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Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
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John G Messerly


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IEET > Security > Cyber > Rights > Personhood > Life > Brain–computer-interface > Innovation > Vision > Minduploading > Philosophy > CyborgBuddha > Technoprogressivism > Affiliate Scholar > John G. Messerly

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Summary of Marshall Brain’s, “The Day You Discard Our Bodies”


John G. Messerly
By John G. Messerly
Reason and Meaning

Posted: Feb 21, 2016

Marshall Brain (1961 – ) is an author, public speaker, and entrepreneur. He earned an MS in computer science from North Carolina State University where he taught for many years, and is the founder of the website HowStuffWorks, which was sold in 2007 to Discovery Communications for $250,000,000.

He also maintains a website where his essays on transhumanism, robotics, and naturalism can be found. His essay, “The Day You Discard Our Bodies,” presents a compelling case that sometime in this century the technology will be available to discard our bodies.(1) And when the time comes, most of us will do so.

Why would we want to discard our bodies? The answer is that by doing so we would achieve an unimaginable level of freedom and longevity. Consider how vulnerable your body is. If you fall off a horse or dive into a too-shallow pool of water, your body will become completely useless. If this happened to you, you would gladly discard your body. But this happens to all of us as we age—our bodies generally kill our brains—creating a tragic loss of knowledge and experience. Our brains die because our bodies do.

Consider also how few of us are judged to have beautiful bodies, and how the beauty we do have declines with age. If you could have a more beautiful body, you would gladly discard your body. Additionally, your body has to go to the bathroom, it smells, it becomes obese easily, it takes time for it to travel through space, it cannot fly or swim underwater for long, and it cannot perform telekinesis. As for the aging of our bodies, most would happily dispense with it, discarding their bodies if they could.

Why would the healthy discard their bodies? Consider that healthy people play video games in staggering numbers. As these games become more realistic, we can imagine people wanting to live and be immersed in them. Eventually you would want to connect your biological brain to your virtual body inside the virtual reality. And your virtual body could be so much better than your biological body—it could be perfect. Your girlfriend or boyfriend who made the jump to the virtual world would have a perfect body. They would ask you to join them. All you would have to do is undergo a painless surgery to connect your brain to its new body in the virtual reality. There you could see anything in the world without having to take the plane ride (or go through security.) You could visit the Rome or Greece of two thousand years ago, fight in the battle of Stalingrad, talk to Charles Darwin, or live the life of Superman. You could be at any time and any place, you can overcome all limitations, you could have great sex!  When your virtual body would be better in every respect from your biological body, you would discard the latter.

Initially your natural brain may still be housed in your natural body, but eventually your brain will be disconnected from your body and housed in a safe brain storage facility. Your transfer will be complete—you will live in a perfect virtual reality without your cumbersome physical body, and the limitations it imposes.

Summary – We will be able to discard our bodies and live in a much better virtual reality relatively soon. We should do so.

Notes

1. Marshall Brain, “The Day You Discard Your Body”


John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website: reasonandmeaning.com.
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COMMENTS


I expect some people will indeed go 100% virtual, other people will want nothing to do with it (this is basically the same discussion about prolonging life. The group who doesn’t, will mostly have disappeared after a few generations) and some people will use several (augmented and modified) bodies.





On the other hand…

I am going on 47 years inhabiting my biological body.  When was the last time you saw anybody using a 47 year-old computer, or even 47 year-old software or data that had been preserved flawlessly through repeated upgrades and updates?  Perhaps there are some examples (a B-52 cockpit?), but it’s not very common.  Computers are rather fragile in their own way; which can fall farther without injury: you, or your smartphone or laptop?

Furthermore, cybernetic people (assuming the process actually works someday) will probably be subject to plenty of pernicious meddling—spam and other “push” advertising, required “updates”/“upgrades” during which the software companies that make the whole thing possible have the opportunity to literally mess with your mind, plus vulnerability to everything else computers are vulnerable to.  Your Flash Plugin has crashed.  R.I.P. wink

It seems to me that people who envision this future imagine the technology being designed to be maximally awesome, and always working flawlessly.  Unfortunately, the technology will arise (if it arises) within a context of capitalism, politics, primate status and dominance competition and all the rest.  Cyberspace is not independent of industry and government.  The powers involved in creating the technology will have their own aims and interests.  “Discarding your body” sounds a lot cooler when you imagine that you’ll be doing it so you can visit ancient Rome or Greece or be Superman, than when you imagine having to do it so you can stay competitive in the global economy. 

What kind of software modifications might employers be able to require, in exchange for coverage for the procedure?  What will Cloud storage rates be, when it is your life that is being stored?

Maybe the cyber-utopia will be as awesome as Marshall Brain claims—but people are probably going to have to fight really hard to make that happen.





>What kind of software modifications might employers be able to require
What employers? If we are far enough to have brain uploads we will be far enough to have smart software, AI’s and robots to do the work.
I really believe software will become smart enough and technology will be cost effective enough to out compete any human.
We will not have to work to live anymore and that can work if (and that is a big IF) we give every human the means to have a decent life.

How to achieve that, is the big social challenge for the next decades.






I think that KevinC raises legitimate concerns, but I also think that DutchCon does a good job of answering them. I don’t know if we can make a heaven on earth, which is what Brain says is the meaning of life. But I think its worth the risks to try to make it happen.





@KevinC
>I am going on 47 years inhabiting my biological body.  When was the last time you saw anybody using a 47 year-old computer, or even 47 year-old software or data that had been preserved flawlessly through repeated upgrades and updates?  Perhaps there are some examples (a B-52 cockpit?), but it’s not very common.  Computers are rather fragile in their own way; which can fall farther without injury: you, or your smartphone or laptop?

I would rather say that a 47-computer, like the 10000-year old homo sapiens sapiens, is hopelessly obsolete. The whole point of transhumanism for me is constantly upgrading and replacing obsolete parts. To be stuck in an obsolete model is worst option.

>Furthermore, cybernetic people (assuming the process actually works someday) will probably be subject to plenty of pernicious meddling—spam and other “push” advertising, required “updates”/“upgrades” during which the software companies that make the whole thing possible have the opportunity to literally mess with your mind, plus vulnerability to everything else computers are vulnerable to. Your Flash Plugin has crashed.  R.I.P. wink

Unlike some transhumanists, I have no problem with consumerism, in fact can’t wait to get to replace my arms, eyes and other parts every few years like I do with my phone now. Same with getting push notifications and software updates directly to my mind. Spam and ads are annoying, but they hardly stop me (or you) from using the Internet.

>It seems to me that people who envision this future imagine the technology being designed to be maximally awesome, and always working flawlessly.  Unfortunately, the technology will arise (if it arises) within a context of capitalism, politics, primate status and dominance competition and all the rest.  Cyberspace is not independent of industry and government.  The powers involved in creating the technology will have their own aims and interests.  “Discarding your body” sounds a lot cooler when you imagine that you’ll be doing it so you can visit ancient Rome or Greece or be Superman, than when you imagine having to do it so you can stay competitive in the global economy.

Again, I have no problem with having to modify myself to remain competitive, and in fact welcome it. Why should I remain an obsolete biological and lose?

>What kind of software modifications might employers be able to require, in exchange for coverage for the procedure?  What will Cloud storage rates be, when it is your life that is being stored?
I would be fine with any modifications, and will pay any price to have my mind data uploaded.

>Maybe the cyber-utopia will be as awesome as Marshall Brain claims—but people are probably going to have to fight really hard to make that happen.
Utopia might come one day, but I can’t wait for the cyberpunk “dystopia” that comes before it.





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