Pharyngula

An interesting thread tangent

The indefatigable Kurzweil threads do occasionally spawn some interesting discussion, and the latest has gone down a few odd byways thanks to this comment by Cerberus:

Creating a robotic brain to “download your consciousness” into or the “I’ll make a clone version of myself with all my memories” sci-fi fiction immortality ideas are kinda false immortalities.

It’s at best, assuming a complete successful procedure a process of ending one’s consciousness so that a puppet version of yourself can emulate your life possibly for all eternity.

Great, but what does that do for real you?

Real you is just as dead and gone and unable to be a part of and appreciate what your puppet is doing in its absence. I’m sure this has been repeatedly addressed in the various thread wars during my absence, but it seems kind of stupid.

I’d love to extend lifespans, I’d love to live forever if that was possible, but as long as we’re talking fantasies, asking for the power to fart sparkly flying unicorns seems less stupid than asking for a robot facsimile to live forever on your behalf.

I mean, if you’re going to be all cult about this, pick something that wouldn’t be completely contrary to your intended desire if you got it.

I would imagine that any ‘brain scan’ (the currently hypothesized method du jour for turning an organic brain into a digital analog in a computer) that broke it down to a sufficiently complete description of the whole state of the brain, would have to be destructive — you’d have to submit yourself to an imaginary technology that would rapidly peel you apart, molecule by molecule, to create a precisely specified copy. That’s death. That’s being disintegrated.

Now if there were a complementary technology that allowed a complete reassembly of a previously recorded state into a physical form, that would be interesting, and I’d argue that the perceived continuity of consciousness would mean you’d be disintegrated and reintegrated, and there’d be no perception of death, but there’d be no point to it unless it were used as some kind of transporter device ala Star Trek, or a way to store a person long term without the corpsicle problem.

But then, Star Trek always let me down — if they could do that, they should have made a few dozen copies of Captain Kirk and sent them out to conquer the universe.

Then there are all the followup concerns about identity and self in a world of cloned minds. I like the classic SMBC answer that ends with this punch line:

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