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Can You Live Forever? Maybe Not–But You Can Have Fun Trying

Posted: January 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm


Editor's Note: Carl Zimmer, author of this month's article, "100 Trillion Connections," has just brought out a much-acclaimed e-book, Brain Cuttings: 15 Journeys Through the Mind (Scott & Nix), that compiles a series of his writings on neuroscience. In this chapter, adapted from an article that was first published in Playboy , Zimmer takes the reader on a tour of the 2009 Singularity Summit in New York City. His ability to contrast the fantastical predictions of speakers at the conference with the sometimes more skeptical assessments from other scientists makes his account a fascinating read.  

Let's say you transfer your mind into a computer--not all at once but gradually, having electrodes inserted into your brain and then wirelessly outsourcing your faculties. Someone reroutes your vision through cameras. Someone stores your memories on a net of microprocessors. Step by step your metamorphosis continues until at last the transfer is complete. As engineers get to work boosting the performance of your electronic mind so you can now think as a god, a nurse heaves your fleshy brain into a bag of medical waste. As you--for now let's just call it "you"--start a new chapter of existence exclusively within a machine, an existence that will last as long as there are server farms and hard-disk space and the solar power to run them, are "you" still actually you?

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