Let’s first outline a few parameters. I am fully aware that many people would never upload their brain due to various reasons. However, many of these ideas have already been addressed in my posts on Metaphysics and Social Trends so I will not repeat them here. Instead, this will mainly be about what a person would have to lose when they became a digital being.
What digital beings lose
There are many things that really make us as people, the main things are of course internal – our personalities, memories and interests. There are also many other things that are part of our experience as people. Let’s take a look at these external factors:
- Appearance: What we look like is one of the biggest components of our life as people. Everything from our hairstyle, eye colour, birthmarks, freckles and make-up act as ways to express ourselves. If we were to upload our brains and live in artificial bodies, we would not easily be able to retain our biological appearance. We could certainly get close with many robots being made to look human, but for most people, this would be time-consuming and expensive. Furthermore, for many people, the appearance that gets copied would not necessarily be their best unless they had multiple three-dimensional scans before the upload process.
- Eating: For many people, eating is a necessary thing we do to stay alive. For many people, though, food is often a social thing to be shared and enjoyed. Perhaps the first part of a culture to be adopted, food is integral to many people’s social identities. As we have discussed in our Sustainable Future posts, digital beings would obviously not need food and therefore could not participate in this very large part of human culture. Not only that but the rich taste of food would also be unlikely to be experienced again with actual food.
- Sport: Sport is played for many various reasons. These mainly include physical fitness, group pride, fun, self-esteem and publicity. Though some of these reasons would remain if someone uploaded their brain to digital form, many, like physical fitness, would become irrelevant. What is almost definite is that all kinds of fitness training and sports would go away. Other sports, which are mainly based on the idea of skill would also cease to be played as digital beings would very likely have AI that would have equal skill.
- Leisure activities: Many leisure activities like the spa, leisure sports, massage, yoga and dance would also likely not be attended to their lack of usefulness.
- Shared experiences: One other part of human life that we have grown to love is our flaws, emotions and struggles. Much of this goes away when you enhance your brain. Though this may or may not be a bad thing, it would certainly be a part of human experience a digital being would be much less of a part of.
- Privacy: One potentially huge challenge that would come with uploading your brain to a digital form is retaining privacy. Due to the fact that all sensory inputs and thought outputs would happen through computers, keeping this secure and private becomes a lot harder. There would need to be serious regulation to avoid a catastrophe like Facebook selling your entire thought process, but for many, the lack of control will be too much.
- Eventual stagnation: This is less about what one would have to lose if they became a digital being, but rather an inevitable eventuality. As it stands in current society, those responsible for technological progression represent the vast minority. With the vastly better cognitive performance of digital beings, this proportion will increase. Eventually, technology will be so good it could not physically get better, space will be colonised and there will be little left to improve upon. After that, one could ask what the point of carrying on would be.
- Appearance: Appearance for those who have uploaded their brains is an interesting topic, as we have gone very in-depth on. In summary, though biological appearance would be a challenge to copy well enough to not be noticeable, there are vastly more alternative looks that a digital being could have, not even needing to retain a humanoid shape at all.
- Eating: As far as it stands, I see no way in which eating could be retained without serious over-complications of the digital being. Digital beings would not be able to digest so any food would not benefit them in any way, even with a digestive tract. What could take its place however is virtual eating, where people meet and interact in a simulated world as well as in this version of reality. However, I predict that for many people it would never be the same.
- Sport: Many sports and fitness activities would probably disappear in some capacity. Though some may remain due to tradition, this would represent a far smaller market than the current following. Instead, physical sports would likely be displaced by gaming or virtual sports, which could be made practically life-like without any of the usual hassles from weather conditions and travel.
- Leisure activities: Much like sports, leisure activities will either be lost entirely or done virtually
- Shared experiences: Though many human qualities and mannerisms will be resigned to history, the core brain will stay the same before and after the upload. Enough of our human qualities and dispositions will remain for digital beings to not feel like lifeless automated robots.
- Privacy: This will remain a real challenge both legally and personally. Though a system could be set up where data is anonymous, many third-party applications may use personal data, which will be more specific and targeted than ever before. This will truly be a problem for many as even secrets could be exposed, potentially forcing a change in the social and legal systems.
- Eventual stagnation: I personally see this as a somewhat weak point. Even if there was an eventual stagnation, it is very far off. In my opinion, getting to see many millennia of human progression is far better than death. Even if things do get boring, there could always be the option to switch off either temporarily or, if so desired, permanently.
Is uploading worth it?
Though there are some legitimate reasons why you wouldn’t want to upload your brain, many can be worked around with software or regulation. Overall, the things one would stand to lose are far outweighed by the immense benefits of digital immortality. Perhaps most important to note is that human lives are very short in the large scheme of things and uploading your brain changes this. To me, uploading your brain to digital form is most definitely worth it.