Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conscionable Consciousness Conduction

This is something I wrote a long time ago, but which still bears out, I believe. It is a method I would be willing to employ to transfer my consciousness into another body, or into a computer.

To illustrate why this is important, let me say that I would not be willing to use a teletransporter that copied my entire physical form, sent the data to another terminal which reconstituted me, and then destroyed the original. Although I have no philosophical objections to this happening, I find the idea highly emotionally disturbing and would never go through with it. For that matter, even if the original wasn't destroyed but was rather pulled apart and transferred, I still wouldn't do it for reasons I think are obvious.
Likewise, I would not be willing to be, say, put to sleep, have my brain scanned, then be uploaded to a machine and have my body destroyed. I would not object, of course, to having a copy of my mind made, to be run later or used as a sort of back up.

However, there is a way I would be willing to actually abandon my body and live in a virtual world (assuming of course all assurances of liberty and safety, etc). If my various faculties — sight, hearing, language, independent limb motor control — were to be transfered one by one to an emulator running on a computer connected to the various sensors and devices which would temporarily mimic said faculties, I would be able to track the progress of my mind from my head to the computer. I imagine the process something rather like this:

I sit down in the chair, my head shaved and access plugs and sub-cranial scanning mesh installed. The technician behind me takes one long wire and inserts the end of it into the plug square in the back of my head. He asks me if I'm ready. I take a deep breath and then nod. I hear a switch flip, and then I vomit. My body thinks that I'm having a stroke, or have an eyeball knocked out of its socket, or am spinning faster than my eyes can focus on anything. After a few moments, I start to orient myself. I am looking ahead, at a large black box, the size of a television set, with a forest of instruments sticking out of it. I also see my body, sitting in a chair, a host of medical equipment and one technician behind me. I raise my right hand from the arm of the chair, and see it both out the corner of my eye and from across the room simultaneously. Finally, I come to grips with the fact: my brain is getting direct data from a video camera hooked up to a computer. The technician asks me again if I'm ready. I've long ago memorized the sequence of the procedure. I hear another switch flip and a loud humming, and slowly my vision of the computer in front of me fades. However, I can still clearly see my body. Nothing has changed, but that the part of my brain which receives data from my eyes has temporarily stopped working. Luckily, I am hooked up to a camera, which replaces the function of the eyes, and a computer, which now hosts the software needed to interface between eyes and cognitive and reflexive areas of the brain. The technician inserts another wire into the top left of my skull. Now I feel as if I have a third arm. I move the arm on my body, and it responds as it should. Then I move this new appendage, and see something wave in from of my new field of vision. It is a robot arm, identical in shape and construction to my natural arm. When the inhibitor is turned on, it prevents my brain from sending signals to my muscles, and I am no longer able to control my fleshy right arm. But I can still quite easily control both my left arm and the robot arm to the right of my field of vision. This continues — left arm, left leg, right leg, diaphragm — until every part of my brain has been mapped, transferred, and inhibited. Now comes the final moment. Up to now, I have been physically connected to all of my wetware. I could have, at a moment's notice, regained control of any part of my brain. But now the technician removes the first wire he inserted. My visual cortex is completely dormant and no longer connected to the computer, yet I can still see my body — I am still connected to my body — and I can still feel every part of it as if I'm still in my brain.
And so on. In this way, there would be no point at which I could feel “myself” “die” or disappear. I would simply phase from one substrate to another, and be awake and (at least nominally) in control the entire time. Of course, none of this might ever be possible, but it’s not completely unreasonable.

No comments:

Post a Comment