Traffic hisses on a rainy street far below my hotel window.
As the sun goes down, I gaze with human eyes for the last time upon a blurring mass of information I cannot fully comprehend. Soon that will change. In the morning, I will meet God. I will evolve. My humanity will be forced from me, replaced with billions of tiny machines strung close together by the whispered secret glue of the universe. My mind will be uploaded, spread into infinity, capable of understanding the clandestine songs of trees. I will have lightning for oxygen and numbers for blood. Tomorrow, I will be human no more. I will have achieved physical immortality, the ultimate spiritual feat.
Am I scared? I’d have to be a fucking idiot not to be. I have said goodbye to being human. In the past few months I have lived more than most men know in the whole of their lives. Tonight, in this very room, I have eaten my last meal and known the love of a beautiful woman one final time. (That’s her, asleep in my bed. Did I tell her the source of my insatiable hunger was my one-man going away party? Of course not! Better to let her think it was her beauty that drove me. Let that be our little secret.)
I used to think the purpose of life was to live such that we understood what it meant to be alive. Pure emotional horseshit. Evolution is the purpose of life, meaning that the purpose of life and of our lives is to evolve. What does it mean to evolve? Evolution means moving toward complexity, toward elegance, toward intelligence, beauty, creativity and love. God has been called all these things, limitless and infinite and yet while evolution never reaches the infinite level, it does advance exponentially.
Technological evolution, therefore, moves us inexorably closer to becoming like God. The freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of our biological form may be regarded as an essential spiritual quest. I suppose you could say that I am such a quest, seeking to, as one man put it, ‘break on through’ to the other side.
Rastafarians believe in physical immortality as part of their religious doctrines. After their God has called for their judgment day they go to Mount Zion, to what they call ‘ever-living life.’ Judaism claims that the righteous dead will be resurrected in the messianic age with the coming of the messiah and granted immortality in a perfect world. Hinduism believes in an immortal soul which is reincarnated after death. Advanced Yogis, practitioners of Yoga, can supposedly jump into another host and therefore live a longer life. Christians believe that every person will be resurrected bodily, to live forever in the presence of God. And Buddhists believe that a person goes through a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, but they hold no belief in an eternal soul, rather a collection of habits, desires, and memories.
Ever-living life… Perfect worlds… Resurrection… Is this not the very same thing I’ll be doing in just under six hours? And yet my decision to embark on this quest was met with ugly resistance. For months now, I’ve had to hide away from reporters and crowds of demonstrators, religious and spiritual leaders seeking to turn me away from what the unenlightened masses called a terrible mistake. Even now, an armed guard waits in the next room to protect my privacy. With everything invested in my decision, I suppose he’s also there to prevent me from changing my mind. He needn’t worry. I wouldn’t miss this for the world! (Sorry, little joke there.)
So why am I doing this? Because I can! Because it is the final tedious choice I wish make as a human, as a man. Because I’m tired of the things that define the human experience; sleeping never lasts, eating gets repetitive, shitting repulses me, crying gets old, bleeding is pointless, fucking leads to heartbreak, lying never did anyone much good, and fighting is dumb. I’m tired of the endless manipulation of our society, by our society. No more will I suffer the indignity of chemical responses to external stimuli disguised as the knife of emotion. I refuse to suffer the insult and the cruelty of age. I’m tired of the heartbreak, the abandonment, and the sleepless nights spent chewing the insides of my mouth, gnawing holes in my soul, wondering how long it will be before I’m cast aside once again. And yet, ironically, I’m not tired of living, the very miracle of being alive.
My upload does not guarantee that I will last forever. The longevity of information depends on its relevance, utility and accessibility. If you’ve ever tried to retrieve information from an obsolete form of data storage in an old or obscure format, then you understand the challenge faced by the staff in keeping my soulware viable. I have been assured by the staff in charge of this project of their ability and diligence in maintaining my mind’s file, keeping current backups and porting to the latest formats and mediums. It is in this manner that at least a crucial aspect of who I am will attain longevity independent of my body.
Tomorrow they will scan this temporary, physical ‘me’, recording the exact state, level and position of my every neurotransmitter, synapse, neural connection and other relevant details, and then re-instantiate this massive database into a neural computer, delicately unfolding the infinite flower of my digitized soul into its new home. Who will be the real me then? If you ask the machine, it will vehemently claim to be the original me. Viewed in this way, human identity is rather like the pattern that water makes when rushing around a rock in a stream. The pattern remains relatively unchanged for hours, even years, while the actual material constituting the pattern, the water, is replaced in milliseconds. Some argue that although the computer consciousness would be an exact copy of the original, the original mind would no longer exist.
What does that matter? The atoms in my brain and body today aren’t the same ones I had when I was born! Nevertheless, the patterns of information coded in my DNA and in my neural memories are still mine. The human essence, the soul, is more than a pile of parts. It is a pattern of information. The particles making up my biological brain and body are constantly changing. It is the patterns of matter and energy that are semi-permanent, changing only gradually, while the actual material content changes constantly and very quickly.
Over the long term, the biological nature of humanity may prove to be only temporary. Should technology permit, others may choose as I have, to circumvent death and embrace this new evolution by taking an artificial form. I intend to show that the human body has become an accessory, and the mind can be transferred to any sufficiently powerful computer, granting a sort of immortality, short of cataclysmic destruction of our entire civilization and it’s computers.
I’m equally aware of the flaws of my decision, and the limitations of my new home. I have been for six months, since my first briefing with Dr. Tutseo. “As time goes on,” he said, “you’ll be dead in more and more possible universes due to random accidents and aging. But because there are infinite possibilities, there will always be at least one universe in which you miraculously live another day. The idea behind quantum immortality is that you will only be able to experience the universe in which you survive, even though they may be an increasingly small subset of the possible universes.”
What I do tomorrow (well, today, according to the clock on the bedside table), undergoing this process where my personality and memories are uploaded via direct mind-computer interface, was once only possible between the pages of science-fiction magazines read by yesterday’s dreamers under their bedcovers by flashlight; men who went on to become the great minds of the present and the pioneers of our future.
I could have accomplished this slowly, over a number of years via advanced cybernetics, computer hardware installed in my brain to help sort memory and accelerate thought processes. Gradually, more and more components would have been added until all of my brain functions were handled by artificial devices, avoiding the sharp transitions that commonly lead to identity issues. Unfortunately, I would have gone broke before I reached my goal!
Years ago, they would have scanned my fresh-frozen body and brain (harvested right before death) at an extremely high speed, one very thin slice at a time, preserving every neuron, every connection and every neurotransmitter concentration represented in each synapse-thin layer. Rumor has it a condemned killer allowed his brain and body to be scanned in this way. You could see every bone, muscle and section of gray matter in his body. But the scan wasn’t performed at high enough resolution to re-create the interneuronal connections, synapses and neurotransmitter concentrations, key pieces to the once-unsolvable puzzle that was the individuality of the human brain. The camera lacked ‘infinite zoom’, if you will.
That’s what I am, a human Mandlebrot set. A complex universe hidden inside a three-pound battery balanced precariously atop my spine; a bag of mostly water, capable of making tools and telling stories. I dream in the infinite, brushing my lips against endless possibility and worlds so fantastic I cannot see their end. That is truly where man was meant to dwell; not trapped inside this failing carbon jail, anchored to the finite of the now.
Tomorrow, instead, they will send billions of nanobots, blood cell-size scanning machines through every capillary of my brain to create a complete noninvasive scan of every neural feature. The nanobots will capture the locations, interconnections and contents of all my nerve cell bodies, axons, dendrites, pre-synaptic vesicles, neurotransmitter concentrations and other relevant neural components. Using high-speed wireless communication, the nanobots will then communicate with each other and with other computers that are compiling the brain-scan database. Just think! A syringe full of nanobots is the only flashlight required to shine a light on every detail of our knowledge, skills and personalities, allowing them, and me, to be copied into a file and stored in a computer.
After all, what’s the difference between my own brain enhanced a trillion-fold by nanobot-based implants, and a computer whose design is based on high-resolution scans of the human brain and then extended a trillion-fold?
An intelligent being, any living creature really, is a type of computer. A human being is a program designed to run on a particular hardware called a body. In principle, the program corresponding to a human being could be stored in books, on a computer disks, in RAM, not just in the brain of a particular human body.
Looking out the window once again, I see the faint glow of dawn on the horizon. Morning comes and I have not slept. How could I, knowing what’s waiting for me?
At this point, there’s no turning back. Good-bye, and thank you for everything.