I have a theoretical question about technological singularity. This is something I randomly thought up and I, personally, wouldn't know what to do
in this situation.
Say a computer with superhuman intelligence was built. This computer says it has discovered a way for the human race to reach a convergence with
technology and 'advance to the next stage of evolution or being'. People begin lining up to make this transition, but as they pass through this
gateway, they appear to either die or disintegrate. The computer assures this is just the moving on from you physical body to the next plane of
Here's my question. Would you still get in line? If not, what would it take to convince you?
In THAT hypothetical situation, with only the information presented, then no I would not. Only, however, due to a lack of information. I
wouldn't "trust" a computer to give me enlightenment based solely on it's word anymore than I would trust someone selling me '___' to heighten my
consciousness based solely on their word. I need evidence and a rational explanation. There's still quite a bit we don't know about consciousness.
Indeed, can we even honestly say with confidence that we are conscious beings?
Consider this. Are you the same person you were yesterday? In a broad sense, no, he's dead. In the last 24 hours your personal experience has ever
so slightly changed your perceptions and views on yourself and the world. However, these tiny collective changes have occured countless times in
your life to make who you are now. The person you were at 10 years old is gone, and replaced by who you are now. Do you fear the death of who you are
today, when looking towards tomorrow?
Say you are skating on a frozen river with a loved one, and the ice breaks. You fall through, and are carried under the ice by the river for several
hundred yards. Eventually, you are pulled out and rushed to a hospital. The extreme hypothermia has preserved your body, and although completely
brain-dead, you are able to be resuscitated. Such rare events have happened, and are the basis for cryogenic research. However, this represents a
"break" in your consciousness in which it is completely shut off. When it's turned back on, are you truly the same person you were before you died?
Are you merely a completely new consciousness which believes he is the original due to having all of your old memories and dispositions? To an outside
observer, it's impossible to tell.
In a material sense, the molecules in your brain are pretty much completely replaced every three weeks. Who you are, physically, is not who you were a
few months ago. It's just that the configuration is the same. This is basically the Ship of Theseus paradox, in that, you restore the ship slowly -
plank by plank, nail by nail, as it ages. Is it still the same ship? Does your brain contain the same consciousness now as it did three weeks ago?
What if your brain was slowly augmented, replaced, bit by bit... molecule by molecule by nanomachines that preformed the exact same functions as your
current brain does - but with expanded capabilities and over the course of a five year period. In this slow transitional period, would your
consciousness slowly fade, or would it merely appear to "grow" as it has in the time since you were 10? What if it wasn't replaced by micromachines
at all, but transitioned over to a computer program that perfectly emulated the way your current brain works and grows.
I don't really have any definitive answers to these questions myself, but personally, I would feel more comfortable with the idea of a slow
transition vs. a "break point" or sudden transition such as your proposed scenario does. Thankfully, it does not appear that we are on a path to
"Godlike AI" offering mankind salvation. We're not going to be saved by our technology, we are going to merge directly with it. This, in itself,
will be a somewhat slow process which has started long, long, ago. Glasses give way to contacts that give way to optical sensors at the back of the
cornea. Cochlear implants are beginning to directly stimulate the brain, rather than auditory nerves. Pacemakers and BCI's. Etc. It will eventually
move out of the realm of prosthetics - to enhancements.
With the technology to read and stimulate nerve signals from the voicebox and the ear - combined together will for the first time facilitate the
audible communication between two people which does not involve the manipulation of air molecules between speakers. Telepathy. Eventually, this will
not require the nerve endings at all - and be completely contained within the mind. Practical application of technological human augmentation is
So hopefully, sometime in this transitional period, we may find the answers we seek in regards to consciousness and the transference of which to a
digital medium. If it's possible, we will be faced with a whole new set of questions to answer. Well, perhaps not new, but no longer purely in the
realm of thought. It will have a practical need to be answered. Namely, when freed from the tether of a physical body, does the mind retain it's
individuality? Can it retain it's individuality after exposure to other consciousnesses who are similarly without a physical differentiation or
I mentioned this in another thread, but I have been wondering lately, why does religion not refer to this? The concept of shrugging off a mortal form
and being nothing but a "soul", pure thought consciousness, is not too dissimilar from what's being proposed via technology. Would not, then, these
questions apply to how our consciousness will transition to and interact within heaven as well? How does a soul retain it's identity, it's sense of
self, when it merges ideas and mingles with other souls of loved ones and historical figures - as well as the "essence of god." If heaven is set
place such as a physical realm, then it will not be heaven to everyone. If one's desires in life are fulfilled after death to create a personal
heaven, then what is there to keep you tethered to your identity in a completely virtual construct?
I would have thought that such questions would be clearly addressed by now, considering how much we supposedly know god promised and how long our
expected stay will be.
My apologies. You asked for answers and I've pretty much presented you with nothing but questions in return. I will say this though. Should my
consciousness end with the transition to the digital world - I would not like it to be on the promise of a computer. Nothing against a computer AI,
but rather I would prefer to perish as a pioneer in helping to answer some of these questions.
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