Making the Jump

There is the possibility (or inevitability, if you ask Ray Kurzweil) that one day our minds will be supported by technology rather than biology. Since there is no reason to believe that we are more than complex patterns of interchangeable molecules, there’s nothing wrong with the premise of that idea. A Pattern can consist of anything as long as it looks and behaves in a certain way. And since an artificial brain does not need to be held back by negative emotions, pain and fatigue – why not change the pattern to eliminate those things?

But when I first thought about this, I was a little terrified. There’s no question that I want this – but how will the transformation work? Let’s say you want to go completely virtual – unless you wanted a 50% chance of being left behind in your biological body, watching your lucky clone enjoying immortality, you’d probably want to kill your brain while being unconscious, shortly after it has been scanned. In one moment you’re closing your eyes, the next moment you’re contemplating whether to have your old body stuffed as a memento. But it still doesn’t feel right. The change may be too abrupt, and who knows how much time will pass between the technology becoming “possible” and when it will be “accurate”. Sure, your brain (and therefore your consciousness) can take a lot of damage without getting the impression that there has been a fundamental change to your character. Drink a bit too much alcohol or get hit in the head – you’ll lose a lot of brain cells, and but not too much of “you”. A blackout doesn’t seem to scare people very much, even though it does represent a dent in continuity (and that’s pretty much what I’m afraid of, thinking about transferring my consciousness to an artificial brain).

Luckily, there might be a better way. Instead of one big jump, make it a series of small steps. Use (future) nanobots to replace individual neurons with artificial ones which will have the capability of freezing, saving and uploading their state once they have completely taken over your brain. The transformation could go as fast or as slowly as you want. Going from an artificial brain to a virtual one should be a breeze after that, with no data loss whatsoever.

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