what to change? (was: Posthuman)

Perry E. Metzger (perry@piermont.com)
Mon, 28 Jul 1997 10:21:00 -0400 (EDT)

Yakwax2@aol.com writes:
> Since we seem to be rapidly approaching a time when we will be able to alter
> our own bodies via genetics, nanotechnology, etc. I have a simple question:
> What will you change?

I don't think I'll be changing anything -- or rather, I suspect I'll
be changing everything. The question is much like someone in 1850
asking "given that some time soon we will be able to build large
steam driven wheeled tractors shaped like horses to pull around our
carriages, what color are you going to paint yours?"

The human body is all fine and well for its purpose, and has lots of
neato design elements, but frankly, I don't see much of a point in
retaining a body if V.R. gets good enought that one can transfer one's
locus to a large well constructed and much more survivable computer
system. If you need to walk around and for nostalgia reasons you want
the vehicle to look like a human body, you can operate or teleoperate
a robotic simulacrum of one that will likely be far stronger and more
capable anyway.

I'm sure there will be those who for whatever reason who simply make
minor modifications to their bodies or no changes at all -- just as
there are those who, to this day, use horse drawn carriages as a
primary means of transportation. The species is likely to fragment and
differentiate into a thousand directions, and it would be surprising
if some people didn't retain "ordinary" human bodies. However, the
advantages of switching to a substrate where I am no longer
constrained by current limits on mental power, memory, sensory inputs
and such seems to be way too compelling.

I may (for at least a time) prefer to spend some CPU cycles convincing
my own "virtual senses" that I am in fact sitting inside an ordinary
body still surrounded by a "virtual world", (one has speculative and
possibly unlikely visions of doing one's work on the veranda of a
pretty estate in perfect spring weather, visiting friends in their
"houses", etc.), but in reality I might be instantiated in a giant
nanocomputer floating out in space somewhere, surrounded by a cloud of
defensive systems, construction nanobots, nanofactories, etc.

Of course, this is all speculation. Five seconds in to a
trillion-times-faster life/thoughtstyle, I might discover something
far more interesting than being a giant nanocomputer. Indeed, I almost
certainly will. However, from my current perspective, that is one
possible short term destination. (Necessarily a very limited
perspective, too -- who can even envision the changes in question at
more than the crudest level? This is far, far worse than a Roman
philosopher speculating on the nature of 20th century life... -- it is
even far worse than a cat speculating about what a human's life is