Monday, July 18, 2016

Imagine … a digital afterlife!

On The Atlantic web site, neuroscientist Michael Graziano imagines a bright future when individual minds will be routinely uploaded on to some sort of IT hardware (“Why You Should Believe in the Digital Afterlife”). The vision he projects is surprisingly poetic—though not quite in the “machines of loving grace” tradition: “Think about the quantum leap that might occur if instead of preserving words and pictures, we could preserve people’s actual minds for future generations. We could accumulate skill and wisdom like never before. Imagine a future in which your biological life is more like a larval stage. You grow up, learn skills and good judgment along the way, and then are inducted into an indefinite digital existence where you contribute to stability and knowledge.” Of course, Prof. Graziano’s utopia could be another clever hoax meant to provoke silly comments from clever readers. In case it isn’t, it may need to be amended slightly: 1) machine learning could at some point take care of the accumulation of skills and knowledge commonly associated with humans—making the latter superfluous; and 2) the project could work only for individuals like Graziano himself, Ray Kurzweil (whose foresight the neuroscientist praises), the early Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Richard Hendricks, etc.—whose thought processes run along strictly logical/algorithmic lines.