On disembodiment


“Mind uploading” is a staple of modern futurology. We spend so much time in front of the screens already… why not extrapolate the trend? (Extrapolations: Definitely the Best Bang for Your Buck when you’re shopping for predictions! Just check out London’s horse manure problem.)

More to the point, who wouldn’t want to get rid of this ugly contraption called human body with its nasty diseases and nasty desires? To think of the freedom — the speed — the invincibility you’ll enjoy when you’re nothing but a bunch of logical states, totally independent of the underlying hardware!

Put this way, the inspiration (as so many other futurist and transhumanist inspirations) does sound quite a bit religious. Achieve the Disembodiment: lead an angelic life up in the digital heavens, leave the dust of this sinful world behind you.

I’m not saying this will never happen… or at least be attempted. Religion-tinted motivations are bound to remain a powerful force for a long long time. Besides, simply by their sheer number humans tend to exhaust the space of current possibilities, even if some routes remain relatively neglected.

Body-shedding may, one day, become a major trend — an exodus. But let me have my doubts about that.

First of all, before we seriously discuss getting rid of the body, how about we fix the most glaring problems with the body we’ve inherited?

Make it a body that doesn’t get ill and doesn’t die, a body that cures any senescence as easily and as tracelessly as it cures a day’s weariness by a night’s sleep. Make it a body that stays permanently beautiful and attractive to other human beings: we people depend on that a lot more than we’d like to admit. Even better, make the human body as flexible and expressive as is language, so we can morph — copyedit — ourselves and each other in the never-ending quest for new beauty.

In a word, let’s fully implement our idea of the human body before we decide whether we need it or not.

About this perfect-body revolution I’m a good deal more optimistic than about the no-body revolution of Mind Uploading — simply because, however imperfect, our understanding of how our body works is already more advanced than our understanding of how our mind works.