On escaping the body

One of the biggest tragedies with humans is our inability to accept ourselves as animals and the fact that we’ll die animal death. Among us the ‘Transhumanists’ think that as we cede more and more of our work and our lives to the authority and order of machines we’ll soon end up as obsolete and replaced as a species. As minds are uploaded to machines that are much stronger and more efficient than our meat-machine, the liberty to take any bodily form that technology permits, would tantamount to morphological freedom. Morphological freedom means, the absolute and inalienable right to do whatever you want with your body. You can be big or small, you can be lighter and fly; you can be teleport and walk through walls; you can be a lion or an antelope, a frog, or a fly, a tree, a pool, the coat of paint on a ceiling. WBE, the Whole Brain Emulation, involves scanning of the pertinent information processing activity for the reconstruction of the subject brain’s neural networks. When converted into a computational model it’s emulated on a third party, non-flesh based, substrate, something perhaps like primo post-human. Imagine in near future, uploading the informational content of a Harvard or Yale degree directly to the teenager’s brains at a fraction of what such an education costs today.

The irrational Magic-In-The-Meat Mentality is based on the claim that our bodies shed cells so that by the end of 7 years our bodies are entirely replaced (even though at the cellular level only) and the person whom we meet after 8 years is an entirely different person; different body, a different thing. Whether people are replaced by natural means by the death and regeneration of cells or by bionic prostheses would mean people aren’t the same. Something boon for ‘transhumanists’ for Substrate-Independence and WBE, it thus challenges the very concept of self. Biologically ill-equipped to cope with its new extraterrestrial environment, the flesh is a dead format. Neurons fire at a rate of 200 hertz (200 times per second) as against transistors that operate at the level of gigahertz. Signals travel through our central nervous systems about 100 meters/second. The computer signals travel at the speed of light. For Nick Bostrom, the author of bestselling ‘Superintelligence’, the 1400 cc brain of the breathing human-machine is an obsolete technology.

The 2045-Initiative aims to create technologies that enable the transition of an individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier and extend life, including to the point of immorality. For Peter Thiel the key distinction between computer science and biological science is that computers involve ‘bits’ and ‘reversible processes’ and biology involves ‘stuff’ and seemingly ‘irreversible processes’. On the verge of dissolution, according to Peter, computational power would be brought increasingly to bear on the domain of biology permitting us to reverse all human ailments in the same way that we can fix the bugs of a computer program. Unlike the world of ‘stuff’, in the world of ‘bits’, the arrow of time can be turned backward. Death will eventually be redundant from a mystery to a solvable problem. Solve the brain; solve death; solve being alive.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona, the largest of the 4 cryopreservation facilities in the world is managed by the techno-utopian, Max More. Cultivation of hope, Max is a custodian of corpses, an executive-level necrocrat. Some crazy transhumanists intend that their deaths might not be irrevocable. They approach the Foundation to cryogenically suspend/preserve their bodies upon death in liquid nitrogen against the day when some future technology allows their thawing and reanimation. Alternatively, they want the neutral wetware inside their skulls removed, scanned for their repository of information, converted into code, and uploaded into some new type of mechanical body, not subject to decrepitude or death or other human defects. People, now living, have made arrangements for their bodies to be brought here as soon as possible after the pronouncement of clinical death, in order that certain procedures—including as often as not, the removal of head from the body –may be carried out enabling their cryonic suspension until science figures out a way to bring them back to life…..!

Alcor’s clients include ‘patients’ suspended but not deceased. The central premise of cryonics is that real death, actual death, occurred not when the heart stopped beating, but several minutes later when the body’s cell and chemical structures began to disintegrate to the point where no technology could restore them to their original state. They’re detained in some ‘luminal-stasis’ between this world and whatsoever follows it or doesn’t. The Whole Body Patient, suspended until such time as it might once more be of some use to you, costs $2,00,000. The ‘Neuro-Patient’ (Cephalon) —-head alone, detached, petrified, chambered in steel—cryopreserved with a view to later uploading of your brain, or your mind, into some kind of artificial body costs $80,000. James H Bedford, a university of California psychology professor, is the first human ever to be cryopreserved.

Longevity Escape Velocity, live long enough to live forever is that the pace of technological advancement in the area of life extension would eventually increase to the point that for every year that passes average human life expectancy increases by more than a year—at which point (the theory goes) we put a comfortable distance between ourselves and our own mortality. Over the last century or so life expectancy has been increasing at the ratio of about 2 years per decade but the optimistic expectation within the life extension movement is that we’d soon reach a point where the ratio flips—thus effectively eliminate the relationship between how old you’re and how likely you’re to die in the next year. While no minds seem to have to date been uploaded, no patients awakened from cryonic suspension and returned to life, no AI explosion took place and we’re still going to die, the ‘transhumanists’ whoever they are, will be remembered as a group of people who spoke out of their time in their feverish way of what was in fact to come.