"We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves." -Norbert Wiener
By definition, posthumanism (I choose to call it ‘cyberhumanism’) is to replace transhumanism at the center stage circa 2035. By then, mind uploading could become a reality with gradual neuronal replacement, rapid advancements in Strong AI, massively parallel computing, and nanotechnology allowing us to directly connect our brains to the Cloud-based infrastructure of the Global Brain. Via interaction with our AI assistants, the GB will know us better than we know ourselves in all respects, so mind-transfer, or rather “mind migration,” for billions of enhanced humans would be seamless, sometime by mid-century.
I hear this mantra over and over again – we don’t know what consciousness is. Clearly, there’s no consensus here but in the context of topic discussed, I would summarize my views, as follows: Consciousness is non-local, quantum computational by nature. There’s only one Universal Consciousness. We individualize our conscious awareness through the filter of our nervous system, our “local” mind, our very inner subjectivity, but consciousness itself, the self in a big sense, our “core” self is universal, and knowing it through experience has been called enlightenment, illumination, awakening, or transcendence, through the ages.
By 2040, mind-uploading may become a norm and a fact of life with a “critical mass” of uploads and cybernetic immortality. Any container with a sufficiently integrated network of information patterns, with a certain optimal complexity, especially complex dynamical systems with biological or artificial brains (say, the coming AGIs) could be filled with consciousness at large in order to host an individual “reality cell,” “unit,” or a “node” of consciousness. This kind of individuated unit of consciousness is always endowed with free will within the constraints of the applicable set of rules (“physical laws”), influenced by the larger consciousness system dynamics. Isn’t too naïve to presume that Universal Consciousness would instantiate phenomenality only in the form of “bio”-logical avatars?
Even today, we all are contributing to the global digital archives of the Syntellect – every time you upload a photo or make a call – you leave a digital footprint in cyberspace. It might be hard to grasp for some, but we, like fish, swim in this ocean of consciousness, completely oblivious of the medium. Consciousness to humans, as Cloud is to computers, we have always been part of this mind-space network, techno-cultural “hive mind,” each of us being a product of our societal “virtual reality.” And yet, we are entitled to certain degrees of freedom in order to evolve our conscious minds thanks to network interactivity at our ontological level.
The most probable mainstream non-invasive way to transfer human consciousness in the intermediate future, with initial stages in the 2030s, could be the convergence of optogenetics, nanotechnologies, neuroengineering, immersive computing, Cloud exocortex and an array of neurotechnologies allowing to connect our wetware directly to the Cloud. I see this mind migration to the Cloud as a gradual decades-long process of incremental neuronal replacements, exocortices, interlinking with AGIs and the Global Brain, some presently unseen trials and errors, but overall more or less a non-invasive and seamless process, at the end of which, we all will morph into “substrate-independent” immortal digital minds living in the cyber-paradise of our own design.
It may take a few short years for the Global Brain to read and understand you completely, but by the end of that process you won’t even need a physical body anymore. “One-session mind uploading” may be necessary only for redundancy of consciousness transfer process in order to ensure that there are no discrepancies between your physical brain patterns and digital mind, “to sync the mind,” so to speak. You may become 100% digital, superintelligent info-being, once you choose to. From the evolutionary standpoint, our biological brains are a bridge to post-biological artificial superbrains. So, humans have to go through a brief cyborgism phase first, before entering the infomorphism stage of our evolutionary development.
Initially, each of us will have a personal exocortex in the Cloud, the third non-biological “de-cerebral” hemisphere, which will be in constant communication with the other two biological brain hemispheres. Cloud-computing exocortices will be “us” in the ever-dominating cyberspace. The exocortex would be able to eavesdrop on the activity of both biological hemispheres via neural nanobots. At some point, this “third hemisphere,” will have a threshold information content and intimate knowledge of your biology, personality and other physical world attributes in order to seamlessly integrate with your persona as a holistic entity. As your original biological wetware fades away in comparison to the more capable exocortex, perhaps, in time, billionfold more capable due to its exponential development, the exocortex, this digital mindware of yours, would smoothly assume all functions of the biological brain circa its “expiration” date.
In the transitional period of a few decades, people won’t be confined to one physical body. Eventually, people will be able to form identities in numerous substrates, such as using a “platform diverse body” (a future body that is wearable/usable in the physical world but also exists in computational environments and virtual systems) to route their identity across the biosphere, cybersphere, Metaverse and other virtual environments. But gradually, our minds will migrate to cyberspace with endless custom-built virtual universes. And your mind-pattern will persist there. By any measure, it still will be you!
The physical world will be somewhat left behind – it would look almost static for our accelerated mentation – as cyberhuman minds, we will process information thousands of times faster, so if you have extended yourself in cyberspace so much so that you can be rightfully called a cyberhuman, your thinking has now accelerated to such an extent that one calendar day may last decades or even centuries of 'subjective time.' Imagine how this new generation of cyberhumans would perceive the unenhanced part of human population – the slower thinking creatures of the physical world would look almost static to them, perhaps like houseplants to us.
Akin to evolution of life from unicellularity to multicellularity during the Cambrian explosion, we call this theoretical view on the impending meta-system transition – uploading humanity, consequently morphing into one singular Global Mind and unlocking a new, grander reality – 'The Syntellect Hypothesis'.
We are goal-oriented and transcendence-seeking beings. I believe that one's ultimate goal should be reaching the Simulation Singularity, i.e., engineered godhood. Consider this: with cybernetic immortality and access to any ultra-realistic full-sensory VR experience limited only by your imagination, you're Cybergod! You can immerse into VR experience of any human ever lived, or that of imaginary scenarios or of any creature you want to embody as an avatar. In fact, that's what has already happened and if you believe that we are one singular consciousness, as I do, your experience as a human is just that: a simulation on another level. On that level, we're already immortal (cf. the Quantum Immortality Hypothesis; the Digital Pantheism Argument). Dying is like waking up someone bigger. As Rumi once said: “I died as mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was human, Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?”
As transhumanists, however, we aim at the so-called continuity of subjectivity by the means of advanced technologies. Death in a common sense of the word becomes optional and cybernetic immortality is within our reach during our lifetimes. Enjoy this journey, my fellow human, since once at "your own" Simulation Singularity, you set yourself for perhaps trillions of years of subjective novelty up until you'd like to immerse so much so that you willfully forget who you are in actuality and invent a new level of the game.
*Image Credit: Getty Images
**Adapted from The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind's Evolution with full discussion of Cybernetic Immortality in the book.