Self and identity

This week's readings all dealt with the notion of selfhood, from very different perspectives. The first highlighted the fact that we can be uniquely identified simply by wearing an item of mass-produced clothing that's been worn down based on our body and activity. The second discussed living forever in the context of transferring the human brain to a surrogate. The third showed that virtual and augmented reality can make us question our own concept of selfhood.

My strongest response came from the second article. I have been a follower of Kurzweil for a few years now, and have read his latest book How to Create a Mind which discusses the possibilities of whole brain emulation, storage, and access. I am convinced after reading this book that it will definitely be possible in the future to release ourselves from our biological "homes." Everyone knows by now that the brain is a massively-parallel processor. It works much slower than the average computer but its simultaneity of processing achieves a far higher computational output. Eventually our technology will progress to meet this demand, and then we will have the serious conversation about what to do with our bodies.

I think the third article ties into the exact spot where the second leaves off. If we're able to transplant/copy/emulate our brains for use with a virtual avatar, we will have essentially jumped into the virtual realm, never to return. And as virtual reality gets more "real" by the year, it seems logical to predict that we could be fully immersed in an alternative reality that is imperceptibly different than our current physical reality.

I don't think there's any question that this will happen, but we need to decide soon what kind of future we want for ourselves, and how to achieve it.

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