What are the advantages of the system of immortality based on the modular principle as compared with the "classic" nanotechnological approach?
The modular approach to immortality described in my paper "The technology of immortality" summarizes the key ideas of how the immortality could be achieved using the technologies that don't as yet exist, but, on the other hand, don't contradict any fundamental laws of nature, and can, therefore, be developed in the future. These ideas first occurred to me in mid-1980s and were then included in my book "The Wish Generator" (1986)
Unfortunately, currently "The Wish Generator" is only available in Russian. If you can read Russian you can download the file
WISHGEN.ZIP, 101 Kb, which contains the Russian version of the "Wish Generator" (Text in the Cyrillic DOS encoding known as CP866. You will need a Cyrillic screen driver for DOS to read it.)
Back in 1986, living in the Soviet Union, I knew absolutely nothing about a book that was published in that very year on the other side of the globe, in United States. I only learned about that book a couple of years ago, when it had already become the classic of nanotechnological literature. That book, written by Eric Drexler and entitled Engines of Creation, also dealt with the issue of technology of immortality, but its approach was very different. Whereas I proposed periodically replacing "worn-out" body and brain modules, the author of that book envisaged continuous repairing of each cell in one and same body using nanomachines.
In my opinion, there are three inherent drawbacks to the latter approach.
Firstly, in order to preserve not only the information that constitutes a person's individuality, but its "storage medium" as well, one has to do a lot of extra work, which further complicates a task which is already complex enough as it is. Such an approach calls for intervening on the molecular level into very subtle mechanisms of cell's operation, which we still don't fully understand and may not understand for a long time to come. We should also keep in mind that working on the molecular level would require very small and very advanced nanomachines. In contrast to this, the modular approach would only require establishing a data interface with nerve fibers, without interfering in any way with the inner workings of cells. Such work could be done by relatively simple and large (as compared with nanomachines) microrobots (or cyborg-bacteria, see my new Sci-Fi novel "The NanoTech Network")
Secondly, repairing one and the same body, rather than replacing it, means that what we get as a result is a static immortality, where an immortal is considered as a certain static system that is supposed to remain identical to its earlier self for an indefinite period of time. The social consequences of such an approach would be burdening the society with people whose ways of thinking are rigid and obsolete, which will eventually result in a stagnating society.
Thirdly, with such an approach we will eventually run into the problem of memory overflow: since human brain has a limited volume, there is a certain limit to its data storage capacity which will inevitably be exhausted if a person lives long enough. There is strong evidence that when we forget something, the information is not erased in our brain, it is just suppressed. Everything we see or hear is permanently recorded into our brains, and if a person lives long enough, sooner or later a day will come when there is just no more blank space left in the brain to record new information into.
To sum up the above, all these problems occur because with such an approach the principle of selective preservation of information is not observed.
All these problems can be avoided if we consider an immortal as a system in dynamic equilibrium with its information environment, that is, as a system which not only accumulates useful information, but also, from time to time, looses useless and obsolete information, just as it naturally happens in the modular system of immortality.
Of course, from the standpoint of a nanotechnological purist, the modular system of immortality may appear to be not quite "clean", since in this case the nanotechnology will only be used for building the microrobots, while the most important part of the job will be done by a "biological" technology of cloning individual organs (brain hemispheres, in particular). The technology of cloning has already reached a fairly advanced level, and if the further activities in this field are not banned (unfortunately, there are attempts to ban it), it may well happen that there exists a certain probability (very low, but not equal to zero) that some of you, my dear readers, may eventually turn out to be immortals.
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