I may have first read about the idea of uploading consciousness into a machine in the Gateway books by Fred Pohl, way back as a science fiction reading teenager in the ’80s. I’m just pointing this out to bolster my credentials. I’m no Johnny-come-lately to the upload party. I’ve been daydreaming about this stuff for a long time.
The Matrix was a good visualization of this idea of living in a machine-generated reality, and of course prompts much speculation of whether this could be a simulation, this world we believe we live in now. (See also David Brin’s “Stones of Significance.”)
It’s fun to think about, to imagine that uploading ourselves to the internet would lead to good times cruising out on that “Information Superhighway.” (We must never let that term die.)
Could we simulate paradise? And would we only be dreadfully bored with it? Would it make people unhappy, to not be able to have more than others? Do we choose our make-believe lives for the thrill of having something at stake? Is a lifetime of suffering but an afternoon spent in a theater watching a sad movie?
Though I’ve sometimes wished for a digital existence, a life in “the cloud,” I’m not so sure anymore. Now that the cloud has blown in, and I’ve toiled long enough inside the I/T factory, I don’t know that I’d trust myself to an existence in software. Our software systems are creaky and fragile, and it would be risky, depending on thin budgets and overworked I/T guys to maintain my incorporeal person, and a bummer to have most of my memories overwritten in the interests of copyright and copy protection.
And think about it: we still get to have some privacy in our own mind. Imagine when it’s all reduced to files on a computer, and your thoughts are all logged. Who will read those logs, and what will “they” think? What will they do? What new crimes and punishments will be created for thinking those dirty thoughts, you filthy disgusting pig? (Sing it, Bob: “If my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.”)
Is that what God is? The auditor of our log files?
Perhaps we’re already unreal enough, and only meant to be downloaded and analyzed when our program terminates.