on Apr 15, 2016
So humanity is doomed. A few dozenYou know, I’m not really sure on the numbers, but it’s probably somewhere under 100. people are left alive in this undersea base. The surface is uninhabitable. Sooner or later these folks will starve, and that will be the end of the speciesAssuming there aren’t any other humans living in a bunker somewhere. That’s certainly possible, but there’s no way to contact them. So for the purposes of this story, let’s go ahead assume this base contains everyone still living.. Cathy gets the idea to save people by putting brain scans into a simulator and launching it into space.
Like I said in the show: To me this doesn’t save humanity. It might arguably create some new thing that’s just as interesting and important, but saving a couple dozen brain scans isn’t the same as having an ever-evolving population of reproducing organisms. The ARK is stagnation. The only good thing you can say about stagnation is that it’s preferable to oblivion.
But your average grunt-level worker – let’s call him Bob – has a problem. Bob doesn’t want to sit here in the dark, slowly starving to death. Or freezing to death. Or slowly going mad from being forever trapped in a small base at the bottom of the ocean of a ruined world, never again to feel the sun on his face or the smell of wet grass after a rainstorm. He wants some other option. Catherine is offering to scan his brain so it can live on, but Bob knows that after the brain scan, he’ll still be here in sucktown.
Bob very much wishes he could live in this simulated world. And so he gets the idea into his head that there’s only ever one version of him in the world. If he kills himself, then the “real” Bob – or perhaps the “current” Bob – will be the one in the robot. I’d love to know how Bob’s mental model works, here. Does he think that he’ll shoot himself in the head, and then suddenly find himself in a robot or whatever?
It sounds like a strange idea to me, but that’s how he sees it. And to be fair, this metaphysical shit can be really tricky sometimes. It’s hard enough to consider this rationally when presented with various ethical dilemmas at the best of times. So when you’re half-mad and facing a lingering, hopeless death, it’s probably easy to bend your thinking in ways that will give you hope for the future.
Having said all that, this would make for an interesting thought experiment for the various Bobs in this undersea base. If Bob and Carl both agree that killing your meat body should make the copy into the “real” you, then Carl could test this hypothesis for himself. Once Bob is dead, go over to robo-Bob and tell him what happened. Ask him if the demise of his physical body impacted him in any way. Ask him if he remembers killing himself. I imagine that Robo-Bob’s answers really ought to give Carl something to think about.
(Yes, I’m aware that their goal is actually to kill themselves before the copy is up and running. I’m just playing around with the idea.)