Now the Really Crazy Ones

Download Yourself into New Hardware

Imagine that the brain is fully understood, and therefore the mechanisms and data structures for knowledge, personality, character traits, habits, and so on are known. Imagine further that, for an individual, the data describing that person's knowledge, personality, and so forth, could be extracted from his brain. In that case, his mind could be "run" on different hardware, just as old video games are today run in emulation on faster processors. This, of course, raises lots of questions. What is it that makes you you? (Is it more than your knowledge and personality?) Is having the traditional body necessary to being human? Nevertheless, if you accept the above premises, it could be done. Having made the leap to new hardware for yourself, many staggering options open up:

• No death. You back yourself up. You get new hardware as needed.

• Turn up the clock speed. Goodbye, millisecond-speed neurons; hello, nanosecond-speed electronics.

• Choose space-friendly hardware. Goodbye, Earth; hello, galaxy. Instant Learning

If the structure of knowledge were fully understood, and if we controlled the "hardware and software environment" of the mind, then presumably we would understand how new knowledge gets integrated with old knowledge. The quaint old-fashioned techniques of "books" and "school" would be reenacted sometimes for fun, but the efficient way would be to just get the knowledge file and run the integrate procedure. Get a PhD in Mathematics with "one click."

Hive Mind

If we can easily exchange large chunks of knowledge and are connected by high-bandwidth communication paths, the function and purpose served by individuals becomes unclear. Individuals have served to keep the gene pool stirred up and healthy via sexual reproduction, but this data-handling process would no longer necessarily be linked to individuals. With knowledge no longer encapsulated in individuals, the distinction between individuals and the entirety of humanity would blur. Think Vulcan mind-meld. We would perhaps become more of a hive mind — an enormous, single, intelligent entity.

Speed-of-Light Travel

If a mind is data that runs on a processor (and its sensors and actuators), then that data — that mind — can travel at the speed of light as bits in a communication path. Thus, Mars is less than an hour away at light speed. (We needed a rocket to get the first receiver there.) You could go there, have experiences (in a body you reserved), and then bring the experience-data back with you on return.

Self-Directed Evolution

If mind is program and data, and we control the hardware and the software, then we can make changes as we see fit. What will human-like intelligence evolve into if it is freed from the limits of the human meat-machine, and humans can change and improve their own hardware? It's hard to say. The changes would perhaps be goal-directed, but what goals would be chosen for self-directed evolution? What does a human become when freed from pain, hunger, lust, and pride? (If we knew the answer to this, we might be able to guess why we haven't detected any sign of other intelligences in the 100 billion stars of our galaxy!)

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