Once humanity develops the ability to upload an individual’s cognition into digital form, we would need to create a mechanical body to house that digital cognition. We will look at how this mechanical body can be upgraded with hardware and changed from one form to another as well as how we may use this ability.
The existing hardware model:
Already, we have certain tools which cause enhancement. One such example would be glasses, which can drastically improve the eyesight of those who need them. There are also other medical cases such as hearing aids, but most enhancements are either temporary, in the case of wearable technology and specialist equipment, or out of medical necessity.
One major limitation of the current human body is also the senses: we are limited to the five senses and the position of the sensors is unalterable. This is actually a fairly understandable concept: we have two eyes, both of which are at the front of our faces; we have two ears at the sides of our heads; one nose at the front etc… On top of this, the human body is in a constant gradual decline with a full reliance on multiple organs. Some of these organs may be replaced, fixed or in some capacity repaired, but for the most part, we as humans keep the exact same hardware configuration of our nervous system for our entire lives.
The new hardware model:
If we could exist as a digital form, there would be no biological limitation to our senses, limbs, sensors. We would, however, need artificial methods of experiencing our surroundings. Most of this technology could be adapted from existing industries, e.g. smartphone cameras would be a good replacement for eyes and speaker systems such as in smart speakers would make for a good way to speak (with some changes).
In addition to this, there would be no reason to stay within the limitations of the system we have as humans. For example: if cameras are used as artificial eyes, we could easily use multiple cameras to provide a 360° vision. On top of that, we could easily use infrared cameras, night vision cameras, wide-angle cameras, long distance cameras etc. Other systems such as radar, GPS, clocks, weather etc. could also be integrated. All of these enhancements could be integrated with relative ease.
Hardware from other industries would also be used as another form of enhancement. Batteries, for example, can power a digital being for a period of time before recharging, but the capacity and power are not under any strict requirements. From day to day activities, someone could get by on an averagely sized battery pack, e.g. 100 kWh, but if that person decided to go on a multi-week hike with no reliable power source, they may opt for a bigger battery pack. These packs would be best sourced from a company in the automotive industry, such as Tesla, which has the best batteries in the world according to experts on the matter. Most other components such as wires, materials, motors and storage would also be adapted from established industries, with only a few hardware technologies needing to be invented.
In order to best enable upgrade-able enhancements, there would need to be a large focus on modularity. This allows for someone to alter their personal hardware configuration in line with their needs. Engineers, for example, might use a robotic hand with specifically integrated tools whilst at work and then change that hand for something more aesthetically pleasing at a social gathering. Members of the armed forces or astronauts could have specific hardware whilst on one mission and then use another configuration on a different mission.
This could even become a system where one subscribes to a centralised provider of artificial bodies where each body is only borrowed and not truly owned. In some cases, a company could issue specially designed limbs, much like the police force issues, but still owns, police officers’ smartphones. In what may sound like it’s from an episode of Black Mirror, entire bodies could be changed, purchased and sold like clothes. A big brand may release a new hand with this feature or that feature and then have a monopoly on the hand market, no different to the current smartphone industry model.
In fact, people may decide to change their appearance completely, choosing to look like a character from a movie instead of a human, not unlike the avatars in the ‘Oasis’ depicted in the film ‘Ready Player One‘. There would unlikely be a permanent reason why this technology could not come to fruition, though it may seem completely ridiculous to somebody now.