Are we going to download our minds into new bodies?

Are we going to download our minds into new bodies? – Great Reflection Skip to content

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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the executive director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts in[…]

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John Templeton Foundation

According to author and entrepreneur Steven Kotler, at some point in this century we will face the prospect of immortality.

At some point in this century, we will face the prospect of immortality, says award-winning journalist Steven Kotler. After our bodies die, it will be possible to upload our minds to a computer and then upload them to another body. The implications for humanity are difficult to understand.

As Kotler says, the basic engine of evolution is death – by physically adapting to our environment, our genes are retained long enough to pass on to the next generation. But human culture would also be thrown into uncharted territory.

Religious systems claim to guide the morality of human action, and they postulate what exists after our natural death, so it is not clear what claim these dogmas would have on human behavior in a world where we live forever.

STEVEN KOTLER: In the face of immortality, morality will radically change, won’t it. We evolved to die. As with the entire history of life on this planet, life has come to an end. There’s nothing, you know, consciously there’s nothing there that says this is how you behave if you live forever. This is how you start structuring a society if I can store my personality on a computer. That’s what I do. I can store this personality on a computer and upload it to another body. These are huge, remote and really strange questions, aren’t they. And they totally sound like sci-fi at this point, but all we’ve seen in the last 25 years, it’s true, is that most 20th-century sci-fi canon has already transformed into scientific facts in the 21st century. So this 21st century sci-fi idea about mind downloading will probably be here in the 21st century. So we have 50 years, 70 years to start solving these really complicated difficult questions.

The idea in mind of downloading is that we can store ourselves on silicon. We can upload our personalities, our brains, part of our consciousness onto computers and they can stay there forever. It’s a very widespread technology, even though British Telecom is working on it, even though people are working on it. It’s very early. Ray Kurzweil kind of set the date when we have to deal with this problem in 2045. It can be really, really excited. I think that’s a conservative prediction. But the fact is that at some point in the century, it will probably become real. And you have to stop and you have to join the five great religions of the world just to start there. Use the threat from beyond, don’t you. What will happen after this life to guide morality and shape behavior. So what happens to theological morality in the face of technological immortality is the big kind of metaphysical question.

If you look at the science fiction work of Richard K. Morgan including the fantastic he talks about what happens when consciousness becomes downloadable and bodies become expendable and what that means for soldiers and armies and mercenaries and things along those lines. So there really is a gritty cyberpunk underbelly in mind download technology, even if it’s developed for educational purposes so that we can preserve the brains of the Einsteins and Beethovens and Richard Feynmans of the world and really penetrate on the inside. But it’s kind of like I think of it like on TV, okay. When they created the TV they thought it was going to be used for educational purposes and that was the only – ask the creator of the TV what do you think it would be good for. Well education of course. Fifty years later, there is not much education. There’s a lot of bullshit out there and I think we can see the same with mind downloading. But the difference is of course that mind uploading, storing the self on silicon, even on the brink of so-called immortality changes everything about what it means to be human on a truly fundamental level. And when I say fundamental deep level, I mean that we start to play with the evolutionary processes. Processes, we have no idea what happens if you interrupt them because we’ve never done that before.


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