turning humans into digital vapor, revisited

October 16, 2010

Last month, I wrote about the challenges of building one transhumanist vision of the future; digital worlds in which humans exist as data, sort of like The Matrix but leaving the physical body behind in the process. Never mind the countless biological challenges and biological limits involved for now, just living in a world that you know isn’t real could cause constant confusion and potentially a few neurotic snaps here and there. But there is another way to look at being digitized that may be fun to consider, especially because it gives me an excuse to post the trailer for the upcoming Tron sequel, which looks very, very visually impressive to say the least…

Now, just for the sake of entertainment, let’s say that you could be digitized into a virtual world in which you will live and behave like a program. There will be rules governing what you can and cannot do, but overall, you do have choices and make your own decisions. And that would be very different from living in a simulation or just a virtual world to which you would have to transfer your mind. Instead of injecting yourself as a stream of code representing a mind, you would effectively be injecting all of you, albeit in digital form, into a new reality which you’d then have to physically inhabit. You might even enjoy it because as a program, you wouldn’t age and you might even be able to alter your appearance, not as an avatar, but as an actual, digital you. However, you’d still inhabit a virtual world and the big question is whether you’ want to stay there until the lights finally go out on all the servers. This world would be more real to you than a pseudo Second Life, but it won’t be Reality 2.0.

Of course the truth of the matter is that simply breaking down the atoms in your body to somehow turn virtually every one of them into a stream of electrons which flows at different voltages, compile them into a parse tree, and then a vast library of assembly code objects, link them together, then load them into an operating system as code to be injected into a running executable file to have a digital you accurately recompiled would require more than just astonishing advances in science. It would require intimate knowledge of very, very extensively detailed frameworks of consciousness and self-awareness, and magical leaps in computing and biology for something like this to even be remotely conceivable in the real world. In other words, the odds of real humans ever being digitized Tron style are beyond infinitesimal to zero, but it’s fun to think about the what-if…

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  • the didigatizing of life is as unlikely as knowing if the earth has allways been in the solar system we now think its in

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Isn’t the process of human digitization likely to proceed in the exactly opposite manner, from our present first-generation electronicized prosthetics to more sophisticated circuitry tied into our nervous systems?

    It seems more likely that the first human to live entirely in a virtual world will have a meat brain (and, say, a paralyzed body). Synthetic brains and upload processes might be developed based on lessons learned from such medical interventions, but not beforehand.

    Personally, I would want it in my contract that PRB 2.0 in the server be equipped with full control of robots capable of maintaining the server and its power sources. I would also stipulate a pony.

  • Greg Fish

    “Synthetic brains and upload processes might be developed based on lessons learned from such medical interventions, but not beforehand.”

    Uploading a brain as a concept relies on your personality being like a soul, something you can simply swap out of your body at will. Since this isn’t the case and transferring electrochemical signals from a plastic human brain into rigid circuitry does not, and will not work due to the inherent differences between machines and living things, the entire idea is just wishful thinking.

    It’s far more likely that a human brain plugged into a myriad of computers is where we would reach the end of the road in that direction.

  • i rily prefer we should have Digital revoluation in Africa since we are still in analogue.