What will happen when we meld our minds with computers? Will individuality fall into obsolescence?
- Unity. Transcendental unity of apperception, which consists in that certain coherence of apperception by which we experience everything and without which we experience nothing, gives form to the individual. Transcendental unity of apperception is, then, as the skeleton of our individuality. Will this sense of unity survive when “our thoughts” become data and processes in an artificial computer? Or will each part of our mind become as dissociable and severable as just another computer file?
- Egocentricity. Egocentricity, in the meaning relevant to this discussion, describes that certain sense that we have participated in our experiences from the first-person perspective. An egocentric perspective is as the sensory organs and musculature of our individuality. Will we retain that first-person perspective when our consciousness persists in disparate and interchangeable components of hardware and software? Which component(s), if any, will we think of as “ourselves”?
- Atomicity. Today, we tend to think of ourselves as atoms, separate from others. Atomicity is as the skin containing our individuality. When our consciousness transfers to hardware and software and those systems link directly to other such systems, will the separation between unitary, egocentric individuals dissolve?
As the skeleton, sensory organs and musculature, and skin prove necessary for the survival of individual human bodies, so unity, egocentricity, and atomicity have proved essential to individual human identities. Transhumanism projects a vision that calls the future of these necessary conditions into question.
Human identity changed with the development of writing—we gained the ability to separate our thoughts from ourselves in the form of symbols, to record those symbols in durable matter, and to exchange that matter and those ideas with others. With the development of artificial computers and their penetration into every moment of our lives, we have transferred more of our identity outside our bodies and minds. In the foreseeable future, we will link our brains directly to computers, perhaps even transfer our consciousness from carbon to silicon. When we reach that point, will individuality fall into obsolescence?