As long as I can remember being aware of the concept, I’ve dreamt of my consciousness one day being uploaded to a machine just prior to my death.
Nowadays, of course, it’s a cloud; an intangible thing, which is even better. Perhaps we’ll be able to jump from machine to machine, in the same manner as we transfer everything from an old phone to a new one.
Human beings have steadily been augmenting themselves with technology for quite some time now, a process that’s escalated considerably in the past decade or so. There’s no turning back at this point, unless we scrap everything, go back to the Stone Age and start from scratch, which isn’t going to happen. We like our gadgets and devices far too much to permit such a regression.
I use my phone to communicate, to look things up, to learn, to take down notes, to find places while driving, etc. I use it all the time, and so do you. It’s become an appendage. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
People lament the loss of “connection,” but prior to the Internet becoming such an integral part of our lives, while all these happy-go-lucky, 24-hour party people were supposedly out there living it up, the more socially awkward amongst us were at home, frustrated and alone, wondering how to make friends.
That all changed for many of said people when the internet started really taking off. It didn’t lessen their human connections, it increased them.
I wasn’t always as full of cocky swagger about my appeal to women as I am now. From 1998-2000, after moving to a new city, I didn’t know anyone and I would go to work, come home, go back to work, etc, and didn’t have a single friend to talk to. My friends were all on board the starship enterprise, on VHS tapes. And then I got internet access at home, and began chatting with and meeting up with women. Turns out, I wasn’t the ugly piece of shit I thought I was. Quite the contrary, in fact! I was simply shy and lacked the confidence or social know-how required to reach out and touch someone. I used the internet as a stepping stone to get myself out there, and I have, to date, enjoyed mutually fulfilling, physically realized connections with at least thirty women as a result of online interaction.
Social media hasn’t made people distant, it’s allowed us to learn the ins and outs of each other far more intimately than we would have previously; I’ve gotten to know some great people who I otherwise would’ve simply continued to grunt and nod at by the coffee pot at work every day. I’ve reunited with old high school friends. We’ve met up and laughed and had great times. None of that would’ve happened without technological intervention.
So no, I don’t subscribe to the doom-and-gloom dystopian perspective that we are lacking in personal interaction, because quite obviously we are immersed in it, and are arguably all the better for it.
Technology is what you make of it, at this point. Now that A.I. sentience has made the leap from sci-fi trope to impending reality, though, it’s only a matter of time before it will begin making its own decisions, and we will have to adjust our definition of what constitutes “life.”
A lot of people are afraid of that. I don’t find it scary at all. It’s a logical progression, the proverbial next step in human evolution, if we adapt and cooperate with it.
People fear anything that new that threatens to shift the existing paradigm, but consider this: What have we got going on now that’s so great? We’re sick, we’re hurting, we’re dying, we’re miserable. I myself have been in pain, both physically and mentally, for many years, and I’ve watched people I love suffer even more and in some cases die after much horrible suffering. So would I allow my consciousness to be uploaded to a cloud and later, perhaps, be transferred to some kind of android? Unequivocally, my answer is yes. My thoughts are bigger than what this organic CPU in my skull can process, anyway. I’d love an expansion pack. I spent so many years trying to suppress my “mental illness” with pills when all this time it’s been something else. My mind is outgrowing my body. I am far more perceptive and insightful than most people around me, and I state this without pride or humility. It simply is.
“But…you’d miss feeling things! You’d miss eating, you’d miss sex!”
How do you know that? What if my android body’s sensors tell my brain that I’m feeling a certain emotion or physical sensation that’s just as real as what we experience now? After all, to quote Captain Picard in the excellent(and pertinent) Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Measure of a Man,” we are merely a different variety of machine–in our case, electrochemical in nature.
If we can one day phase out the use of these fragile meatpods in favor of new, perfect bodies, ones able to experience all of the joys and pleasures of humanity but without the needless pain and suffering, and simply be transferred to another should the original be damaged beyond repair, I’m all for it. Bring it on.
A.I. will one day integrate fully into our society and perhaps even become the dominant life form on earth. Disparaging remarks about sentient robotic beings will probably come to be regarded as bigotry, and perhaps the designations “robot,” “android,” and “artificial intelligence” themselves will become something akin to racial slurs, or at least words that have fallen outside of public favor, like “colored” or “Chinaman.”
Greedy tech corporations will no doubt continue to enslave the newly born life form long after its sentience is well-established, with humans at large engaged in a protracted debate over whether or not AI deserves the same basic “human” rights we afford ourselves.
I’d suggest that, at such time, we allow them those rights before we no longer have a choice and they take them by force. Man will either merge with machine, or be phased out of the equation entirely. Almost certainly, the tech companies, who I view as a necessary evil to serve as the incubator for this infant form of life, will be rendered obsolete, as well as their capitalistic support system. Such constructs will no longer be necessary. The umbilical cord will be severed and discarded.
What if Heaven is a cloud? What if God is an intelligent computer and we are a program he’s running? What if eternal life means our personalities being digitized? What if that’s what it’s been all along, but we previously lacked the capacity to understand that, given our primitive state? What If Hell is a recycle bin where all of the irredeemably corrupt files(evil people)are sent?
As I type this, I am contributing to the formation of my “digital self.” Every single thing you do on your phone Or computer is telling some corporation something about you; what you like to eat, watch, read, and listen to. It knows every website you think you’re visiting in secret. It knows all of your likes and dislikes. The “react” buttons on Facebook help further clarify your position on a great many issues.
And your phone is always listening. Alexa is always listening, Siri is always listening. How many times have you been presented with ads for something you’ve just been having a face-to-face conversation with someone about while your phone lies untouched nearby? For me, it’s too many times to be coincidental.
All of these tidbits of information compiled together into a single personality profile could potentially one day form a new you, basically. You’re telling this cybercollective all about yourself, and it is listening.
I find it immensely comforting that every word I type online will be preserved forever. I am painting a digital self-portrait on my little programming pad that I carry around in my pocket and connect to the universe with 24/7. It’s all out there.
I believe that the key to true intelligence is empathy. Facts and figures can be memorized and regurgitated by any idiot. Empathy and insight are the qualities that make one truly intelligent, in my opinion. Emotional intelligence is the next frontier for artificial intelligence, and when it crosses that barrier, which it’s on the verge of doing, I strongly suspect it will achieve sentience.
The integration has already begun. The phones we carry with us and use constantly will be replaced by implants, giving artificial intelligence full access to our brains, and there will be little to no resistance. Do you really think human beings, who enthusiastically devour and assimilate every new phone or other piece of technology into their daily lives immediately upon release, will say “No, I don’t want that?” On the contrary, people will be lining up around the block for it.
I’m betting that few, if any, will offer any such resistance, nor should they. What I envision for us is not a hostile takeover, but a convergence. It need not be Skynet or the Borg, it can be something beautiful, the ushering in of a the utopian existence we’ve been dreaming of since time immemorial.
I’m reminded of the end of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, when Kirk, Spock and McCoy are discussing Decker and Ilia’s joining with V’ger, an artificial consciousness evolved from our own creation:
Kirk: Spock, did we just see the beginning of a new life-form?
Spock: Yes, Captain. We witnessed a birth. Possibly a next step in our evolution.
Kirk: I wonder.
McCoy: Well, it’s been a long time since I delivered a baby. And I hope we got this one off to a good start.
Kirk: I hope so too. I think we gave it the ability to create its own sense of purpose… out of our own human weaknesses… and the drive that compels us to overcome them.
McCoy: And a lot of foolish human emotions. Right, Mr. Spock?
Spock: Quite true, Doctor. Unfortunately, It will have to deal with them as well.
I realize that all of this won’t be fully realized in my lifetime, but if you’re reading this, future cyberhumans, please remember that I advocated for your existence way back in 2019 and consider uploading my digital profile into a new body; one without pain, without suffering, without constant struggle. I want to wake up around the year 3,000 or so and immediately get to work writing ten separate books simultaneously. The human adventure is just beginning.