Non-biological bodies & digital immortality

The director of engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil–who has written a couple of books on these subjects– told a conference that in about 30 years, we will be able to download our minds into the internet to achieve “digital immortality.”  We will also be able to dispense with our physical bodies in favor of “non-biological bodies.”

Think of these goals as the promises of a new religion for our day.  Note the gnosticism, that ancient but always recurring heresy that denigrates the body and the material creation.  No families would be needed, since there would be no need for reproduction.  This would seem to herald the end of sex, though perhaps it would simply be the next step in internet pornography replacing sex.  (Though what would be the locus of desire without bodies?)  Getting rid of biological bodies, of course, would mean killing them, so this opens the door to mass murders, but that would be all right since people’s “minds”–which is the only part that counts–would be downloaded into Google’s servers.  Not much privacy there, but we could access everyone else’s minds, which would be the new version of human relationships, replacing such retro concepts as love and community.

What else?  (After the jump, details from Kurzweil’s sermon to the futurist conference.)From the London Mail:

In just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal – an event called singularity – according to a futurist from Google.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, also claims that the biological parts of our body will be replaced with mechanical parts and this could happen as early as 2100. . . .
This singularity is also referred to as digital immortality because brains and a person’s intelligence will be digitally stored forever, even after they die.

He said: ‘We’re going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more.

‘In fact the non-biological part – the machine part – will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn’t make any difference.

‘We’ll also have non-biological bodies – we can create bodies with nano technology, we can create virtual bodies and virtual reality in which the virtual reality will be as realistic as the actual reality.

‘The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies.

‘We do need a body, our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn’t have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes.

‘But I think we’ll have a choice of bodies, we’ll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it’s just a picture on the screen.

‘Research has shown that people actually begin to subjectively identify with their avatar.

‘But in the future it’s not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you’re looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you’re in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality.

‘So we’ll be routinely able to change our bodies very quickly as well as our environments. If we had radical life extension only we would get profoundly bored and we would run out of thing to do and new ideas.

‘In additional to radical life extension we’re going to have radical life expansion.

‘We’re going to have million of virtual environments to explore that we’re going to literally expand our brains – right now we only have 300 million patterns organised in a grand hierarchy that we create ourselves.

‘But we could make that 300 billion or 300 trillion. The last time we expanded it with the frontal cortex we created language and art and science. Just think of the qualitative leaps we can’t even imagine today when we expand our near cortex again.’

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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