bit hard to grasp at first – So here comes a more practical argument, and of course 100% subjective, AGAINST the euphoric hope for “digital immortality”:
For all you know, you currently have billions of identical twins in parallel universes. But if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you couldn’t care less about what lives they live or don’t live. Or do you care? Would you sacrifice or risk your own life, to save any one of those infinite “parallel” twins, who have the same personality and memories?
Yeah. Didn’t think so.
So we’ve established that there is nothing inherently valuable – from your standpoint – in having a separate entity in existence somewhere else (e.g. a mind-twin in a parallel universe, or a mind-copy on a computer in your basement). That’s simply because you are human, and humans are egoistic. AND THAT IS OK.
On the other hand, our body’s molecules are finishing a cycle of complete replacement every ~7 years (so almost no molecules from back then are left), on which’s basis many techno-utopian charlatanes claim we are not our matter, and therefore “must” be information. That’s like saying “A” seems wrong, so “B” must be true – a logical error. Or just deliberately misleading people to gain power and traction and sell books.
Again – there is nothing inherently valuable about information, ones’s and zero’s. Or a piece of music. Or a book. Or a movie. Or your digital mind-copy. If you choose to associate positive sentiments with those things being in existence, that’s you’re choice.
So although, in a way, nihilism is “truth” – the logical start and endpoint of all philosophy – if all existence is absurd, so is nihilism itself. Again – that means you can CHOOSE what path you pursue – the least absurd one, if you like.
I personally hope, that for most “sane” humans that’d arguably be to maintain their own brain, and not die for a software-copy. And indeed there may still be ways to become biologically “immortal” and endowed with godlike capacities and happiness in a Matrix-Style-happy-eterniverse, but that’s another story and not one that Kurzweil & friends would like to hear.
and from Kiriri in response:
Surprisingly, for once I absolutely agree with everything said in a comment here, well, apart from the being smarter than me 😀
Let me add to the momentum with a little thought experiment. Imagine you could replace all parts of your brain, no matter how small or large, with computer chips. Would you still be the same person if you added some augmentive chip like a math-module to your brain? You’d think so. Now think farther, what if you replaced 2% of your brain with a chip each year. When would you stop being “you”? After some time you will behave and think very differently than before. But you’d still think of yourself as the same being, just like you’d say “That’s me!” to a photo of you as a child, even though your behavioural pattern or even your physiology now is probably nothing like what it was back then.
What humans define as their consciousness is in fact a nearly infinite amount of conscious states that fade into each other. The you from a second ago is not the you you are now. Or if it is, the you now is the same as you in your childhood, just because due to the gradual interpolation between your conscious states you cannot differentiate between them.
I personally would therefore upload my mind slowly to make the change imperceptible compared to all the other changes that happen to me every moment of every second of my life.
I should note that this is a religious topic. Consciousness is imaginary, just like all other definitions humans have ever come up with. They are all relative at most 😉
I like what Kariri added to the conversation… It makes sense to me that we would want to slowly adjust to any new consciousness construct. In this way, we could “dissolve” seamlessly into our new identities.
[via Singularity Hub]