turning humans into digital vapor, revisited

Tron's human/computer gateway certainly seems cool, but it's going to be pretty much impossible to build, ever.

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…

# tech // computer science / entertainment / movies / transhumanism


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