I am of the last generation that won’t have to decide whether or not it wants to transfer its consciousness into a machine.
That option will never be available to me, much though having an immortal robotic housing for my newly immortal mind might appeal. I was simply born into the wrong age for it. I was born in a fragile human body and, in spite of my thoughts on the matter, in a fragile human body will I die, mere decades or perhaps even mere years before the technology is developed that might allow me to extend my lifespan, via robotics, on through the centuries.
But do not pity me, for it is not I who needs your sympathy…
The generation that follows mine, after all, WILL have the opportunity to combine the flexibility, energy and creativity of the human mind with the sort of powerful, mechanical body that might last through epochs, and with that opportunity will come perhaps the most difficult decision with which any living human in any era of humanity’s development has ever been faced.
Because if you can transfer your mind, your soul, all that is you, into a machine, and you decide that you are going to do so, then when?
When, exactly, has your mind developed enough, within the confines of its mortal shell, that it is ready to be transferred to a less mortal one, that it might never fear mortality again?
Is not this fear useful? Is not some part of human emotional development tied to our shared notions of mortality? To the idea that your physical self might some day fail, that your life might be torn from under you? At what point can you honestly claim that you have learned sufficiently the lessons that a fragile, mortal human form has to teach?
And, if you make the wrong decision with regard to this so-important matter of timing, what consequences might it bring?
Those consequences, like the consequences of any such world-shaking leap of technology, are quite literally unimaginable. The mind, mortal or machine, boggles.
I will, and I am grateful for this, never have to make such decisions. The generation that follows me certainly will, and all that I can do is hope that, when they do, they make it well, for the sake of humanity’s continued survival. I do not envy them the responsibility…
Plus, there’s hardware to think of. There’s no guarantee that, once inside a machine, the mind will be transferrable out of it and to a new one, and nobody, and I do mean nobody, wants the iPhone One of robot bodies.