Posted on February 14, 2017
The Argument for a Digital Afterlife
The Argument for a Digital Afterlife
Life is but a series of choices. Many fear that they will reach their deathbed and have more mistakes than positive experiences. You only get to pick maybe one or two careers, so many wonder how their life would have turned out if they picked a separate option. Should I become a doctor or a lawyer? An artist or a politician? Life is full of increasingly complex decisions, and the answers are usually morally gray and hold unknown consequences. There is no certainty in life except that it will end someday. I figure that many are scared to face that reality, so they try to distract themselves. While many have good intentions and strive to make the world a better place, I couldn’t argue if you simply curled into a fetal position and wept at the tragic nature of life’s cruel joke. Even if you manage to find happiness (something that very few actually manage to achieve), the awful fact is that it will all end some day. It may be tomorrow or sixty years from now. If I could choose, eternal life sounds like a rather nice option.
Would you like to be stuck in your body forever? Personally, I wouldn’t. While being an average white American has it’s perks, the constant wonder of separate lifestyles would haunt me for eternity. I’d question the very nature of my reality constantly being trapped inside a vessel that only serves a limited range of functions. The human body is extremely limited, and the potential Frankenstein-ing of myself for a long period of time sounds rather grotesque. Replacement organs grown with my own cells will become a nice way to extend life by a few decades, but it isn’t a long-term solution. If I’m being honest, the proper solution seems to be in the form of digital captures of the human consciousness.
Yes, the argument for mind-uploading has been made for decades, but the reality of the situation is that it seems like the best solution for “living” forever. If you get tired of existing, you would have the simple solution of turning yourself off. While I understand that it probably wouldn’t be my actual sentience that would be transferred , I certainly would find extreme comfort in knowing that anyone could ask me questions following the death of my body. I like to think of it like leaving a flash drive containing your life. Who knows, perhaps we could actually discover what consciousness truly is and be able to move it to a digital form, forever allowing it to exist as long as the simulation is running.
I’m fascinated with the thought of a mind being placed in a simulation. You could simulate anything at all, and it would truly feel real. While considerably odd at first, the idea is far grander than anything that I could imagine death to be like. I may be wrong, but when I think of what happens after death, the answer always point to that of non-existence. It’s unfathomable. Unable to be described and articulated. Some imagine darkness or light. The reality is that you would probably be unable to even contextualize it as that. True nothingness. I find the idea of a digital afterlife to be a bit more hopeful, especially as we move forward as a species.
If I could speak to my dead relatives, I certainly would. Having an understanding of the past and the history of humanity would be an invaluable tool that I would build into my own life. The idea alone of a simulated existence that I myself could control sounds absolutely god-like in my opinion. Why believe in a deity when you could work to become one? Imagine the benefits and possibilities involved with that of a digital afterlife. While the obvious answer is that of an extended lifespan and an ever-increasing intelligence, the wonders involved could be beautiful.
Try to think of an empty form. No gender or race. A being of simple mind, but has no true body. You could easily simulate one for yourself if you desired, but the only reason to do so would be to simulate existence. Perhaps you want to communicate with the living, so you project yourself as what you originally looked like while you were alive. Maybe you want to have a bit of fun and envision yourself as a separate race, gender, or form. If you want to become a female talking dragon, nothing could stop you.
Then there is the idea of simulating an entirely different life. You could live out the existence of another, either conscious of that decision or not. Perhaps you already died in a previous life and the life you’re currently living is simply a simulation for another being, created out of boredom or curiosity. After all, whats a century to being that has potentially lived for billions of years? That would be like a quick vacation or a fun day of work, all encapsulating this long and stressful situation that you call your life. Who knows what occurs once you snuff it? Maybe you get the keys to the kingdom and are able to pick and choose what happens next.
I enjoy the idea of a simulated existence primarily for the aspect of total simulation. Nothing could stop you from becoming Superman or spending a semester at Hogwarts. Like the greatest video game ever created, the Internet could one day allow the dead to communicate and create a reality to play around with. Time could have little meaning, as we could multi-task and live entire lifetimes in mere minutes. What’s stopping us from hitting the pause button and living a life of bliss and euphoria in a slowed manner? While it may seem like a pipe dream, what would stop sufficiently capable artificial intelligence from building it for us? If we succeed in building an AI that passes human intellect and looks down at us in the same way that we view pets, why not ask it to give us the ability to join the grown up table by digitizing ourselves so that we too can grow in intelligence to match it?
I could argue for days about the wonders that we could achieve by focusing on this. Many share this idea, and while it may not occur within my lifetime, it very well could come to fruition within the next few generations. Some will find it as a horrible way to cheat death, but I view it as the opposite. I think of it as a saving grace for the history of humanity. Having access to have in-depth conversations with our descendants, even after we have long expired sounds like the most amazing opportunity. While time travel may be difficult to accomplish, the simulation of it certainly isn’t.
Digital forms also allows for extended space travel. It frees us from a rather inefficient method of sending ourselves and our knowledge though the universe. If we truly want to visit stars millions of light-years away, the current human body isn’t the best form to travel in. An android body could easily allow us to interact with planets that we previously couldn’t inhabit. It also frees us to explore for the sheer sake of exploration. I envision countless digitized forms spreading themselves across the universe in a computer strapped to a rocket, simulating endless existences until it inevitably reached it’s destination or goal. We could possibly find other intelligent lifeforms and share knowledge of immortality.
The universe is simply far too big to not try and cheat something as trivial as “death”.