The Digital Mind
I couldn’t, just like that, transfer the consciousness into the quantum computer, as this posed the same problem one might face if a science fiction style teleportation pod was to be invented. This problem was: not really going anywhere.
Would scanning my entire brain and recreating it within the computer successfully put me there, in the digital world, free to experience all its miracles? Possibly, yes, but that would leave the actual me in the physical world, whereas a mere copy of my consciousness would live inside the computer.
This copy, this other person, would *think* it was me, and it would possess all my memories, and from his perspective, the experiment would prove successful, but my personal eyeballs attached to my actual brain would just be able to consider his presence from the outside, with no way to magically register the environment with his, and not my own, senses.
What I needed was a way not to copy but to actually transfer my thoughts to the quantum realm without breaking the stream of consciousness even for the briefest moment.
This sounded unsolvable but I figured it out. What needed to be done was to conduct the transfer gradually, so that my brain would not notice when more and more of its functions would be performed somewhere else.
First, I would pick a brain function without which I one could function normally; so that in case something went wrong I would not condemn myself to a lifetime of suffering or die. This unimportant function could be, for example, the thing that makes your knee jerk upon hitting it with a little hammer or preferably one that compelled me look for a TV remote control in my refrigerator, or even better, the one that made me put it there in the first place.
Once I’d recreated the chosen brain function digitally, I’d switch control of it to a wifi interface and test whether my body reacted to external stimuli in the same way as it normally would.
If this test turned out positive, I’d then go for more important brain functions until ultimately all control of my body and mind would be surrendered to the digital version of my mind while none of it would still reside in the biological nervous system.
It sounded like a plan, but I came to the conclusion the death problem would not have been solved in the slightest. At some point, I would need to move over that part of my consciousness which was responsible for the aware self, and pulling the brain plug on that still did not sound like a particularly good idea. I needed to go more granular.
That was how I decided I needed to transfer my brain not function by function, nor area by area, or sector by sector, but rather, by tiny bits: I needed to go *cell by cell*.
Brain cells die and replace themselves all the time, and they do that without us noticing anything, therefore, I figured, if I did that one-by-one to all 86 billion neurons of which my biological central unit consisted, it would not make much of a difference too. Consciousness would not be broken, and, with some luck, soon all my thinking would be done externally.
But how do you precisely process just under a trillion nerve cells? The solution was to perform a little trick on the DNA in such a way, that when a brain cell died, it would not be replaced by another one of the same kind, but rather by a synthetic equivalent of it that would, in turn, be equipped with a miniature wifi interface. Said interface would communicate directly with a corresponding micro-process within the quantum software that would emulate the on-or-off state of the neuron based on registered input. In other words, a simplified and digital version of the neuron would be from then onwards responsible for performing identically to how a biological cell would work, and the one residing inside by biological brain would just serve as a relay between that and all the physical body feedback. Simple.
It worked. After three months of processing and three prototypes of gamma-ray device that induced neutron death I had a perfect model of my nervous system inside the Quantum Computer. Moreover, this model did actually handle processing of my brain functions and it was henceforth home to all my thoughts - or so I hoped, as the experience did not differ from the real thing in any measurable quantity.
Being permanently, if wirelessly, tethered to a mind that did not occupy my actual head, I came to fear a power outage or some problems with wireless communication. Therefore, the whole system was backed by two portable petrol power generators capable of activating instantly in case a blackout was detected, and no less than five redundant wifi routers that ensured decent signal strength regardless of conditions.
But *was* my brain controlled by software? To make sure, I wrote a special software module which I called Sight. It was not connected in any way to my physical body but was able to replace electrical signals coming in from the retinas in my physical eyes with digital equivalents that could contain arbitrary data. The stream of those signals coming in from the body would then be reversibly cut off in the digital brain and replaced with an artificial one. I designed a pattern of impulses that depicted a black circle on a white background and turned the whole thing on -- for a moment there was blackness; suddenly I became blind as signals from cells in my existing eyes were cut off from reaching the computer-based physical unit. But then I saw it -- the picture not exactly sharp and the blackness of it contained an ugly shade of green but I those were just technicalities to be adjusted later.
The experiment was, therefore, successful. I quickly switched back to the signal coming in from the physical eyes in my body, as the experience of seeing an unmoving, unsharp static picture proved weirdly surreal, and proceeded to write other modules: Touch, Hear, and Taste.
I quickly realized a danger in which I could put myself: if, for some reason, I, and that still meant my physical body, would cease to function - die - my thoughts digital brain would carry on working. With no way of interacting with the surroundings in the digital space, and non existent body feedback from sources such as hormones and senses, I would end up as no less than a miserable self-contained ball of thoughts hanging there forever in digital darkness.
The modules I wrote to emulate my senses would not help in such circumstances either, as no content for them to display has yet been created, and I would not be able to turn them on - so far all my interaction with the quantum realm required computer code to be typed on an actual keyboard.
Thus the next thing to which I proceeded was to code in a simple conditional check - if signals coming in from the physical body contained no information whatsoever, the system would automatically switch to an appropriate Sense module. While at it I also equipped by digital eyes with a function that blacked out the view upon receiving a certain instruction from the brain - this allowed me to be able to close my eyes and blink, even when Sight was providing content to be seen as opposed to the biological hardware and wetware.
Then I gave my virtual brain two different ways of interacting with the operating system of the computer it was embedded in. First, it could now write and edit the computer’s code just by thinking, sort of. This was achieved cleverly. The system would intercept signals coming from the digital brain (the Speech module) that would normally be responsible for carrying instructions to physical articulators of the body such as lungs, larynx, and mouth, convert them to corresponding sounds and then to text, using a library developed by one of the popular smartphone software manufacturers.
Second, I used a game-creation engine to develop a simple yet interactive 3d world, which consisted of infinite floor space and a blank background, and put a little humanoid avatar in this world. Sense modules such as Sight and Touch would enable my digital brain to experience this digital environment with genuine virtual eyes and ears while signals intercepted from the motoric functions of the brain allowed for controlling the avatar in the same way as I would normally control the physical body. In other words, I now had my own virtual reality which I could explore, perceive, touch and feel, and on top of that, I could reprogram it as I pleased without ever returning to the actual physical body.
The problem of whether I actually still needed the physical body to live was, however, more complicated than keeping the neural network going inside of a digitally simulated brain. Personality is, I figured, not just a collection of thoughts and processes taking place in a brain; it is a sum of sensory inputs, which I had already implemented, and inputs such as hormones and self-awareness. I feared that if I restricted all my thinking to merely a brain hanging isolated in the cyberspace, it would quite simply no longer be me. I had no interest in turning myself into some kind of an emotion-less super villain, or at best some skewed Spock-like cyborg being, I decided to better have these hormones in check.
Therefore I equipped the digital avatar with organs and various body substances, although this was done in a very simplistic manner. I didn’t want to make these too realistic - overly exact a simulation, for example if it included exactly how cells worked, could be prone to the same imperfections which a biological body could fall victim to, such as cancer, mental illness or death.
Rather than that, the avatar’s “organs” were simple virtual interfaces not that different from the Sense Modules I had already created. When the digital brain sent the information to, say, the pancreas, to increase insulin production, the system would intercept that signal and increase a corresponding value in the appropriate place of a table of body parameters, and then send this information back, so that the brain would “think” it happened and react accordingly. I did the same for all hormones and all processes related to various bodily fluids.
I spend a few weeks tweaking the systems until I could no longer think of any more ways to incapacitate, kill or break myself, and finally came the day of the final test. When they prepare a rocket launch, they call it a *wet rehearsal*; I called it simply Let’s See.
Let’s See 1.0 failed miserably, but that was only because just before switching all systems active pizza delivery arrived, but version 2.0 worked perfectly fine.
I redirected my senses to digital inputs from the virtual environment, and all body control to that of my simple digital avatar. Suddenly I was there - just like that, hanging out in the digital space.
Around me there were a couple of virtual screens displaying various control parameters of my physical body and the digital mind, a virtual keyboard, and another big screen for editing the simulation from within the simulation, and a big knob, hanging, just like that in the “air”, that was responsible for time warping, a feature I had implemented that would enable me to change the speed a which the simulation was running.
Apart from that, there was only empty floor and white background all around.
I noticed the danger right away: since the space I was in was infinite, it was possible to wander off away from these 3D modelled devices and completely loose track of where they were, in which case I’d could possibly end up forever traversing the virtual reality in search of any way to interact with it or anything else. I solved the issue right away by coding in a skill that let me make my equipment appear close to me whenever I decided I needed it and tested a few times to make sure it worked fine.
Tempted though I was to immediately start adding things to my new personal world, I still needed to test drive the time warping knob.
That function thing was, in theory, a super power in relation to the actual physical world outside the simulation. Since all my thoughts were now produced digitally, I could make them be calculated faster, and sync the whole simulation to the same rate, as one could make a video playing on the computer run at double or triple the normal speed at which it was recorded. The only limit for how fast it could go would be the capability of the host device, and since I was inside a Quantum Computer, that would mean *pretty fast*.
The result of all this manipulation would have profound benefits for me and how I appeared to others: my fast thinking brain would experience the virtual reality and events normally, whereas in the physical world things would run at the regular speed of one second per second. I would therefore be able to jump into the quantum realm, spend months or even years on learning new skills or developing new systems, and then emerge just minutes later; and as for others, nobody would know any better.
I did not know how such a time difference would affect me when returning the control back to the physical body, so just in case I only set the fast forward speed to double rate for one hour. If this worked, upon returning to the outside world I would check time and, hopefully, measure a just over 30 minutes difference from when I switched. When test time passed, I set the time knob back to normal and decided it was enough of a Let’s See for one time.
The whole thing was a huge success, after all: My physical body was now just an avatar for the real me, a digital me, a human 2.0, and I was able to fully immerse myself in the virtual world while completely cut off and independent from any signals or processes related to the old, biological me that currently resided on a bed in the corner of my lab, more widely known as the basement of my house in the suburbs of an ordinarily sized city.
I switched back to the input from my real eyes to have a quick glance if everything was in order on the outside, then I would gradually switch other senses and body control.
To my surprise, something went wrong - I saw complete blackness, a blackness so deep I would never be able to imagine existed.
Feeling nervous, I switched back to the virtual eyes, which, fortunately, still worked well, and checked the monitors - the signal level coming in from the physical body clearly appeared as zero across the entire board. Did I lose the connection? Unlikely, I thought, as with all the redundancy I had built into the system, that would take an exceptional, almost impossible, amount of bad fortune. But my digital mind already figured out what had happened, even though it delayed the conclusion just . My physical body was dead.