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223 MIN READ TIME

Virtual Immortality

BY ROBERT LAWRENCE KUHN

VIRTUAL IMMORTALITY IS THE THEORY THAT THE fullness of our mental selves can be uploaded with first-person perfection to non-biological media, so that when our mortal bodies die our mental selves will live on. I am all for virtual immortality and I hope it happens (rather soon, too). Alas, I don’t think it will (not soon, anyway). I’d deem it virtually impossible for centuries, if not millennia. Worse, virtual immortality could wind up being absolutely impossible, forbidden even in principle.

This is not the received wisdom of optimotechno-futurists, who believe that the exponential development of technology in general, and of artificial intelligence (AI) in particular (including the complete digital duplication of human brains in the near or mid term), will radically transform humanity through two revolutions. The first is the “singularity,” when AI will redesign itself recursively and progressively, such that it will become vastly more powerful than human intelligence (superstrong AI). The second, they claim, will be virtual immortality.

AI singularity and virtual immortality would mark a startling, transhuman world that optimotechno-futurists envision as inevitable in the long run and perhaps just over the horizon in the short run. They do not question whether their vision can be actualized; they only debate when will it occur, with estimates ranging from 10 to 100 years.

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