The idea has been brought up a few times, that we would upload our minds into a computer and in this way would be able to live forever.
How would that look like?
At it's base, every uploaded mind would represent a program with access to data storage and computing resources. These programs can interact with each other not unlike programs on the internet today. For example like in a virtual reality game world. (Second Life, etc)
In uploaded form we would manipulate our environment through other programs, that we create ourselves or that others create for us. There might be a market to trade these programs and its products.
Now, anything that is programmable will have bugs and is exploitable, therefore it will be necessary to protect against such attacks. Much like we use encryption today to keep things private, encryption and self protection will play a large role in such a cyberworld.
Unlike today where we can rely on physical protection, healtcare, etc to support us, in cyberspace, all protection comes in form of programs, and that means instead of relying on others to act on our behalf in order to protect us, every one of us will be able to get a copy of a protection program that we then will be able to control by ourselves. It's all bits and bytes, so there is no reason to assume that we would not be able to have full control over our environment.
We could build cyberspace without these protections, but it is inconceivable that anyone would accept a world where their own well being is not ensured. Either from the outside, or from the inside. But if everyone is uploaded, then there is no more outside, and therefore all protection must come from the inside, through programs. And since even now, most people are not skilled programmers, and that is unlikely to change much in the future, it is hard to imagine that people would willingly enter a world where their life depends on their programming skills. No, people must be able to trust that no harm will come to them in this new world where they otherwise would not have the skill to protect themselves.
The reason we feel safe in this world is because we agreed to a set of laws which we enforce, and for the most part, crimes are visible and can be persecuted. People who live in places where this is not the case don't feel safe, and noone would willingly leave their save home to move to such an area.
In a cyberworld, such safety can only be achieved by making crime impossible to begin with, because given enough resources, a computer program can do damage without leaving a trace.
This has a few severe implications.
If real crime is impossible and we further have full control over our own protection, controlling what data we receive that could possibly offend us, then effectively we can no longer be hurt. There is no physical pain anyways, and any virtual pain we could just switch off.
If we can not be hurt, the corollary is that we can not really hurt anyone. We can not do anything that has any negative consequences on anyone else.
We can not even steal someones computing resources, or rather we probably could but there would be no point because even if computing resources are unevenly distributed, it would not matter.
There is no sense of time, since any sense of time is simulated and can be controlled. So if we were trying to build something that takes lots of time, we could adjust our sense of time so that we would not have to feel the wait for the computation to complete. With that in mind, stealing resources to make computation faster would become meaningless.
And if we could take all resources from someone, then that would effectively kill them as their program could no longer run. It would be frozen in storage. Allowing this could start a war of attrition that would end with one person controlling everyone else and everyone fearing for their life. It just doesn't make sense to allow that.
In other words we no longer have freedom to do evil. Or more drastically, we no longer have complete free will. Free will implies the ability to chose evil. Without that choice free will is limited.
In summary life in cyberspace has the following attributes:
- We will all live there eternally (well, as long as the computer keeps running).
- There is no sense of time.
- We will keep our sense of identity.
- We will be able to interact with every human ever uploaded.
- We will continue to advance and develop.
- There is no power to do evil.
- We will be able to affect the physical world, and the physical world will affect us.
Here is how cyberspace looks like from the outside:
- When a person is uploaded, its physical body ceases to function and decays.
- Everyone can be uploaded, there is no specific requirements or conditions that would prevent anyone from being uploaded.
- We are assuming that we will be able to communicate with those in cyberspace, but imagine how it would look like if we could not communicate with an uploaded person. We would then actually not be able to tell if they successfully uploaded or not. We would in fact not even be able to tell whether cyberspace exists at all, and we would have to take a leap of faith that it is real.
While discussing this article, a lot of arguments were made about the details of how cyberspace would look like. In particular it was questioned that there would be no pain. Most commenters could not imagine that we'd want a painfree life.
That is fine. These particular details are not important. There are many ways we can imagine how cyberspace could look like. What is important is this:
These attributes of cyberspace as described here, are all attributes of life after death as described at least by the Baha'i Faith, and possibly other religions.
This is significant not because of the attributes themselves, but because this means that given todays grasp of technology, at least this version of cyberspace looks indistinguishable from life after death.
Now, if we are unable to distinguish cyberspace from life after death, then how would we know which one we are dealing with? If it is possible that cyberspace looks like life after death, isn't it equally possible that life after death looks like cyberspace? Is it possible that they are one and the same?
Why do we want to upload into cyberspace? Because we want eternal life free from bodily limitations? Isn't this something that religions have promised us for millenia?
If that is the case, wouldn't we be trying to reinvent something that maybe already exists?
So maybe, cyberspace already exists, and death is just the upload process? Maybe we are simply not yet advanced enough to perceive or understand our life beyond the point of upload from the outside?
Maybe we just need to evolve further before we are able to communicate with those who are uploaded?