Eternal Avatar Identity?
In an unexpected article by by David Segal -- "This Man Is Not a Cyborg. Yet." -- for the New York Times (June 1, 2013), we learn that a Russian millionaire named Dmitry Itskov wants to pursue an odd project funded by his plentiful money (apparently associated with the so-called "technological singularity"):
His project, called the 2045 Initiative, for the year he hopes it is completed, envisions the mass production of lifelike, low-cost avatars that can be uploaded with the contents of a human brain, complete with all the particulars of consciousness and personality.Why? Just for the hell of it? No:
This would be a digital copy of your mind in a nonbiological carrier, a version of a fully sentient person that could live for hundreds or thousands of years. Or longer. Mr. Itskov unabashedly drops the word "immortality" into conversation.Okay, but why create this digital, possibly 'immortal' copy? In Itskov's words:
"I realized that I wouldn't be happy, just working and spending money. I would just age and then die. I thought there should be something deeper."A digital copy is something deeper? Whatever the reply to that question, I still don't quite see the point. So what if my avatar can live 'forever'? It's not me, no more than a clone of me is me. A clone would be my twin, and a digital copy is not even that close. When I die, I die, and whatever happens happens.
Perhaps Itskov believes that consciousness is distinct and separable from the brain -- i.e., the mind as soul or spirit -- and carries one's true identity. If so, does he hope to transfer it from human brain to computer hardware? But why transfer it at all in that case? What if it doesn't want to be transferred? Why not let it go wherever it goes at death?
But if Itskov doesn't believe that consciousness is distinct from the brain, then it can't be transferred, merely copied, and the copy's not my consciousness, but rather the consciousness of my silicon-based 'clone,' what good does it do me?
Or am I simply confused about this stuff?