When our brains are in the cloud, we may not need these rotting bodies
We’ll all be lawnmower people.
On the BBC/HBO show Years and Years, there is a young woman who desires to have her consciousness transferred into the cloud, her body disposed of. I haven’t finished watching the show so I’m not sure if she actually succeeds. I’m guessing she does at some point, as the show makes an immediate habit of jamming every piece of technological advancement — whether real or theorized — into the narrative.
When the character first suggests it, it comes with a grain of disbelief of its possibility from other characters, but science is already on that track. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is just the tip. A quick search shows that many scientists and even Google executives believe that it’s only a matter of time before our minds are fully merged with data clouds.
For example, Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google talked about humans being hybrids by 2030. Back in 2015 at a conference, he was pretty open about being able to not only merge our brains with the cloud, but creating digital backups of our brains. “We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves,” he said. “In my view, that’s the nature of being human — we transcend our limitations.”
That’s fantastic, but when can we just move our brains to the cloud and dispose of these rotting meat sacks and basically, live forever?
Right now the focus seems to be on nanobots, a staple of science fiction and Iron Man. The hypothesis is that nanobots will go into our bloodstreams and then brains, and retrieve information that way, fusing it with the cloud. This seems like the long road, there has got to be a quicker way to extract our living, active brains and put them on an SSD drive.
There’s an altruistic sense that seems to envelop the conversation when this subject pops up. The phrase “global super brain” has been tossed around, but I don’t want to be part of some global super brain. While I’m quite comfortable with the concept of death (not for any religious reason, more like a belief system that is centered on our consciousness not being a static part of our brain and body) — immortality in the machine sounds kind of nice.
In the next few decades, we’ll see science and Elon Musk working harder to jam computers into our brains, to either take us closer to the rise of the machines or to truly birth actual artificial intelligence. There are more questions than answers, like what if someone just turns off the cloud where all the brains are located? Do the backups have backups?
Right now the focus is on merging, not completely removing. But that is the first step. Once we’ve accomplished merging our brains with cloud data, creating a symbiosis, it’s only a matter of time before someone (probably Elon) proposes completely moving our brains and consciousness to the cloud. We could travel freely through any connected system, hopefully not getting trapped in an answering machine at our grandparents’ house.
It’s all hypothetical but it’s science we can get behind even if we don’t understand it. People want to live forever, without realizing the mental burden that would be. They fear death and cling to fantasies about clouds and harps, rarely wanting to accept that death is the same as the moment before birth. Do you remember not existing? It’s like that.
But I’m all for it. Put my brain in the cloud and toss my body in a dumpster behind the Circle K so I can make jokes on Twitter for another few centuries before the sun finally burns all life off this planet. If we don’t destroy it before it gets a chance. Perhaps though, the data cloud will have moved to Mars, or somewhere else in space. It’d be nice, even from the perspective of lines of code, to see that happen before my body kills my brain.
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