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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The proof of my existence

I’ve been spending some time lately investigating the current theories in immortality.

I’ve uncovered two interestingly plausible ones.

The first is a medical solution.

Through genetic manipulation, we may be able to halt the aging process, and gradually eradicate any and all potentially fatal diseases. Thus rendering one immune to death by natural causes. Of course that method doesn’t render you immune to being hit by a bus, but it does theoretically lengthen your life-span indefinitely. You could live for centuries, or millennia. Not quite immortality, but close as dammit to it.

The second solution is a technological one. I think this is more exciting.

Within 50 years or so, we will probably have computers sufficiently sophisticated that they will be able to match, if not better, the processing power and storage capacity of the human brain. We will also, most likely, have developed interface technology allowing us to use computer instruments to read and interpret the electrical signals and chemical subtleties of the brain, thus allowing us to effectively “read people’s minds”.

What the theory proposes is that we will be able to combine these technologies in such a way that we will be able to copy the human mind in its entirety and install it within a computer.

Once your mind is running within the computer, there will be two of you. A biological one (the original you) and a digital one. Each living its own life, with its own experiences. Although the biological you will most likely eventually expire, the digital you can continue to live as long as there is a computer for it to live in… or at the very least a backup medium for it to be stored in.

Of course, being like any other data, the digital you can itself be copied, and installed onto other systems, thus creating even more copies of you. The more copies there are of you, the less likely it is that you will “die”.

Naturally this raises all sorts of interesting metaphysical questions. What about the immortal soul? Which one is the real you? Will a digital human still see themselves as human? Will digital people be capable of things like emotion, compassion and love?

I can’t wait to answer those questions.

What got me interested in this in the first place was when I started thinking about my own mortality.

I’m not afraid of dying. When I was young I had a dream about my own death... It was actually very pleasant and, to be honest, I’m sort of looking forward to it. What does concern me is my life coming to an end, and not having anything to show for it.

If I died tomorrow, what would my legacy be? I hope there would be some people crying at my funeral, but once the mourning was over, what effect would there really be?

Would I really leave a hole in the world that no one else could fill? Centuries from now, would people say “Thank goodness for that 01. If he hadn’t done what he did, we would really be in the soup now”?

If pressed to answer those questions, I would have to say “I don’t know. Probably not.” Not for lack of trying though. I don’t even have any children who can thank me for their existence.

Thus, I have been drawn into a quest for immortality. The way I see it, the longer I live, the more time I will have to do something truly remarkable, and really make a difference in people’s lives.