Monday, October 19, 2009

Random Thoughts on Transhumanism

I recently bought a dead tree copy of Eclipse Phase and it has gotten me to thinking about the future more than any game purchase I've ever made. The basic premise of the game is the concept of transhumanism, the use of technology to advance the human mind and body. In the game, the mind (called the "ego") is decoupled from the body. The ego can be stored, uploaded and transmitted at will. The body is little more than a mobile storage device. If the body dies, it can be replaced. The body doesn't even have to be flesh and bone, it can be robotic. It can even be a nanoswarm. This concept raises a lot of questions about identity and social constructs. It is just a game, of course, so certain assumptions are made for the sake of playability, but it is thought-provoking.

One thing I have been pondering is the question of sanity. How would a human mind deal with being "resleeved" (the game term for being downloaded into a new body or "morph") into a synthetic body? Would it drive that mind insane? Is it even possible for a consciousness stored in a synthetic matrix to be afflicted by mental disorders? After all, brain chemistry is often at the root of most mental disorders. How would an ego perceive the world differently in a digital versus an organic form? I guess the designers of synthetic brains would have to recreate the human brain to a very high level, even to the point of producing electronic analogs of serotonin, dopamine and other brain chemicals that affect how the mind perceives the world.

Speaking of perception, what about human senses? Do all humans perceive a particular shade of blue the same way? Presumably, we could measure the frequency of the electrical impulses moving along the optic nerve when a person is looking at a particular colour and then reproduce it in a synthetic system, but do all human minds interpret that particular frequency the same way? Does it even matter, as long as the frequency is the same? What about more exotic morphs such as nanoswarms? It's hard to imagine being able to recreate human sensory input in such a radically different physical form.


1 comment:

Obiri said...

When the mind can be decoupled from the body then consciousness becomes nothing more then an advanced AI. Although I guess it wouldn't be artificial.

And yes I think the loss of humanity would have a profound effect.