Will the internet make you immortal?
Now I want to start off by saying this isn’t going to be some weak ass cop out. I’m not talking about your data being online forever and that being the kind of immortality that famous writers get. Oh no. I’m talking about a body, a living breathing body that nobody can distinguish from you. We’ll hit some walls along the way in this (presumably) short journey, but I wanted to get that little nag out of the way. The internet, I think, may someday facilitate the immortality of you.
First we’ll start off with a question I’ve tried to tackle before. What IS you? I suppose it sounds better to say What ARE you, whatever, I’m sticking with is. I posit, as I have before, that you are two things. The internal you, the you that currently is reading this, and the external you, that you that is perceived by everyone else. As far as things like the Star Trek teleporter are concerned you are only one thing, the external you. An object that looks and acts identically between any two points in time.
The external you is a lot like an evolutionary chain. No two instances of it that are adjacent in the timeline can be discerned apart. However the internal you can be. Because the internal you is you, whatever that means outside of the abstract. The problem with the immortality I’m about to discuss is that it does not grant immortality to the internal you. This is our most precious resource and for some of you that is likely a deal breaker. However, it will provide the tools for an external you to exist functionality for eternity. Sort of like having children except the child is always you and always literally continuing your legacy. With that out of the way lets continue.
How exactly will the internet facilitate this breaking away from death’s embrace? It will treat you strictly as the external you. A series of ideas that combined all make you. Ultimately what are we if not ideas? A series of synapses connected together and existing without breaks from birth until death. It’s that break in the sequence that separates the internal you between any two external yous. But I digress. Because of social networks people are vomiting up every little tidbit about their lives. Maybe not all in one place, but if you piece together everything they’ve said across all social media, and someday with tools like the NSA from their entire life, you will gather enough data to convincingly simulate them.
Once you have enough if/then statements you can create a doppelganger that functionally is the same as the original person up until the last piece of data you’ve collected. They will speak as you would have, think as you would have, and feel as you would have. In almost every single respect they will be you. You could continue this pattern collecting all new data and thoughts with this new person and repeat the process upon their death. With enough iterations you would have a person with centuries of memories, thoughts, and responses. One wonders what kind of person that would be. Would they be cynical, altruistic, lethargic?
The biological engineering tools necessary are just on the edge of our knowledge. Within this century it is likely that something like creating a “carbon copy” will be possible. If the person is genetically and mentally identical, are they not the same person?
I suppose as with all questions like this it raises the question of what we are. What is us? Would I feel it? Would the metaphysical tether that holds me together move along with that new body like two bound particles in space? Like defragging of a drive, the data moves to new sectors but it is all the same. Is it a new file? I like to imagine a SciFi equivalent villain built from this concept. A futuristic doppelganger that creates an army of billions of identical copies of themselves. Each convinced utterly that it is the original and each correct in some ways. Perhaps something to consider for LSS.
So that’s that. I do wonder as the desire to share more and more becomes more common, and as the desire to spy more and more (with better and better tools) becomes more common, will we be missing anything from the recipe?