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Friday, 26 February 2016

Are you ready to leave your body?

Imagine you have just upgraded your mind, brain or otherwise consciousness to an objectively superior carcass – a transhumanist dream come true. You no longer have bodily limitations as before, such as running out of breath or not being able to find the nearest toilet.

How would you relate to your world, a world built around our previous biological bodies? Would your mind quickly adapt to its new senses, or be left alienated and unsatisfied, still tethered to the ghost of your body past?

What would waking up become, now that the potent touch of sunlight no longer connects to your post-biological self? Homes, laden with accessories and structure to suit a feeble human body, now rendered all but obsolete. What’s a kitchen if you don’t need to squeeze chemical energy out of food? What’s a table with chairs if you don’t get tired or need to make the most of feeding and socialising in a designated space? What’s a bathroom for you now that failing skin need no longer be bathed, and organic dirt cleansed, nor teeth brushed, not bladders emptied?

What’s a street lamp or a morning alarm without limited eyesight and uncomputerised brains? Indeed, what is much of everything to a post-human, when the world was built for humans? The world as we know it, as timeless and glorious as it may appear, all but fails to bear any significance to our augmented selves, the future human body.

This is surely nothing new, but what is different, and so very important, is that we understand just how connected we really are to our present biological selves, and how our minds are deeply tuned to that – how merely handling our minds as separate from the body would render the first post-human isolated, mad and suicidal; an outcome surely anathema to transhumanist aspirations.

Imagine that the biological body connections that we have to each other are overlooked in your upgrading process. What does body language become when your eyes are cameras, and your skin cold? Would anyone try to find your heartbeat? What will restaurants offer when your energy is replenished through a battery, and what activities will your bedroom evolve to host?

If you were the first, would it break your heart to be approached by someone who asks “Are you alive? Prove you’re alive”, only to find that your empathic connection that previously spared you having to answer those questions, has now been broken. Indeed, we have no way of knowing that anyone else shares our consciousness, other than the similarity of our individual experiences and communication with them, whether bodily or mental. Will we have to synchronise our transition to an extent, to prevent breaking off from humanity?

Are you ready?

[The purpose of this thought experiment is to stir debate about how connected we really are to our bodies, and whether our mind alone in a different body would be satisfied having spent all its evolution getting used to our bodies now. I hint that we would not survive in a sudden transition to post-biological bodies; however, transhumanist ambitions in that direction are perfectly justified and desirable, and the key to success lies in a mindful transition that does not overlook our current state.]

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