If we assume that climate change does not send humanity back to the caves, that we do not bomb ourselves back to the Stone Age, and that some meteor does not wipe us out like the dinosaurs, then we must accept that technology will continue to move forward.
Technological advance will coincide with medial advance, and vice versa – technology will improve our medicine, and medicine will drive technology. We already see amazing advances in prostheses. Beyond old style hook hands, we now see articulated hands driven by thought. The deaf are given sound, and even the blind are given sight. The goal is obvious, life everlasting.
At some point, computers will outthink us. At some point, an obvious connection will be made. With a computer substrate that has the capacity to carry out every single function of a human nervous system, why couldn’t a person’s memories and feelings be imprinted on such a mechanism? With a complete knowledge of a person’s connectome, with the ability to map it down to the last neuron, why couldn’t an artificial prosthesis for that connectome be manufactured? Memories and feelings, instincts and gut reactions stored and play-able for eternity, in a body of prosthetics molded to look like the individual.
Someone will be the first to try it. Why not? What is there to lose? They are going to die anyway, and that technology would present the possibility of evading death. Suppose it works. The machine wakes up and believes it is the individual. How could it not? It has their memories. Is it really the person? Did their soul transfer with their consciousness? Do you even have a soul to transfer? Who can say?
Moreover, someone will be the first person to have a close loved one go through the process. At first, it will be experimental. Everyone involved or connected will be informed. However, once the process has reached some level of perfection, there may be no need or desire to inform anyone, just as you may not wish to tell folk you have had a denture put in. You do not want anyone staring at you, or treating you differently.
As such, someone will have the process done, telling no one. They suffered an accident; they are “Reconstructed” – avoiding death. They wish to walk into the party tonight as if nothing had happened. Likewise, someone will be the loved one of that person. Like it or not, someday they will find out that their loved one’s flesh and blood body had passed and the person they had been caring for is 100% prosthesis, their memories and reactions continuing to function through prosthetic means.
How would you react when you find out?
Joshua, the main character, faces this moral dilemma in several guises through the course of the novel. These conditions lead him to deep thoughts on consciousness and questions about what makes us who we are, what makes us human and alive. These considerations call up some of the world’s great thinkers, Socrates, Descartes, Alan Turing, Douglas Hofstadter, and their ilk.
If you want to know more, you will have to read the book or listen to the audio book. To do that, I need your help to get it published.