I mean, if you’re into Descartes, that is.
Rene Descartes (pronounced like Day-Cart) is the person that coined the phrase ‘Cogito, ergo Sum‘, or as it’s often translated into English: ‘I think, therefore I am.‘
The phrase essentially means ‘If I am able to question whether or not I exist, then I exist in all the ways that matter‘.
Simply put: A brain in a jar is just as much as a person as a walking, breathing human is.
What if it’s not a brain in a jar though?
What if it’s an algorithm based on your previous social media output instead?
Immortality Is Real: Be Right Back
Black Mirror fans will already be familiar with this concept. The first episode of the second season, titled ‘Be Right Back’, deals with this exact scenario.
In the episode, General Hux and Peggy Carter are a couple, and no I’m not looking up the name of the actors or their characters. (Oh go on – The Editor)
Ash (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and Martha (played by Hayley Atwell) are in a serious relationship. Ash dies in a car accident, and Martha misses him so terribly that she eventually decides (somewhat begrudgingly) to take advantage of a new online service for bereaved folks.
The service, once it has her approval to do so, downloads every single online interaction that Ash has ever been involved in and uses all the information to create an algorithm that can accurately reproduce Ash’s personality.
I know what exactly what you’re thinking: Right now, you’re thinking ‘There is no way he actually knows what I’m thinking’, but right before that you were thinking something like ‘Sci-Fi sure is weird’ or maybe ‘Yeah, there’s an actual company that already does that’.
RECORD SCRATCH SOUND EFFECT GOES HERE
Oh wait – this is a written article, not a YouTube video. My bad.
Immortality Is Real: WAIT – THIS SHIT IS REAL?
There are actually already multiple companies who could offer this service.
Hanson Robotics, for instance, have created BINA48. BINA48 is a robot-bust (i.e. robotic head and shoulders) based on the physical attributes of Bina Rothblatt. Bina Rothblatt is the wife of transhumanist activist and businesswoman, Martine Rothblatt.
In an interview with Whoopi Goldberg for The View, Martine says the following about digital immortality:
Martine: ‘So, A.I.s are people too, okay – the only difference is they’re people without skin. Our videos of ourselves, Our pictures, our chats, our tweets – all of this stuff – will be combined together with a new kind of software called ‘mindware’ that will be an operating system that works the way the human mind works.‘
Whoopi then asks: ‘Is it here already?‘
Martine replies: ‘It’s coming very very quickly. You see it in BINA48, You see the beginnings of it.‘
I’m guessing that video must be kind of old, because it’s actually already here.
Immortality Is Real: The Forever Social
One company that already does this is named The Forever Social.
Because I’m sick to death (ooh, topical!) of seeing their ads on Reddit, they can write the next paragraph for me. In their own words, taken from their website:
The Forever Social provides digital immortality. Using powerful algorithms & AI, the Forever Engine uses your existing social media profiles to learn your personality, likes, dislikes, life milestones and interests. In short, it knows the ‘real you’.
Do I have to wait until I die though? Like, can I just get that algorithm and use it to write articles?
THE FOREVER ENGINE WROTE THIS ARTICLE!
Nah, just joking.
OR AM I?
You’ll never know, will you?
All jokes aside, this article wasn’t written by an A.I. – but it easily could have been. That scares the absolute crap out of me. Hell, it probably would been better structured for better readability.
Fs in the chat for my writing career, I guess!
Immortality Is Real: But are you?
Never mind if I’m real – are you? Obviously you know that you are.
But what if someone I’ve been chatting to on Facebook is actually an algorithm?
How would one even begin to prove the fact that someone is – you know – real? And is the term ‘real’ going to be offensive one day?
Take my facebook page, for example. There’s literally no proof that I’m alive beyond my daily article posts and the odd interaction I have with random readers. There are no photos of me doing anything recently. I like to keep my personal life, well, personal.
Will my asociality mean that my great-grandkids will never get to meet me?
Now that I know that The Forever Social exists, do I have a responsibility to be more active on social media?
Will humanity eventually be survived purely by algorithmic digital copies of ourselves?
Will certain pockets of the internet constantly and eternally clash about racism?
Is that our legacy? Is that what we, as humans, leave behind?
But none of this is what terrifies me.
What really terrifies me is the idea that long after humanity is doomed, long after the oceans have reclaimed the land (side note: maybe we should do something global warming one day soon), long after the final human has breathed their final breath…
…Aliens will land on this planet and the only thing they can find is the algorithm of some Brony or some Neo-Nazi dickhead or some Black Supremacist dickhead and think that THAT’S what humanity was.
I used to be terrified of Aliens. Now I just hope they know how to research things.
Immortality Is Real: Final thoughts
Descartes (still) once said: I think therefore I am.
But who defines what ‘thinking’ is?
Will some humans one day all be considered inferior due to our reliance on our physical form, when the majority of humans are digital?
Or, like in Black Mirror’s Be Right Back, might the digital version of us be uploaded into a genetic clone of ourselves?
All I know is that I’ve been trying to fit the word ‘Cartesian’ (meaning ‘relating to Descartes’ because English is stupid) into this entire article and it took me like 1000 words to finally do it.
I bet an AI could have done it in the first sentence.
Maybe, ultimately, our robot overlords will actually be other humans.
Thanks – I hate it.
But if it means I get to keep hanging out with my family – either way – perhaps the risk is worth taking.