Hi all, Don't know if anyone can answer but is it really possible to upload our consciousness onto a computer hardrive, and achieve Transcendence? I believe there was a movie with Johnny Depp, in the lead, that looked at this, but as I haven't seen it, I really don't know what treatment this topic got. Anyway I hope someone will take pity on me, and answer my question, because when it comes to Transcendence, its really the Elephant in the lounge room. Cheers Pasquale.

It's too bad that movie was kinda lame. But the idea is not. If one is a functionalist about mental states, including consciousness, then one believes that our mental states can be instantiated in any system that has the same functional roles as the functional states in our brain that instantiate (or are) our mental states. Functional roles are basically what the states do. What a clock does is keep time. A clock can be implemented by a digital device, a bunch of gears, or even sand or water set up in the right system (but would they be the same clock?). Functionalists think our desires, beliefs, sensations, emotions, pains, memories, etc. can be understood in terms of what they do--that is, the way they take input information, organize it, and interact with each other, to cause output mental states and behavior. Computers helped motivate this theory of mind, and if certain versions of it are right, then our mental states could be implemented in complex enough computer systems, presumably connected to either a robot body in the real world or a simulated body in a matrix world.

However, it's not clear why, if this were possible, it would thereby allow Transcendence, whatever that might mean. It might allow one to survive the death of one's body, which might be nice, at least for a while (there are problems with immortality, though!). In the movie, Depp's character also merged his consciousness with the world wide web or something, and maybe that would allow some sort of transcendence, but think about how hard it is to keep just a little bit of the real world in your consciousness. Unless the functional capacities of our downloaded consciousness expanded in some important ways, I'm not sure what it would be like to become one with the (informational) universe. Seems like it would be noisy.

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