Just as humans have broken through barriers we’ve previously thought to be insurmountable, so will we find a way to transcend the physical laws of gravity, space and eventually time. In simplified terms Einsteinian law sets the practical physical limit for space travel at much less than the speed of light; the faster we travel the greater our mass and with a corresponding increase in energy to continue to accelerate. Yet in contrast we can send data at the speed of light without even trying, and have done since early last century.
Ray Kurzweil describes a point in our evolution—it is closer than we think—when we can convert our entire consciousness into data (not just our memory), and, therefore, send it at the speed of light where ever we want. But if there is nothing out there to receive it, it will remain as data and continue on infinitely through the universe. If we do come to communicate with a similarly intelligent and advanced society light years away we could first send information and instructions on how to build a biological vessel for our transported consciousness to be downloaded to. We will find ourselves having traveled across space at impossible speeds for physical objects.
To me this sounds perfectly plausible and if it sounds plausible to us in our current primitive state then it will be much simpler in the future.
We have to unshackle our minds from the physical world, and limiting our thoughts to the current and immediately past paradigms. The universe is too big [yet another physical term?] for that. I think this is a way for us to comprehend the universe as infinite. With our minds shackled to physical ideals we cannot grasp the infinite; the best we can do is think of something so large we can barely comprehend it. To truly be able to understand the infinite we must release our maniacal grasp on physical ideals…all of them.
The concept of the singularity came up last night while I was researching an aspect of my novel. According to Ray Kurzweil, the singularity is point in the evolution of the universe when technology can improve itself faster than humans can improve it and the technology cuts us out of the loop.
Long before this point, however, Kurzweil predicts there will be only a few humans without extensive artificial enhancement wether it be enhanced limbs, digestive systems, or the insertion of entertainment driven nanobots. He also suggests the possibility to upload your mind entirely from your physical body. I found this disconcerting and a little depressing. It is not the future I imagined for my grandchildren where the line between their natural human presence and a humanoid cyborg is blurred.
This was a distraction to my research and I pushed these thoughts to one side and continued along, suitably engrossed, on my original path of discovery. The next time I looked up from my books and notebook I noticed it was 1am and thought, “Why do I have to sleep? There’re so many things I want to research and understand!” My mind raced while I reluctantly closed the notebook and slid my fountain pen into its leather case. How could I get by with less sleep? And then, like the target of my own satirical attack I choked on the thought. This is why humans will opt for artificial enhancement; not just to run faster, or to breathe in a CO2 rich atmosphere, but to release our mind from the dirty biological container it’s entrapped in.
I realised I will be tempted to upload my mind. But this realisation led me to consider what would become of the mind/body that remained—I must assume the uploaded “consciousness” is a copy. Would it be culled and consumed as some form of payment for service, or could the physical part be “parked” as a potential refuge for the mind if an emergency eventuated that threatened the security of the artificially supported entity in the world wide neural web? A hard copy backup or snapshot…
How would these artificially supported consciousnesses interact? Just consider the difficulty in sustaining a long distance relationship without the occasional physical visit. Maybe we’ll interact in a completely virtual environment so authentic the experience sufficiently meets the demands of our minds; however unclear they currently may be. There’s has to be a short story here at least!