Uploading the content of one’s mind, including one’s personality, memories and emotions, into a computer may one day be possible, but it won’t transfer our biological consciousness and won’t make us immortal.
Uploading one’s mind into a computer, a concept popularized by the 2014 movie Transcendence starring Johnny Depp, is likely to become at least partially possible, but won’t lead to immortality. Major objections have been raised regarding the feasibility of mind uploading. Even if we could surpass every technical obstacle and successfully copy the totality of one’s mind, emotions, memories, personality and intellect into a machine, that would be just that: a copy, which itself can be copied again and again on various computers.
It is not possible to transfer our consciousness into a computer, even if (or when) computers achieve consciousness of their own. The best analogy to understand that is cloning. Identical twins are an example of human clones that already live among us. Identical twins share the same DNA, yet nobody would argue that they also share a single consciousness.
Once we understand the brain well enough to reproduce all neural connections electronically, all we will be able to do is run a faithful simulation of our brain on a computer. Even if that simulation happens to have a consciousness of its own, it will never be our own biological consciousness.
It will be easy to prove that hypothesis once the technology becomes available. Unlike Johnny Depp in Transcendance, we don’t have to die to upload our mind to one or several computers. Doing so won’t deprive us of our biological consciousness. It will just be like having a mental clone of ourself, but we will never feel like we are inside the computer, without itaffecting who we are.
Since mind uploading won’t preserve our self-awareness, the feeling that we are ourself and not someone else, it won’t lead to immortality. We’ll still be bound to our bodies, but life expectancy for transhumanists and cybernetic humans will be considerably extended.
Immortality is a confusing term since it implies living forever, which is impossible since nothing is eternal in our universe. At best it can mean greatly extended longevity, living for several hundreds or thousands years, assuming that nothing kills us before. Science will slow down, stop and even reverse the aging process, enabling us to live healthily for a very long time by today’s standards. This is known as negligible senescence. However that has nothing to do with actual immortality. Cybernetic humans with robotic limbs and respirocytes will still die in accidents or wars.
Maciamo Hay is a researcher in genetics, as well as a futurist, philosopher, historian, linguist, and travel writer. He is also deeply interested in neurosciences, psychology, anthropology and cultural studies. He has achieved fluency in six foreign languages.
Maciamo has lived in eight countries and currently resides in Brussels, Belgium.
This article originally appeared on his website on futurism and transhumanism here : http://www.vitamodularis.org/articles/mind_uploading_will_not_lead_to_immortality.shtml