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What will your next body be like?

Many engineers, including me, think that some time around 2050, we will be able to make very high quality links between the brains and machines. To such an extent that it will thereafter be possible (albeit expensive for some years) to arrange that most of your mind – your thinking, memories, even sensations and emotions, could reside mainly in the machine world. Some (perhaps some memories that are rarely remembered for example) may not be suited to such external accessibility, but the majority should be.

(By Ian Pearson, IEET published by Kris Notaro)

The main aim of this research area is to design electronic solutions to immortality. But actually, that is only one application, and I have discussed electronic immortality a few times now :

What I want to focus on this time is that you don’t have to die to benefit. If your mind is so well connected, you could inhabit a new body, without having to vacate your existing one. Furthermore, there really isn’t much to stop you getting a new body, using that, and dumping your old one in a life support system. You won’t do that, but you could. Either way, you could get a new body or an extra one, and as I asked in passing in my last blog, what will your new body look like?

Firstly, why would you want to do this? Well, you might be old, suffering the drawbacks of ageing, not as mobile and agile as you want to be, you might be young, but not as pretty or fit as you want to be, or maybe you would prefer to be someone else, like your favourite celebrity, a top sports hero, or maybe you’d prefer to be a different gender perhaps? Or maybe you just generally feel you’d like to have the chance to start over, do it differently. Maybe you want to explore a different lifestyle, or maybe it is a way of expressing your artistic streak. So, with all these reasons and more, there will be plenty of demand for wanting a new body and a potentially new life.


Lets explore some of the options. Don’t be too channelled by assuming you even have to be human. There is a huge range of potential here, but some restrictions will be necessary too. Lots of things will be possible, but not permissible.

Firstly, tastes will vary a lot. People may want their body to look professional for career reasons, others will prefer sexy, others sporty. Most people will only have one at a time, so will choose it carefully. A bit like buying a house. But not everyone will be conservative.

Just like buying a house, some rich people will want to own several for different circumstances, and many others would want several but can’t afford it, so there could be a rental market. But as I will argue shortly, you probably won’t be allowed to use too many at the same time, so that means we will need some form of storage, and ethics dictates that the ‘spare’ bodies mustn’t be ‘alive’ or conscious. There are lots of ways to do this. Using a detachable brain is one, or not to put a brain in at all, using empty immobile husks that are switched on and then linked to your remote mind in the cloud to become alive. This sounds preferable to me. Most likely they would be inorganic. I don’t think it will be ethically acceptable to grow cloned bodies in some sort of farm and remove their brains, so using some sort of android is probably best all round.

So, although you can do a lot with biotech, and there are some options there, I do think that most replacement bodies, if not all, will be androids using synthetic materials and AI’s, not biological bodies.

As for materials, it is already possible to buy lifelike full sized dolls, but the materials will continue to improve, as will robotics. You could look how you want to look, and your new body would be as youthful, strong, and flexible as you want or need it to be.

Now that we’re in that very broad android/robot creativity space, you could be any species, fantasy character, alien, robot, android or pretty much any imaginary form that could be fabricated. You could be any size or shape from a bacterium to an avatar for an AI spaceship (such as Rommy’s avatar in Andromeda, or Edi in Mass Effect. Noteworthy of course is that both Rommy and Edi felt compelled to get bodies too, so that they could maximise their usefuleness, even though they were both useful in their pure AI form.)

You could be any age. It might be very difficult to make a body that can grow, so you might need a succession of bodies if you want to start off as a child again. Already, warning bells are ringing in my head and I realise that we will need to restrict options and police things. Do we really want to allow adults people to assume the bodies of children, with all the obvious paedophilic dangers that would bring? Probably not, and I suspect this will be one of the first regulations restricting choice. You could become young again, but the law will make it so your appearance must remain adult. For the same obvious reasons, you wouldn’t be allowed to become something like a teddy bear or doll or any other form that would provide easy access to children.

You could be any gender. I wrote about future gender potential recently in:

There will be lots of genders and sexuality variations in that time frame.  Getting a new or an extra body with a different gender will obviously appeal to people with transgender desires, but it might go further and appeal to those who want a body of each sex too. Why not? You can be perfectly comfortable with your sexuality in your existing gender, but  still choose a different gender for your new body. If you can have a body in each gender, many people will want to. You may not be restricted to one or two bodies, so you might buy several bodies of different ages, genders, races and appearances. You could have a whole village of variants of you. Again, obvious restrictions loom large. Regulation would not allow people, however rich or powerful, to have huge numbers of bodies running around at the same time. The environmental, social, political and military impacts would get too large. I can’t say what the limits will be, but there will certainly be limits. But within those limits, you could have a lot of flexibility, and fun.

You could be any species. An alien, or an elf, or a dog. Technology can do most shapes and as for how it might feel, noone knows how elves or dogs or aliens feel anyway, so you have a clean slate to work with, customising till you are satisfied that what you create matches your desire. But again, should elves be allowed to interbreed with people, or aliens? Or dogs? The technology is exciting, but it does create a whole new genre of ethical, regulatory and policing problems too. But then again, we need to create new jobs anyway.

Other restrictions on relationships might spring up. If you have two or more bodies, will they be allowed to have sex with each other, marry, adopt kids, or be both parents of your own kids. Bear in mind cloning may well be legal by then and artificial wombs may even exist, so being both parents of your own cloned offspring is possible. If they do have sex, you will be connected into both bodies, so will control and experience both sides. It is worth noting here that you will also be able to link into other people’s nervous systems using similar technology, so the idea of experiencing the ‘other’ side of a sex act will not be unique to using your own bodies.

What about being a superhero? You could do that too, within legal limits, and of course those stretch a bit for police and military roles. Adding extra senses and capabilities is easy if your mind is connected to an entire network of sensors, processors and actuators. Remember, the body you use is just an android so if your superheroing activity gets you killed, it is just a temporary inconvenience. Claim on insurance or expenses and buy a new body for the next performance.

In this future world, you may think it would be hard to juggle mindsets between different bodies, but today’s computer games give us some insight. Many people take on roles every day, as aliens, wizards or any fantasy in their computer gaming. They still achieve sanity in their main life, showing that it is almost certainly possible to safely juggle multiple bodies with their distinct roles and appearances too. The human mind is pretty versatile, and a healthy adult mind is also very robust. With future AI assistance and monitoring it should be even safer. So it ought to be safe to explore and have fun in a world where you can use a different body at will, maybe for an hour or maybe for a lifetime, and even inhabit a few at once.

So, again, what will your next body look like?


This is a pretty good article. I especially appreciate how it gets out of some of the mental traps that other authors fall into, especially the one that says that any additional bodies must be controlled by uploaded copies. THANK YOU!! I also think the question is interesting for a number of reasons. I have my own very specific ideas. I want a bio-nano organic body. I would put 95% of the development effort into cellular and physiological issues. This effort is required so that the body is entirely self-maintaining and can be operated in a civilization collapse scenario for centuries. Beyond that, I’m probably in the sexy school of thought. I don’t think I’ll need multiple bodies, at least at first. In the longer term, I might have a fanciful, immobile home body and a few highly efficient robotic bodies for practical tasks (only when necessary). I have a few conflicting ideas as to how to develop that home body but that’s a bit beyond where I want to go in this reply here.

My biggest fear is that the uploaders will take over and turn everything into computronium where re-designing your body becomes impossible. =(

With so many options people are bound to get overwhelmed.  I wonder how tall people can make these bodies.  Oh, and do you think it will be possible to make bodies that just shape shift so you don’t have to buy multiple ones?

In reply to the post title, “Nonhumanoid”. 

I think I’d like to spend a while in an art body.

“I don’t think it will be ethically acceptable to grow cloned bodies in some sort of farm and remove their brains”
Why not grow the body without the brain to begin with?  We will soon be doing this with our foodstuffs to get around the various ethical issues of carnivory. Won’t be long until we do so with human bodies and other exotic synthetic creatures.

“Do we really want to allow adults people to assume the bodies of children, with all the obvious paedophilic dangers that would bring?”
When the technology is at such stage where any mind can inhabit any physical form, banning the appearance of child-like traits is unworkable and useless. Concomitant with the physical world would have to be an informational cryptographic mirrorworld for purposes of authentication, rising as we speak. Banning certain conduct with child info signatures would make more sense than occupying childlike forms. Likewise with police and other restricted identities.

To me this is such an engineering point of view. Concepts like authenticity and love are being trampled by machine fetishism. This is all highly inspirational but also frightening as hell. Why not approach futurism from a more natural standpoint? To quote Prince Charles (of all people):

‘If we do not work within nature’s system, nature will fail to be the durable, continuously sustaining force she has always been. We have to put nature back at the heart of the equation.’

Two comments.  One, I really like the pic of the black android body, especially how the legs look with the digitigrade position.  Where did you get it?  Two, would an option for merging human and machine be to incorporate the enhancement technology into one’s biological systems?  For example, say you have nanobots add artificial neurons to the brain and carbon nanofibers into muscles rather than just replacing them then have the nanobots remain as a secondary immune system (and maybe oxygen carrier).  That way people won’t be too worried about their self sense the original substrate is still there (just added to).  Latter on, if they want to, they could fully replace the organic with inorganic parts.  For me personally, If I ever decide to do anything, I find it more desirable to retain the best qualities of organisms (food & drink, sex & reproduction, making independent complex decisions, etc) with the best qualities of machines (better memory & information storage, faster calculative processing, greater strength and speed, more invulnerability, etc).  Tell me what you guys think.

I’ve always thought that the generation that grew up on gaming would have the easiest transition to form freedom, since we’ve already experienced, at a degree of remove, any number of different forms, from hominoid to animal to vehicle to things that don’t exist. In fact, the process of adapting to new forms or abilities will likely be training in the form of a game.

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