sci/fi question with hopefully sci answers

Jun 5, 2013


Discussion by: poseyjt
I was thinking the other day about science fiction/science and our future as a human species.  Already so much is possible if we just put our faith in God, :p jk had to throw that in there to get a rise out of some of you…  Already so much is possible through science, heart transplants, antibiotics etc etc etc.  

As technology improves I see some possibilities for our future baring a comet, or increased resistance to science from religious nuts etc.  Assuming all goes well, I think we will have 4 probable outcomes which all may become options.
1. They idea not to mess with “nature” etc.  
2. Improved health through medicine, replacing organs, and eventually improving on them, and possibly being able to clean up cells and slow or reverse aging.
3. More like and android body type idea, extra strong etc better than our current muscles
4. Uploading our “selves” into a matrix like computer.  As there is no super-natural imho i think “we” will be able to be duplicated at some point down the line.
So to my questions, one hopefully fun, and one hopefully thought provoking.  I came to something of a conclusion for the second but would like to hear other thoughts.  Tried this with my family but some are still religious and spirit kept coming out as an answer.
1. Which would you chose or prefer? And yes some of them overlap 🙂
2. Especially in 3,4 would we cease to be ourselves and become something else?  I’m mainly asking of the moment of say uploading “me” into the computer, or putting my brain (and whatever other necessary parts) in the new super android body?
I think it’s interesting as to what makes us, us.  As to my answers i came up with i think a natural progression would be from 2 to 3 to 4 possibly able to jump back and forth between 3,4.  As for my thoughts on my second question.  I think we are literally changing into a different person every instant anyway.  Our thoughts change and evolve, we learn, we forget, and our bodies change, we get older, our atoms are swapped out etc. and yet we still consider “us” “self”.  I’m guessing I would be me, and yet changed just like is happening now.  

25 comments on “sci/fi question with hopefully sci answers

  • 1
    Uriel-238 says:

    One of the notions that came up when Roddenberry invented the Star Trek transporters (the models for the shuttles weren’t ready yet, and the transporter turned out to be a neat narrative device to get the heroes to the action instantly) was this:

    When you’re beamed through the transporter, it essentially creates a duplicate of you from the same matter as you, but we couldn’t be certain that the energy that made up each atom was used for the same atom at the other end. So it’s not necessarily the same “you”. From everyone else’s perspective, the guy at the destination end of the beam is you, but from your perspective, you cease to exist, and this other guy, who is identical to you persists believing that he is you.

    Anyway, for this reason Dr. McCoy did not like transporters much.

    The same problem happens, of course, if we were able to save a brain-print, even one with atomic accuracy, and then use that to replicate or simulate you in a cybernetic organism. The only way you could ensure the identity was the same is if you used a surgical means to transport the brain from one body to the other.



    Report abuse

  • 2
    Uriel-238 says:

    Regarding the question of whether cybernetics will change us? Of course it will. We’re already being changed by the non-cybernetic digital technology that we have, and were changed when we developed mechanical technology to automate otherwise tedious tasks.

    The question is, will the changes to us be detrimental, more than they are beneficial.

    Hard to say. Futurists like to posit the Technological Singularity, and the end result of it. Contemporary robotics experts doubt an actual cybernetic uprising (there’s no magical point of sentience that we have to worry about). But there is a likelihood that we will automate so much that the entire populace will be able to focus on art and recreation. And some suspect that we will shortly (in evolutionary time) die off after that from a failure to reproduce, especially if we can technologically simulate the joys of sex and raising kids better than the actual activities of having sex and raising kids.

    The same futurists say this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that our legacy in the form of our robotic creations will go on to explore the universe. But that’s a philosophical debate.



    Report abuse

  • 3
    Jos Gibbons says:

    I think we will have 4 probable outcomes which all may become options.
    1. They idea not to mess with “nature” etc.
    2. Improved health through medicine, replacing organs, and eventually improving on them, and possibly being able to clean up cells and slow or reverse aging.
    3. An android body type idea, extra strong etc better than our current muscles
    4. Uploading our “selves” into a computer.

    Which would you chose or prefer? And yes some of them overlap 🙂

    An advantage to 4 is that it massively reduces our energy requirements. Even if I want to spend all my time on holidays in exotic locations, I don’t use up any air miles. A further advantage is that we can easily make the virtual achievements of options for 2/3 whatever we want. I’m confused what 1 means, but I’m guessing it’s an environmentalist concern, which notably matters today even if you only care about humans. A world where our entire species has become virtual is one in which you’d actually have to care about other species to want to address environmentalism, except e.g. if changes threaten our computers.

    Especially in 3,4 would we cease to be ourselves and become something else? I’m mainly asking of the moment of say uploading “me” into the computer, or putting my brain (and whatever other necessary parts) in the new super android body?

    Philosophers have made many attempts to design criteria for telling whether or not a scenario doesn’t change who a person is, and the various thought experiments considered don’t give the same answers for different criteria, and no one criterion always gives answers that feel right (though of course that depends on what you think). A world in which it’s physically impossible for some scenarios to occur might be one in which the continuity of consciousness is better defined than it would be in other universes. We shouldn’t be surprised if our own world isn’t like that, e.g. because our “consciousness” isn’t even unified anyway. Personally I prefer to say that, if a mind is defined as continuous with a previous one if it has inherited its memories, and if the scenario involved keeps the number of such minds to at most 1 at all times, the “still me” concept is well-defined, and the question is answered in the affirmative.

    Incidentally, teleporters (should we ever invent them) pose an “is it still you” question (especially if there are temporarily “two of you”) that never arises with virtual teleporters in scenario 4, which would likely rely on virtual teleportation. Whether or not the post-4 me is really the pre-4 me, at least the post-4 me keeps its identity subsequently.

    I think we are literally changing into a different person every instant anyway. Our thoughts change and evolve, we learn, we forget, and our bodies change, we get older, our atoms are swapped out etc. and yet we still consider “us” “self”. I’m guessing I would be me, and yet changed just like is happening now.

    The paradox of the ship of Thesesus comes to mind.



    Report abuse

  • 4
    Alan4discussion says:

    Assuming all goes well, I think we will have 4 probable outcomes which all may become options.

    1. They idea not to mess with “nature” etc.

    One is a non-option! All living things “mess with nature”, as part of life processes and ecological evolutionary activity.
    The idea that some forms interactions with nature are “messing” and others are not is an illusion! We have been messing with nature since our ancestors were single celled organisms.

    The relevant question, is: “How we interact with the natural world and what consequences will arise?”



    Report abuse

  • 5
    SaganTheCat says:

    one thing to consider is not how will “the human race” change in a liniar view but what it means for evolution (even non-biological).

    if technology allows us to either do nothing, improve/repair biological selves, have mechanical bits added or upload into a computer, does it create an oppourtunity for an evolutionary split? could you end up with 4 different types of sentient being competing for resources without even realising it?

    the computer upload option could spell the a dead end for human genes. a human consciousness held on a chip, doesn’t need to replicate. or if it does, each replica becomes the new unit of evolution while being a complete sentient organism in itself (like a gene but with more emotions). no need for having children in the old sense. of course you might want them but they’ll be simulated for you by the computer. could ex-human minds-on-chips find themselves in competition with simulated minds they’ve created? or maybe go extinct leaving a purely synthetic, non-living form of consciousness existing within a machine?

    would they even be aware it happened?

    has it happened already…?



    Report abuse

  • 6
    Dom 2061 says:

    I would choose uploading but only IF it were practically perfect and kept every nuance of memory and experience. Once ” inside” we might be able to prune and excise parts of our personality we don’t like or painful memories, but I think a “reset” button would be wise so that we don’t forget why we are who we are.

    But I think we would cease to be us, if not straight away then over time. No doubt many of us would choose experiences which are not open to humans: seeing or feeling different parts of the EM spectrum; never experiencing hunger, thirst or pain; heightening pleasure; perfect recall and on and on. It’s impossible to predict whether we would regret that loss or never look back.

    I believe that our sense of self relies heavily on what we experience as continuity. As you said, our component parts are in a state of continual flux so the ” us” that was a seven year-old child no longer exists, yet that is not how it feels to us. I suspect it’s a timey-wimey thing that may or may not turn out to be an illusion. I keep thinking of the robot child in the film, “I, robot”, who is trapped beneath the ice for thousands of years just… being. Not impatient, not uncomfortable, not frightened, not even waiting: those are human or biological constructs and it is hard to imagine not having them.

    As a child, I always assumed that the transporter in Star Trek literally moved the crew atom by atom and didn’t understand the concept of transmitting the information only. This “information” model poses some conundrums of its own. Firstly the “from here” crew member is effectively annihilated as the “to here” copy is constructed – is this murder? If a copy of the information is retained in a memory bank, it could act as a restore point so that, (if something goes wrong like illness or an accident), a quick transporter jump can reset you to a previous state – is this immortality? If a transported person commits a crime and can be reset to a point before the commission – is this innocence?

    The concept of “messing with nature” is so often phrased as, “playing god”, and I think people who subscribe to it see a distinction between deliberate interference and the inevitable effects we have on the world as a by-product of simply existing. Conveniently, though, they never seem too bothered about having an appendix removed or taking an antibiotic or flying in a glorified tin can at 600 miles per hour. Doing god-things can be quite useful.



    Report abuse

  • I think climate change and the end of fossil fuel will send us for quite a loop. That will require all our attention for a while. With chaotic climate, predicting the next growing season, evolving tolerant crops, husbanding water, minimising energy and fertiliser use will command our attention. There will be a horrible period of population crash. This will necessarily be violent. We will be losing the prime delta farmland of the world to rising seas to make things worse.

    There are so many global problems bearing down on us that humans seem not only incapable of solving but unwilling to try (e.g. aquifer pollution, water and air pollution, soil erosion, species extinction, population growth, invasive species, sloppiness about allowing artificial genes into the wild, refusal to recycle, old diseases coming back, extreme power/wealth inequality, conspicuous consumption, fundamentalist superstitions, pollution of the Internet with deliberate crap).

    We humans are built to handle very simple problems — divvying up meat efficiently in a small tribe, tracking where and when to find mogongo nuts. The sort of problem we are trying to tackle completely overwhelms our analogy-intuition-emotion-based brain.

    My hope is on cleverer and cleverer computers that can accurately predict what will happen if we behave in various ways. If these have enough integrity, they may be be sufficient to overcome short-sighted selfish thinking. A little further out, these computers may take on the job of salesman to persuade everyone individually why they should accept the computer’s consensus optimal solution. It is only a short step further until computers are running the world, and we are the doddering passengers. This is embarrassing, but the lesser evil. Our brains simply don’t have the capability to think globally, other than in a fuzzy feel-good way. There is just too much detail to absorb and too much narrow self interest.



    Report abuse

  • 8
    canadian_right says:
    1. Is my first choice. I enjoy my body, and if it is a health body and mind I’ll be happy in it forever.
    2. Is my second choice. If my body wears out I’ll settle for an artificial body.

    3. No way. Most people starve, I like technology, and you can “mess with nature” without messing up the whole planet.

    4. No thanks, I’ll play video games now and then, not as a full time gig.



    Report abuse

  • 9
    OHooligan says:

    There’s a SF short story that I can’t quite recall – maybe someone will be able to identify it from this brief outline:

    Teleporting is commonplace (Star Trek Transporter technology) and people use it all the time. One day our protagonist steps into the Teleport booth and hits the button, and he’s copied to his destination as usual. But this time he finds that he’s still there, in the booth. And then phase 2 of the process kicks in, destroying the original, and he has long enough to wonder how many copies of himself have died already this way…..

    So, no, I’m with Bones McCoy on this one.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    finchfinder says:

    Interesting ideas but from a world view a bit homocentric. In Star Trek war is no more on Earth and also there doesn’t seem to be any religion. Was Roddenberry an atheist?



    Report abuse

  • 11
    QuestioningKat says:

    Hate to say it, because it sounds pessimistic, but I think Roedy is possibly right. There will have to be a huge population decline and it will be ugly. Those that survive will either need to be biologically fit to survive the changing climate, wealthy, or clever is some sort of way. Those that survive may not be the best and brightest. People, hundreds of years from now, may be limited to knowledge because computers will come and go and information will be lost. I do see people benefiting from organ transplants, etc – at the expense of someone stronger and poorer. Since people are unwilling to start making changes to prevent some of what is predicted, laws and restrictions will become stronger and will eventually infringe certain rights that people take for granted today. I see less global travel as well which in turn will begin to erode the education of most all societies. I agree with the uploading of selves in to a digital world. This will prove very useful at controlling the masses.



    Report abuse

  • 12
    Alistair Blackhill says:

    If you had anything to do with modern robotics (i.e.sevicing current model cars) youl’d not want anything to do with an android body, since medical costs and competent mechanics are getting pretty close to par at the moment.

    To adjust the population, we’re looking at an investment in aged care and a re-work of education over the next three generations where a lot of us will be putting effort into ensuring a smaller number of kids get competent.

    We’ll just have to live and die with an aging population for a while, then make sure our social culture isn’t as emotivly driven and doctrine based so it doesn’t swing out of control during the process. There is a lot that can be done to keep older people healthy, and one is diet.



    Report abuse

  • 13
    mmurray says:

    In reply to #7 by Roedy:

    I think climate change and the end of fossil fuel will send us for quite a loop. That will require all our attention for a while. With chaotic climate, predicting the next growing season, evolving tolerant crops, husbanding water, minimising energy and fertiliser use will command our attention. There will be a horrible period of population crash. This will necessarily be violent. We will be losing the prime delta farmland of the world to rising seas to make things worse.

    There are so many global problems bearing down on us that humans seem not only incapable of solving but unwilling to try (e.g. aquifer pollution, water and air pollution, soil erosion, species extinction, population growth, invasive species, sloppiness about allowing artificial genes into the wild, refusal to recycle, old diseases coming back, extreme power/wealth inequality, conspicuous consumption, fundamentalist superstitions, pollution of the Internet with deliberate crap).

    Nicely put. The political consequences of all this are also likely to be very nasty as well. Our current democratic freedoms and human rights rest on a stable economy.

    Michael



    Report abuse

  • 14
    DavidXanaos says:

    I wold most like to upload my mind into a boddy makeup of artificial cells (nanites) that i can countschesly controll.
    Ones that will retain my mind storred in a redundant fassion, kind a like a raid array just wirh higher redundancy, so that as long lets say, 20 % of my body mass survives an accident, it can fully regenerate and all data that make up my mind are not lost.



    Report abuse

  • 15
    TanyaK says:

    Someone famous – can’t recall who, exactly – once said something to the effect “why are there so many robots in fiction, yet none in reality”.

    The reason is that robots like the oft-mentioned ‘Commander Data’ are just fiction – Data was played by a man. It seems almost absurd to presume that an electronic device can demonstrate consciousness, especially once one has read Shadows Of The Mind by Roger Penrose.



    Report abuse

  • 16
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #15 by TanyaK:

    Someone famous – can’t recall who, exactly – once said something to the effect “why are there so many robots in fiction, yet none in reality”.

    The reason is that robots like the oft-mentioned ‘Commander Data’ are just fiction – Data was played by a man. It seems almost absurd to presume that an electronic device can demonstrate consciousness, especially once one has read Shadows Of The Mind by Roger Penrose.

    Various people are working on that!!

    http://asimo.honda.com/

    http://www.space.com/10772-robonaut-2-nasa-space-droid-details.html



    Report abuse

  • 17
    DavidXanaos says:

    In reply to #15 by TanyaK:

    Someone famous – can’t recall who, exactly – once said something to the effect “why are there so many robots in fiction, yet none in reality”.

    The reason is that robots like the oft-mentioned ‘Commander Data’ are just fiction – Data was played by a man. It seems almost absurd to presume that an ele…

    That depends on your definition of “electronic device” if you mean only devices that operation using classical bits 1/0 you may be probably right, there is a interesting paper on arxiv http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9502012v1.pdf that makes a good argument for why our mind is probably based on quantum computing.

    But there are approaches to build solid state devices that can compute with qbits, in my definition such system also are “electronic devices” and QM tells us that give sufficiently large such machine we could fully emulate any other QM system including a human brain.

    This would not be a simulation as we currently understand when talking about simulating gravity a or hydrodynamics in a classical computer, but it would be a true emulation of the quantum system.

    So every and all properties of the emulated object would be QM reality, and I’m quite sure that would include the existence of a consciousness.

    So it is only a mater of time until we can create sufficiently complex artificial systems that would as well have a consciousness.



    Report abuse

  • 18
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #10 by finchfinder:

    . Was Roddenberry an atheist?

    Not as far as I can tell from the episode in which the crew find themselves involved on a primitive planet, where there appear to be a revolutionary bunch of sun-worshipers, who – as I recall – seemed initially to be the Bad Guys. But then it was revealed that it wasn’t The Sun, it was The Son!!!! So they were the Good Guys after all, and Kirk made some soppy comment about wishing he could stay to see It All Happening Over Again. Atheist? Doesn’t seem like it. Or maybe he was just playing to a market.

    Anyone able to ID the episode in question?



    Report abuse

  • 19
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to #18 by OHooligan:

    The episode is called [Bread and Circuses](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_Circuses_(Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series).

    Here is the clip you referred to.

    According to the British Humanist Association, Roddenberry’s family were churchgoers but he became an atheist as a teenager.

    When Star Trek began…

    Some Christians wanted a chaplain on board the ship, and when characters died, he was asked to give them Christian funerals. But Gene Roddenberry thought it would be illogical to have a Christian funeral for Mr Spock (when he was was temporarily “killed”), and he wanted us to realise that our values and ideas do not depend on religious dogma. He pointed out that it was illogical to expect everyone from Earth and other planets to share the same beliefs in the 24th century.

    The old Enterprise always seemed to be encountering aliens who thought they were gods. And when The Next Generation started, it was Roddenberry who came up with the character of [Q](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_(Star_Trek), sort of the ultimate flawed god in the Trek universe, against the wishes of the writers and producers, who didn’t want the new series to go in such a fanciful direction, but to be more realistic.

    Later on, there’s an episode in which Capt. Picard is mistaken by a bunch of proto-Vulcans for a god (Who Watches the Watchers), and has to convince them he’s mortal so they are not “sent back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear“.

    Horrifying.



    Report abuse

  • 20
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #18 by OHooligan:

    The episode is called Bread and Circuses.

    Thanks Katy. Greatly appreciated – OH



    Report abuse

  • Uriel-238:

    “One of the notions that came up when Roddenberry invented the Star Trek transporters (the models for the shuttles weren’t ready yet, and the transporter turned out to be a neat narrative device to get the heroes to the action instantly) was this:

    When you’re beamed through the transporter, it essentially creates a duplicate of you from the same matter as you, but we couldn’t be certain that the energy that made up each atom was used for the same atom at the other end. So it’s not necessarily the same “you”. From everyone else’s perspective, the guy at the destination end of the beam is you, but from your perspective, you cease to exist, and this other guy, who is identical to you persists believing that he is you”

    iv’e often toyed with the thought that this would make for a somewhat “interesting” form of suicide.

    if one wanted to commit suicide, they could simply jump into a teleporter, cease to exist, and an identical copy of them would pop out the other side thinking “shit… didn’t work!”

    at which point he would promptly jump back in, cease to exist, with an identical copy of the previous copy thinking “damnit!!”, and so forth.

    until finally the power buffer (or whatever sci fi ish term ya wanna make up) craps out and he’s stuck there at the end of the daisy chain of all these previous successful suicide attempts thinking “crap, just my luck…we did have a good run though…”

    Uriel-238:

    “The same problem happens, of course, if we were able to save a brain-print, even one with atomic accuracy, and then use that to replicate or simulate you in a cybernetic organism. The only way you could ensure the identity was the same is if you used a surgical means to transport the brain from one body to the other.”

    actually, the most convincing idea iv’e come across concerning the “brain transplant” concept, involved replacing individual neurons (or groups of them) at such a slow rate, that there would be no interuption in our stream of contiousness, effectivly transitioning to an artificial brain without us even noticing.



    Report abuse

  • 22
    Nemesis says:

    In reply to #1 by Uriel-238:

    One of the notions that came up when Roddenberry invented the Star Trek transporters (the models for the shuttles weren’t ready yet, and the transporter turned out to be a neat narrative device to get the heroes to the action instantly) was this:

    When you’re beamed through the transporter, it essen…

    You are not the same person in material terms that you were ten years ago, no-one is. Yet we are still ‘us’. Explain that, Einstein. 😉



    Report abuse

  • 23
    Spraguelle says:

    the issue here about “sci-fi” is that sci-fi, is well “fiction”, and so the options you’ve generated are subject to this very artificial “schema”…if there is an option set for humans it is way more complex than that, and also much larger.

    one question that I would posit here i that, why sci-fi, when you can be awed by real science…?

    This is a fundamental human problem, wanting something “spectacular”, this may have a parallel with “the god delusion”.

    For instance recently an operation was developed called an “Articular Cartilage Restoration” – it has significant impacts for people like me, severed cartilage, and sports fans, probably what drove it’s development (hypothesis???) so maybe pro-sports is good for science hehehe

    My point, isn’t this amazing, 100 years ago, it would have been considered a “miracle”, I think it’s “awesome, really.

    ACM’s are also really awesome, and they’re real.

    One trend that seems to arise in sci-fi, is “demonisation” of sci-fi, mixed messages, bordering on the shizoid –
    promo-etheus; I have never been so disappointed, this thing made Predator look like the dis-kovery channel…

    really an advanced race of engineers is going to take the time to engineer some, globula, that turns into a snake,
    woohoo, just add oil monsters, and then i guess they were enjoying an engineer shake in the engineer rec room, and sector
    three started to erupt with, “ebolak snackles” really, you don’t think they would have had serious, intelligence protocols, that could have seen these things forming way ahead…??, man am I really even writing this, c’mon???

    Screamers and Teddy Bears from heck, more science bashing, the devil in the machine motif, see Event Horizon, Screamers, Terminator lalala

    My favorite lately though is “Robot and Frank”.

    1. They idea not to mess with “nature” etc.

    Well that sounds like “SUPERSTITION” – that’s what we do, we’re scientists, we work (mess -like in prom-etheus? you mean) with nature. i would like to think that we can develop more and more compassionate ways to do science – sometimes the whole science and experimentation – is depressing, but the fact of the matter is that many animals have died for our sake -so the least we could do was “good science” – and maybe try to cleanup this garbage pit we call home.

    1. Improved health through medicine, replacing organs, and eventually improving on them, and possibly being able to clean up cells and slow or reverse aging.

    yes. longer lives, better quality of life for all, so more smart, healthy scientists, hopeful!

    1. More like and android body type idea, extra strong etc better than our current muscles
      Already happening. I think timelines are, well, exaggerated, but yeah we may end up being
      part machine.

    2. Uploading our “selves” into a matrix like computer. As there is no super-natural imho i think “we” will be able to be duplicated at some point down the line.

    Why would we want to do that? i don’t see that happening. If we live long enough we may develop, “modeled” brains, but it is more likely they would be made from some type of bio-mass, like a pig’s ass. I think some politicians have …..

    Spraguelle



    Report abuse

  • 24
    Spraguelle says:

    Actually the film you are referencing vis a vis (frozen beneath the ice for aeons) is A.I. -artificial intelligence, with Haley Joel Osment -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.I._Artificial_Intelligence… *In reply to #6 by Dom 2061:*

    I would choose uploading but only IF it were practically perfect and kept every nuance of memory and experience. Once ” inside” we might be able to prune and excise parts of our personality we don’t like or painful memories, but I think a “reset” button would be wise so that we don’t forget why we a…



    Report abuse

  • 25
    Spraguelle says:

    there is such an opportunity we have in this world. however, we are throwing it away on irresponsibility. probably my last post…when a species reaches this level, and it can see the future, that is make reasonable predictions about, pollution, conflict as a basis for economy, in-bound comets; and yet does almost nothing – all it says is that this species, will not be zooming around space, because, if we did, we would probably do the same thing everywhere else…celestial competence is based on reasonable, ego-less and highly-coordinated group action – yet all that remains are artificial hierarchies, remnants from the middle ages, when we believed in giants, goblins and a flat earth, perhaps the tops of our heads are still too flat

    good luck and good night

    spraguelle



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.