Monday, July 21, 2008

Immortal Dilemma

I've come up with many ideas for my "ghost story" world, in which people can choose to have their brains copied into a computer. In this world, the process of reading a brain involves taking it apart and recording all of the neuron structures, synaptic paths, whatever else impacts how the brain works, and is necessarily destructive. You can't survive the brain dump, so I simply assumed that people would wait until near death to get uploaded into a computer.

After all, the computer program may have my memories, my personality, my attitudes and behaviors, and certainly behaves as though it's me, but I'm still dead, in my opinion. Still, even as a copy, it thinks it's me, and therefore in some sense perhaps it is. Your biological body dies, and your consciousness  wakes up in a simulation.

The quandary is that the brain dump records all aspects of the brain at the time of the dump. Do it too late and it fails. Do it too soon and, well, did I mention that it's an irreversible choice? You're giving up on any additional real life that you may have experienced.

But delaying too long is a potential problem. If you don't get to the hospital in time, you're dead forever. If you have a stroke and some part of your brain dies, the upload will have the same flaws. You can't get back to a healthy brain and memory. Likewise with dementia. Once those memories are lost, they may be lost forever.

And forever is a long time if you're immortal.

So when is the right time to leave your mortal body?

  1. Never?
  2. In the hospital as they declare you dead?
  3. When you're ready to retire?
  4. When you seriously start thinking about your mortality?
  5. When your kids have left the nest and you're at the top of your career?
  6. As soon as you can afford the (presumably expensive) procedure?
  7. Or when you're at your peak of creativity, which might be at 25 or so?

Remember, your immortal self is captured at the moment of the brain dump. You can still learn, but you can't easily recapture lost capabilities or memories.

Also, should the time you choose to upload vary with your present (or post-death) career? If you can do your job in front of the computer, not having a body shouldn't slow you down. Lawyers, consultants, webmasters, writers, management, stock broker, and a thousand other jobs can be done by the dead. Possibly even better than by the living.

Time to think and vote.


Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Never, unless everyone else is doing it.

Standard thought process to most of my decisions.

wolfkahn said...

Well, accepting it as possible via the willing suspension of disbelief, I think the answer would be different for each person. When are you tired of physical life? How confident are you that it is you and not just a perfect simulation? (Even if it really works, there would be skeptics) What does each person's religion say?

Unless there are government regulations, each person would make their own choice and that means many different answers.

Me, I'd be a skeptic and wait to the last possible moment of life then do it, just in case it worked.