Michael Battalio

Friday, May 25, 2012

Serious conversations (part 36):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth entries deal with extending one’s life artificially.

        More and more research has come to light which might allow us to one day replace our entire bodies with artificial mechanisms that duplicate the functionality of our biological systems that we depend on. We already replace certain parts with mechanical options already, though generally it is because a biological part has failed. I don’t know of anyone who has opted to get a mechanical version of a part when their biological part still works.

        There is some speculation that one of the current generations alive will have the option to replace entire bodies with cybernetics. So if you could, would you?

        We probably have a few more decades of Moore’s law 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.  However, if I were to gradually replace one failing part at a time, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It could be that I’m so uncomfortable with it because the brain is still such an unknown device. How much of my brain is “me” and how much of my body is “me”. On the other hand, if parts of my brian were replaced gradually and my stream of consciousness was continuous, I won’t have a problem with it. I think it is our sense of continuity and uniqueness that draws such fine lines in this matter. (More on this in the next post.) My friend posited that it is “our natural aversion to change and our natural ability to adapt to small perturbations that makes us feel this way.  We have our normal concept of self, and it changes minutely all the time due to various influences and experiences in our lives.  But sometimes a significant change can completely upset your concept of what is normal for you and your own life, and you are forced to renormalize quickly and painfully.”

        So given that if I adapt slowly enough I would be all right become computerized, would I demand to have some sort of corporal form to manipulate or would I be okay existing as nothing but code in some sort of stationary mainframe?  I know I would want some sort of mobile form that I could manipulate with my mind, and I would prefer it to be very similar to the form of my present body (enhanced of course).   Another interesting idea is that we could control objects but not be a part of them - for example have some sort of machine that we can control mentally by remote through an interface, but that interface doesn't have to be some sort of clunky object, it can be implemented simply through code.  

Friday, May 04, 2012

Serious conversations (part 35):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth entries deal with leaving a legacy.

        Leaving a legacy could be something as grandiose as changing the world, or it could be as simple as leaving a record of what you did. I keep a journal though not a daily one. The problem with keeping a daily journal is that most of life is, unfortunately, mundane. I tried to write something down every day, but I quickly found that I was boring myself. Most amazing things happen gradually, not day to day, so I’ve found that if I write something every time I post to the blog (about once every three weeks or so) that I usually have something worthwhile to write. I frequently go back through my old twitter and facebook feeds to see what I was doing this time last year. Some of that fascination with myself is because I want to know that I wasn’t and am not just wasting my time on trivial things. On the other hand, perhaps I find my past doings interesting because we find the most interesting person in the world to be ourselves.

        Regarding the side questions of post 34 from Serious Conversations (what is it to be remembered? I don’t think merely having my name remembered is worth it. I think that what I’ve done must be remembered. And: is it enough to have your accomplishment remembered but not who you were?): If your name is remembered, but what you did is not remembered then I wouldn’t be satisfied. I think I’d be okay if my name was forgotten but my deeds remembered. Still though, I would prefer to be remembered as a person, but I doubt that will happen. That really happens to almost no one, so I won’t expect it of myself. I’ll just hope for it. I do accept the premise to divide the thought of leaving a legacy into two distinct items: to make a contribution to humanity and to be remembered as a thoughtful person. You can certainly accomplish one but not the other. As to which one is more important, I won’t hazard a guess. I suppose it depends on how important your relationships with other people are that dictates how important it is to you to be remembered as a person.

        I understand that the way history as a concept is treated is much different now than it was in the past. I feel relatively certain that it will continue to change and that the concept of history will be much different in a few thousand years, perhaps to the point where the individual doesn’t even matter (Though that is difficult to rectify with the fact that our culture is so pervasive with the concept of ego right now.) or to the point where only individuals matter (though that doesn’t make much sense.). I suppose my point is that it is pointless to try to leave a legacy because we don’t know how our actions or ourselves will be interpreted in the future. Perhaps we should be more content with the now - be more concerned with bettering ourselves and humanity for the now, not for the future.

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