Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Leaving the meat behind

This Youtube video is awesome.  It is a documentary about prosthetic limbs and organs looking at how close we are to being able to build a futuristic cyborg like the ones we see in movies and video games.

Awhile ago I was talking to Hoop Girl about the future and we were discussing the possibility of uploading consciousness into a computer.  I used the phrase 'leave the meat behind and go flying' and she looked at me with a funny expression and said that she thought that the meat could be a lot of fun.  Can't argue with the fact that some parts of me that wouldn't be modelled by a consciousness upload do in fact provide lots of entertainment value!  However, the appeal of massive processing power, memory and ludicrously fast communication (to say nothing of immortality) is immense.  Right now we aren't even able to see consciousness uploading on the horizon but building more powerful bodies and organs than we get naturally is going to occur within my lifetime.

What will you do when you are faced with the choice of using a robotic arm that is stronger, faster and tougher than your 'real' one, especially when you can swap out your hands for other tools like swimming fins, chainsaws and who knows what else?  I think there will be an awful lot of soul searching when our society is first faced with the real choice of becoming a cyborg not out of necessity (which plenty of people do right now) but rather out of a desire for an upgrade.


  1. I'd jump on that bandwagon. This is because people have crazy ideas about "uploading consciousness." If you want to live forever by uploading yourself into a computer, start by replacing whatever parts of yourself you can as soon as possible.

    The thing is, if you replace the engine of your car, then two months later replace a door, then two months after that another door, and so on, then when you've replaced every single piece of the car it's still the same car. If you disassemble the car completely and put together a new one where it was standing, the old car is gone.

    I'm quite certain that any technology that would let you "upload your brain" would actually just kill you. The fact that there would be a computer with your memories that thought it was a continuation of you would not you very little good.

  2. I agree with your last statement, given current technology. In many SF books I have read mind uploading really is just suicide combined with making a new AI in a computer - hardly something I would be interested in. Hell, in Star Trek beaming people around is actually disintegrating them and then rebuilding a new copy at the destination - the person being beamed is completely destroyed and yet they don't seem to mind at all! Obviously the people around them wouldn't see any difference but the fact that the characters in the shows don't care about that is bizarre.

    Mind uploading is vastly more far future than most people imagine I think. Attaching a computer to our brains and letting our brains build their own network within the machine and eventually watching the meat brain die from old age seems plausible but obviously it is pretty much a magic wand at this point.