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The Singularity and Personal Identity

The advancement of technology has seen the unlimited exploration of what human beings can achieve in the wake of sophisticated innovation. The invention of the computer gave rise to Artificial Intelligence (AIs) which is equal to a human brain. It receives, stores, and processes information. The debate on the ability to transfer human consciousness to the computer has increased. This is credited to the increasing efficiency with which AIs have proven they can emulate the mind of a human being. This involves transferring an individual’s knowledge and complete state of mind to a supercomputer. Afterward, the computer can simulate the brain and similarly process the information to the original brain. Such an advancement leads to whether the uploaded brain can maintain its identity. The uploaded person will be able to maintain their complete personal identity and function as previously. This is because personal identity is founded on consciousness, the human brain can transfer consciousness and can merge and function with computers.

The rapid advancement of technology brings in the issue of singularity. Kurzweil (369) argues that this rapid growth will prompt the merging of humans and machines to achieve singularity. In other words, the article supports merging the human brain with computers under the impression that it will help humans exist forever. Kurzweil (373) says, “Because the enormous capabilities to overcome age-old problems is on the horizon, there may be a tendency to grow detached from mundane, present day concerns.” the author brings technology at the center of solving the problems facing human beings. He states that by merging human consciousness with computers, there is an opportunity to solve the challenges of short-lasting identities disrupted by death. The author further agrees that human beings cannot fight the rapid advancement of technology. It is, therefore, prudent that people will accept the merge willingly before the computers take over and force them to surrender their autonomy to it.

Furthermore, the transfer of the human mind and attaining singularity can be attained if the entire human consciousness has been uploaded. In his theory, John Locke talks about maintaining an individual’s identity even when their minds are being transferred to others. He says, “I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, as it seems to me, essential to it” (Locke 9). This, therefore, means that transferring an individual’s consciousness is transferring their senses, tastes, feelings, and what they perceive of the general society around them. The aspects of consciousness are always accompanying thinking. Human thoughts are what give the individual a sense of being. If all such tenets are uploaded into a computer, then it is most likely that the whole person has been uploaded. The soul and the body, according to Locke, are only existing to support what the mind is thinking about.

Therefore, uploading a person’s consciousness will enable the computer to establish a complete identity of the individual. Locke (10) says, “For, it being the same consciousness that makes a man be himself to himself, personal identity depends on that only, whether it be annexed solely to one individual substance, or can be continued in a succession of several substances.” Here, the theory establishes that human identity is governed by the question of what makes an individual remain the same. The answer points back to the processes of thought and reasoning capabilities. Therefore, if such are transferred to the computer, the functioning and the reasoning will be triggered to remain the same. The individual’s actions will likely remain the same even after the transfer. This is due to the ability of the self to control the thoughts that govern the actions. Locke gives an example of the existing body parts: if an arm is cut from the body, it is no longer part of the self because it cannot function. All the functions of the human body have therefore been centralized to the conscious. Even without the other visible parts, one can continue to function.

However, scanning of postmortem brains means that it is no longer the living individuals but the computer. Whatever the machine is doing onwards might result from a programming rather than the original actions of the human brain. This points back to the conclusion that it is hard for humans whose brains have been uploaded to the computer to maintain their identity. Despite this outstanding argument, Kurzweil, in his article, points out that the computer today behaves similarly to humans, which means that even in the future, it is likely to take over everything that a human being can do. He says, “for one thing, ‘they’ will be us so there won’t be any clear distinctions between biological and nonbiological intelligence” (Kurzweil 378). The article argues that computers will inherit the emotional abilities of human beings and will react to situations in similar manners as human beings. This makes it easier to understand that uploading the individual’s conscious mind to the mainframe computer will allow the uploaded content to regain its identity. The bigger part of human identity is reaction. If the machines can make others laugh or cry and become irritated when their claims are assumed, then it is arguable that they have their full identity.

In conclusion, the uploaded human brain will retain the individual’s full identity. The modern world is moving towards the era of singularity, which enables machines to read minds and similarly perform tasks to human beings. John Locke, in his theory, proves that identity is attached to human consciousness. The process of thought and actions depend highly on the ability to reason. If the computer can scan and absorb the contents of human consciousness and duplicate the actions and process of thought, then the individual’s identity has been maintained. The argument is echoed by Kurzweil, who identifies computers as emulators of human actions. If fed the human consciousness, they can easily pick up and keep the individual’s identity from extinction.

Works Cited

Locke, John. An essay concerning human understanding. Kay & Troutman, 1847.

Kurzweil, Ray. The singularity is near. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014.


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