Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Value of the Self

Today, I am going to be talking about transhumanism. At the moment, scientists are looking at inventing a kind of neural processor that if it were to be plugged directly into your brain would allow you to store upon it memories whilst also giving you the ability to think faster and process data quicker, the only downside being that it would require you to give up a small percentage of your brain (you had to make space for it in your head after all). Now, assuming that Moore's Law stays consistent we'd have upgrades available not too long after the initial batch of circuits are created and then further improvements not long after, but each upgrade requires a little bit more brain taking out each time until eventually it reaches the point where there's no brain left at all.

Now, are you still you? Arguably the only hint of brain matter left would be the brain stem and even that is only a supposition based on its complexity with regards to nerve's arguable that that could eventually be overcome, given time....but anyway, it's a moot point, would you still be you? The electronic brain would have all your memories, your hopes, your fears, you doubts and your dreams. It would be as much you as you are now, but will it actually be you?

It's like that old joke about the broom "I've had that broom seventeen years, sure I've had to change the handle a few times, and the head more than that, but it's still the same broom I bought seventeen years ago." See, the nature of self is tricky at the best of times. We tend to think of ourselves in terms of a linear, non-interrupted flowing character....we are who we were when we were children, right? I'm not so sure, we're constantly evolving personalities, being shaped by events that happen both within and without of ourselves. We change by increments and yet remain ourselves, we retain this belief that we are the same person we were in the past...then could the same not be argued of transhumanist values? Is the key to remaining who we are as individuals to change only by degrees at a time? A prosthetic leg here, a mechanical heart there...We remain who we are, but to what point? What is the threshold that a person can augment one's self and remain as one's self?

There is also, of course, the concept of the soul...but I dislike this. You could argue that the soul is what determines the character, the being, but it is a religious concept and because surpassing mortality goes against God, it's arguable that the soul of a transhumanist would be destroyed or at least taken back by God as it is committing a cardinal sin (blasphemy by way of the deification of mankind). Accordingly, the thing left behind, which has your exact thoughts and is like you in every way would not be you, but just without a soul....would it still be you?

I really do love the philosophy of transhumanism, it's a metaphysical mine field, and so many paths to explore. I'm going to have to really write about it in depth one day. But for now, I've got to go and do some actual work because the house is a mess....I can't wait for my wireless robot control chip to be installed so I can telepathically command robots to clean the house for me....later taters!

PS: I apologise for the shortness of this one....I wasn't planning on writing just kinda these things tend to do....whatever, go eat a cake and be a winner!

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