I attended a conference this past weekend, a gathering of scientists and spiritual leaders, all of whom are seriously addressing the question of “How can we live forever?” Whether through induced neural regeneration, or nanoscale tissue repair, or downloading of minds from a brain to a computer, or spiritual transcendence of the body, just about everyone seemed to be a True Believer.
I turned to a friend of mine, who seemed really into it, and I asked “But why is everyone so sure this is a good thing?” He seemed a bit taken aback by my doubt. “After all,” I continued, “you have a small child. I can imagine a future scenario where there wouldn’t be any more room — where your desire to live forever would clash with your ability to bring a new life into the world.”
If somebody said to me: “You have five seconds to decide, and only one chance — would you like to be immortal?” I suspect I would probably say yes. The instinct for survival is simply that strong. But that doesn’t mean I think this would be a good thing to unleash upon the world.
And then there are all sorts of weird ways in which the very idea of an individual could become eroded. What if my downloaded mind were then replicated multiple times? Which one would be me? Would the phrase “unique individual” even continue to make sense in such a world?