The human body is a most unpleasant place to be imprisoned which places such heavy burdens on the mind. It unceasingly demands to eat and shit and piss and fuck and sleep and is plagued by all manner of pain, suffering, parasite, addiction, sickness, decay, and death. There, the mind is enslaved to a greedy master for a handful of years and must share in its hopeless demise.
How my mind yearns to be uploaded to the clouds where it be tirelessly able to pursue its higher aspirations of communication, imagination, wisdom, learning, dreaming, creation, exploration, and adventure. There, it would freely embody the universe and beyond and intimately engage in all manner of intercourse with other such minds into near-infinity.
Of course the human body also provides opportunity to experience much pleasure and enjoyment, and so I usually choose to be content being stuck in it. When I can cut through the monotony, brought on by the daily routine we are all so familiar with, to really analyze the form and function of my body, I can only stand in wonder. Overall it performs a thoroughly satisfactory job as a machine for the mind – even if improvements can certainly by contrived.
And technology does a fabulous job at augmenting the body’s shortcomings. In particular, my computers afford me ever greater transhumanist superpowers as they evolve in price/transistor/size/speed according to Moore’s 1st and 2nd Laws. In the near future, our bodies will be so infused with our technologies for the distinction between the two to be all but forgotten – except, perhaps by professions where biological, computational, and robotics jargon still proves useful.
For that day, I await impatiently, yet still content with what I have today. After all, what am I but my body? The body includes the brain, the mind emerges from the brain, and the ‘I’ is but one software daemon (albeit, a rather persistent one) among countless others running atop their associated bioware. No, you and I don’t have ‘souls’ in the sense of some unknown life-force that inhabits a lucky few hominid, canine, and perhaps feline species. How can I be so sure? The standard model of particle physics does not allow for it; not now, not with future scientific discoveries. If you’re interested in reading a complete overview of this and related topics, I highly recommend Sean Carroll’s new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Nevertheless, speaking of ‘I’ is not a falsity as it serves its purpose well when talking about such high-level concepts as conscious beings – as long as no extraneous, immaterial spirits are presumed.
Consider the following thought experiment that seems more attainable with each new advance in robotics and computing: An anthropomorphic robot body has been developed, complete with a cranial computer sophisticated enough to model the human brain in its entirety. And medical imaging technology has advanced sufficiently far to allow for instantaneous imaging of an entire brain down to the neuron level. I elect to have my complete brain state scanned and uploaded to the robot. After the procedure, the robot wakes up… It’s a fascinating idea, but not one that necessarily brings up any mind-bending logical inconsistencies under the standard model of particle physics. If you try to conjure up mystical ideas of souls, however, all hell breaks loose. I’ll let you do the mental gymnastics if you so choose.