The Extraordinary Future
Author: Winfred Phillips

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NOTE: This is not a typical entry for this website. It is a book-length manuscript with no interactivity. However, the content deals with important issues and we believe some or all of it can make a valuable contribution to course curricula -- especially in philosophy.

We're living in the computer age now, but so far that fact has seemed irrelevant to the question of life after death. Sure, computers may have some place in medical technology, but they won't enable us to live forever.

Some computer scientists say this latter claim is false--that in the next century computers will enable us to live forever! We won't have to wait for our bodies to degenerate to the point where they bring about death. Prior to such a point, each of us will be able to transfer his or her mind to a robot and continue living in the robot body.

In this thesis I will examine the plausibility of the claim that mind transfer from a human to a computer (robot) will occur before the end of the twenty-first century. I seek to determine to what extent we can be confident that mind transfer will occur during the next century. To do so I will examine relevant technological issues as well as philosophical issues pertinent to this claim. If a statement is needed of the "thesis" that I will defend, it is that the authors who depict the near arrival of human-computer mind transfer are too optimistic in their prediction.

But let me say at the start that my perspective will be both sympathetic and critical. Several authors have developed a general line of argument supporting the claim of the impending possibility of human-computer mind transfer. I will examine this line of argument critically to see if it really sounds plausible. But where it does not, I will sometimes try to explore options for shoring it up. I have no hidden political or religious agenda in support of or against human-computer mind transfer. All I want to know is to what extent we can have confidence that such a thing could happen in the next century. This thesis will argue that we should not be confident.

Image by Nancy Stahl, used by permission

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The Extraordinary Future