By Erin Biba on Oct. 11, 2013 at 9 a.m.
This week were taking a look at the ethics of enhancing ourselves. Well present you with a series of ethical conundrums brought about by entirely possible future transhuman modifications and you can argue the ethics in the comments. Well have to face these questions eventually, might as well get started now. Are you pro or con superhumans?
The scenario: Well, the singularity is here. Computers have surpassed humans in terms of processing power and level of intelligence. But the machines arent totally evil. Theyre open to letting humankind upload their minds into the collective consciousness and live on as digital beings. Youll have to give up your body, though. Still, its a small price to pay. Your knee has never been right since you tweaked it playing football in high school anyway. Plus: immortality! What do you do?
Ok, this one is a bit of a leap. Were nowhere near uploading our entire minds into a computer, depending on who you ask. But there are definitely some folks working on figuring out how to do it. Earlier this year, famous futurist (and director of engineering at Google) Ray Kurzweil said a conservative estimate would have us uploading our brains into a computer by 2045. And, hey, if Google says it will happen theres no reason to think its not possible. Though, in the same speech he also said the singularity would be upon us by 2100. So, grain of salt. Others argue uploading our brains may actually never be possible at all.
Youre going to have to decide how much you like your body and want to hang on to it. Once you upload your consciousness theres very likely no going back. You also have no idea what to expect from living inside a computer, which means youll have to accept the fact that your very idea of consciousness might change once youve become fully digital. If your friends and family arent uploading themselves youll also have to decide if youre willing to give up your current way of interacting with them. Or accept the fact that you may never see them again. But if the singularity has already happened, then youll get the added benefit of being smarter, faster, and better than a human.
There isnt a whole lot of legitimate writing on the ethics of uploading the brain. But those considering it often point to The Ship of Theseus, or Theseuss Paradox, which goes something like this (excerpt from Logical Paradoxes):
Theseus is remembered in Greek mythology as the slayer of the Minotaur. For years, the Athenians had been sending sacrifices to be given to the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull beast who inhabited the labyrinth of Knossos. One year, Theseus braved the labyrinth, and killed the Minotaur.
The ship in which he returned was long preserved. As parts of the ship needed repair, it was rebuilt plank by plank. Suppose that, eventually, every plank was replaced; would it still have been the same ship? A strong case can be made for saying that it would have been: When the first plank was replaced, the ship would still have been Theseus ship. When the second was replaced, the ship would still have been Theseus ship. Changing a single plank can never turn one ship into another. Even when every plank had been replaced, then, and no part of the original ship remained, it would still have been Theseus ship.
Suppose, though, that each of the planks removed from Theseus ship was restored, and that these planks were then recombined to once again form a ship. Would this have been Theseus ship? Again, a strong case can be made for saying that it would have been: this ship would have had precisely the same parts as Theseus ship, arranged in precisely the same way.
If this happened, then it would seem that Theseus had returned from Knossos in two ships. First, there would have been Theseus ship that has had each of its parts replaced one by one. Second, there would have been Theseus ship that had been dismantled, restored, and then reassembled. Each of them would have been Theseus ship.
Read the original here:
A Transhuman Conundrum: Uploading Your Consciousness – Tested