I frequently joke that I’m going to live forever, like in Futurama. Nixon is just an immortal head in a jar. Maybe, in another 50 years, we might have the technology to upload our personalities to the Cloud — that nether of internet space. I wonder what that would be like. Tron is one of my favorite movies, but the “people” of that world seem human enough. But is that even remotely close to what it would be like?
If you change dramatically, internally, fundamentally, are you still you? You may have a distant memory of your former self but would how would you contemplate that? I wanted to say how would you feel about it, but that doesn’t even have the right context anymore. Feelings are for humans.
Pain would have no context, at least physical pain. Would that impact the ability to have empathy if they even chose to emulate it?
Would you have the sensation of having a body?
Would your mind expand?
Would you be able to divide your attention in multiple areas, potentially losing yourself in the possibilities?
Would you still be you when it was all said and done?
Would we be able to procreate?
Greg Egan’s Diaspora delved into that idea and took it pretty far, but I wonder what the consequences would be to a post human society. Our self is more than just memories and things we learn. Our sensory system has a major impact on our ability to perceive the world around us. Our eyes aren’t really windows, they take input and send it to our brain which interprets the data and presents and image in our mind. So what would be the equivalent in cyberspace? Don’t look at me I have no idea. Ten years ago virtual reality was the big buzz but with no actual brain to interpret the data what will that mean? The entire inner workings of our self would be flipped on its metaphorical head.
Our hormones and endocrine system influence our mood and our ability to parse all the different data streams coming at our brain. Sanity is balanced on a knife edge and it’s truly a wonder that any of us are sane with all that goes on in the body. But now take all that away and how do we get input into our new self? It boggles the mind.
For those of us with already formed personalities we might be able to keep a concept of humanness, but what if you were born in that Cloud space, a baby of post human parents, with no body to provide the inputs that make us human. Would we even resemble humans in any measurable way? Would we have any sensibility to those that we evolved from? I have serious doubts that a post human intelligence would have any quantifiable understanding of what it means to be human. Oh, they could understand it from an intellectual standpoint, but they would really have no frame of reference, except maybe that first generation that would be able to look at their parents and wonder why they were so limited and constricted in their view of the universe. Talk about a generation gap.
They would likely lack emotion, since there is no endocrine system or would the new humans have a virtual endocrine system with pseudo-emotions? Would there be any empathy in these new humans or can we even call them human anymore?
I suppose it would all be in the programming. To make a post human more humanish they would have to program in the inputs of a pseudo-sensory system. The new human would actually be a coded into a program of sorts. Until they figure out what comes next. There are rules in the internet universe just like the “real” world. I’m sure the following generations would figure out fairly quickly how to “improve” on the coding to make themselves “better”. How many generations then before they would code themselves to be unrecognizable to us?
Timescales would be different also, and potentially malleable. Perhaps they could put themselves on a short cycle for some things, but also take a long view since they can live forever. They would likely be immortal, as long as the system they were in was active at least. The next challenge would be to find a bigger system, one that would allow them to spread into the greater galaxy, or would they even be interested in anything external to the cloud space?
All I have are questions without answers but it does make me appreciate what it means to be human in the here and now.