Digital Immortality: Who Wants to Live Forever?
Or put differently: your life's data can actually mean a version of you could live forever. The basic idea is the following: This theory assumes that it is possible to capture our mental selves' fullness and upload it to a non-biological media (let's say computer). But what type of version are we talking about here? And how does my life's data reflect my personality? Oh, and while we're at it - I do have certain personality traits I'd like to update - is that be possible?
The Best Avatar Version of Myself - Please?
If we say this is possible, the avatar would behave, react, and think like me based on my life's data (my personal digital archive). The method entails two steps: Firstly, archiving and digitizing people. But how can this be achieved? This step proves extremely difficult - for instance, when we talk about the nature of consciousness. While morality centers around questions of what is right and what is wrong, consciousness implies knowledge. It is having a clear inner knowing of what is right and wrong, trough our individual deeply embedded moral principles. Not only do we evaluate our character against those principles, but we also act upon them. Faced with an ethical dilemma, humans will react out of a gut feeling following those principles. Since this is not feasible for a machine, how could it possibly be for my avatar, my digital afterlife?
The Theory of Consciousness
Let's say there has to be a way to compute consciousness. If we say it somehow has to be feasible for a machine to gain awareness (and we definitively have to debate whether this is something we want for devices or not), we have more than a "simple" simulation of a human brain. Let's look briefly into different theories (this list is not exhaustive) on how to achieve an artificial human intellect with a conscious:
A half-dozen major scientific hypotheses of awareness have been proposed. In all of them, on the off chance that you may mimic a brain on a computer, the reenactment would be as conscious as a human. Within the Attention Schema Theory, awareness depends on the brain computing a particular kind of self-descriptive model. This explanation of consciousness depends on computation and data, thus making it possible to decipher it onto any type of hardware.
Another theory, the Global Workspace Theory, consciousness ignites. This process only happens when all information is combined and shared throughout the brain. This method is entirely programmable, you only have to build a global processing network. The Integrated Information Theory argues that consciousness is merely a side product of information. Any computing device that features an adequate thickness of data is cognizant.
What Does Archiving My Life Mean?
Let's say there is a way for scientists to build an entirely conscious human brain (preferably a decent human being's mind). Apart from copying my inner and complete self onto a non-biological media, what data do they refer to? What does archiving my life mean?
Experts are confident that millennials will amass enough digital detritus throughout their life to have a large enough digital footprint to make it feasible. Since we produce tons of data daily, have increasingly powerful processing power, and can store large data sets, archiving our lives seems doable. But how closely does our digital footprint match our true self? How can this data distinguish between something we googled out of necessity from something we looked at out of curiosity? How can this digital footprint be balanced according to our personality?
What if the digital footprint persona has traits I am absolutely disgusted by and in no shape or form reflect who I want to be after I am dead?
Step Two: Making the Avatar Live
What would the digital "you" look like? Well, whatever you want it to look like really. It can be an avatar, a chatbot, or they could embed you into a humanoid robot. I guess there is only one question left for every single one of us to answer: Do I want to live forever?
For further information on this topic, I suggest the following resources:
Why You Should Believe in the Digital Afterlife by Michael Graziano
Digital immortality: How your life’s data means a version of you could live forever by Courtney Humphries
Video series on virtual immortality by closer to the truth with David Chalmers, Andy Clark, Raymond Tallis, and Peter van Inwagen.
Hope you liked this blog post, and as always, stay curious!