The Immortality of the Soul, Body and Mind

Prospect of Eternity Technology

Most secular scientists have little patience for religion-inspired parapsychology or eternity. However, the exponential growth of technological innovation in our day has made it possible to consider that, in the not too distant future, the immortality of the body can become a reality. Some of these proposed technologies raise philosophical issues.

1. Cryonics

Cryonics is the preservation of corpses in low temperatures. Although this is not a technology intended to revive people, it is indeed intended to preserve them until some future technology may be able to resuscitate corpses. If indeed, such technology can be well developed, we need to revise the physiological criteria for death. Because, if brain death is a physiological point that cannot be returned, then the body which is currently maintained cryogenically and will be revived, is not really dead at all.

2. Termination Engineering of Aging

Most scientists are skeptical of the prospect of resuscitation of the dead, but some are more enthusiastic about the prospect of delaying death indefinitely by stopping the aging process. Scientist Aubrey De Gray has proposed several strategies for engineering the cessation of aging: their goal is to identify the mechanism responsible for aging, and try to stop, or even reverse it (by, say cell repair) (De Gray and Rae, 2008). Some of these strategies involve genetic manipulation and nanotechnology, and hence they raise ethical problems. These strategies also bring attention to eternity ethics.

3. Uploading Thoughts

If it is not possible to suspend bodily death indefinitely, it is at least possible to imitate the brain with artificial intelligence (Kurzweil, 1993; Moravec, 2003). Thus, some scientists have considered the prospect of ‘uploading thoughts’, that is, the transfer of mind information to machines. Therefore, even if the organic brain dies, the mind can continue to exist once uploaded to a silicon-based machine.

Two important philosophical issues are raised by this prospect. First, the field of philosophy of artificial intelligence raises the question: can a machine really be aware?

An actual machine can be realized, the technological prospect of uploading thoughts raises a second philosophical issue: will brain competition maintain personal identity?

If we obey the soul or body criteria regarding personal identity, we must answer it negatively. If we adhere to the psychological criteria of personal identity, then we must answer firmly, because the artificial brain will indeed continue psychologically with the original person.

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