“I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it. – Albert Einstein”
I’m not sure I would want to live forever, certainly not if I had to endure the human condition as it is now with our relative morality that rewards those with the most power. You only have to look at the stuff Trump is allowed to get away with to know the system is broken. Why would I want an eternity of that?
The more important question though is What are the ethical consequences of immortality technology?
Francesca Minerva and Adrian Rorheim:
Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment – both intellectual and financial – by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be ‘cryopreserved’ in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative ‘solutions’ being mooted?
So far there are two hypothetical options for achieving immortality – rejuvenation technology and mind uploading:
Like a futuristic fountain of youth, rejuvenation promises to remove and reverse the damage of ageing at the cellular level. Gerontologists such as Aubrey de Grey argue that growing old is a disease that we can circumvent by having our cells replaced or repaired at regular intervals. Practically speaking, this might mean that every few years, you would visit a rejuvenation clinic. Doctors would not only remove infected, cancerous or otherwise unhealthy cells, but also induce healthy ones to regenerate more effectively and remove accumulated waste products. This deep makeover would ‘turn back the clock’ on your body, leaving you physiologically younger than your actual age. You would, however, remain just as vulnerable to death from acute trauma – that is, from injury and poisoning, whether accidental or not – as you were before.
And then there’s mind uploading:
…in which your brain is digitally scanned and copied onto a computer. This method presupposes that consciousness is akin to software running on some kind of organic hard-disk – that what makes you you is the sum total of the information stored in the brain’s operations, and therefore it should be possible to migrate the self onto a different physical substrate or platform. This remains a highly controversial stance. However, let’s leave aside for now the question of where ‘you’ really reside, and play with the idea that it might be possible to replicate the brain in digital form one day.
Although cool, it presents some ethical problems:
Some philosophers, such as David Chalmers, think there is a possibility that your upload would appear functionally identical to your old self without having any conscious experience of the world. You’d be more of a zombie than a person, let alone you. Others, such as Daniel Dennett, have argued that this would not be a problem. Since you are reducible to the processes and content of your brain, a functionally identical copy of it – no matter the substrate on which it runs – could not possibly yield anything other than you.
What happens if you run the copy while the original you is till around?:
One popular position in philosophy is that the youness of you depends on remaining a singularperson – meaning that a ‘fission’ of your identity would be equivalent to death. That is to say: if you were to branch into you1 and you2, then you’d cease to exist as you, leaving you dead to all intents and purposes. Some thinkers, such as the late Derek Parfit, have argued that while you might not survive fission, as long as each new version of you has an unbroken connection to the original, this is just as good as ordinary survival.
This opens up a load more questions for me like fundamentally what makes you YOU? And what happens when your copy starts having different experiences from you, is it still you or does it become it’s own self? Mind-boggling for sure.
Curious to know your thoughts?