Michael Battalio

Friday, November 18, 2011

Serious conversations (part 31):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirtieth through thirty-third entries deal with death.

        It has taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that there is a good chance my existence will simply cease upon my death instead of my soul joining God, but I now take solace in the fact that we may be able to cheat death for at least a while, which leads me to…

What do I think about medical technology extending life (perhaps indefinitely)?

        The people who are dying right now (the 70, 80 and 90 year olds) had a life expectancy of half that when they were young.  I do not believe it is unreasonable to assume that we will be able to live double the expectancy of right now (so about 150ish).  It always seems as if medical technology is on the cusp of something great but just out of reach.  At some point we will get there -assuming we don’t destroy ourselves first, whatever there is.  (This makes me mention the fact that when I retire from the profession of meteorology I want to pursue an MD, mostly because I want to work on life extending technologies and/or learn enough about medicine to help extend my own life at least. Just call me selfish.)  Either we will find the genes that control aging, figure out how to clone ourselves and insert our consciousness from one body to the next (like the asgard from Stargate), or (as my friend thinks will happen first and within the next few decades) we will be able to place our consciousness inside a computer.  We probably have a few more decades of Moore’s law (the law that says computer processing power doubles every 18 months) holding, and by the end of it we will have computers (perhaps quantum ones) that can process a lot faster than our brains can.  It will only be a matter of finding a way to put ourselves inside a computer.  I feel very uncomfortable with that.  I am not sure placing my consciousness inside a computer is really me anymore.  I do feel okay with slowly replacing my parts with computer parts until I am eventually completely computer.  I don’t know why. If tomorrow I could transfer my consciousness from a purely organic form to a purely mechanized form, I would not feel comfortable doing it, but if over the course of some arbitrary length of time I gradually exchanged pieces of my brain for silicon wafers, I would feel comfortable with that.  I’m not so sure I know why that is. A directly related question is what is the actuality of self, not just our feeling of it?  Are we actually just a collection of cleverly arranged molecules in our brain or is self the collection of all molecules in our body? I have no idea.

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