Since the dawn of time, humans have been trying to free themselves of the limitations that their physical bodies have set upon them - pain, diseases, death. A new movement that's gaining ever wider popularity is now trying to wrap this age-old human aspiration into a modern, technological shell.
Labeling itself as Transhumanism, the movement believes that science will provide humans a means to develop beyond their current physical forms and that humanity will finally makes its dreams of transcendence a reality.
The basic foundation of Transhumanists' beliefs is that a person is nothing other than their own consciousness. They believe that technology will be capable of converting our consciousness into digital data and that we will be able to upload our essence into a single, eternal computer. This will enable everyone to live in a world of limitless virtual experiences and effectively achieve immortality.
Critics of the idea provide the counterargument that this immortality will only continue up until the point where no one remembers how to create a backup file anymore and the machine turns off because all technology (even the most state-of-the-art) sooner or later stops working.
Despite the opinions of numerous analysts that digitizing consciousness is nothing other than unattainable science fiction, computer experts counter with data that this is not only possible but is only a matter of time.
One of the head engineers at Google, Ray Kurzweil, recently announced that by 2045 this type of technology will be available for use.
Recently, economist Robin Hanson presented his research on what the consequences of transhumanism would be on society and economics. He imagines a world where all work is done by fleshless imitations of human minds, working in a virtual reality simulation aided by giant cloud computing networks and equipment.
The conclusion is that even if only part of the plan becomes reality, the world as we know it will break down into its component parts. According to many analysts, the idea of Transhumanists is a technological reincarnation of the millennia-old theory of mystics and philosophers that reality is just an illusion.
The main problem facing this new movement is that there are trillions of connections between the individual neurons in the brain. In order to digitally record our consciousness, all of these connections would have to mapped out, something that is far off from our current capabilities.
At the present rate of advancements in computer technologies, this will be possible in about 8 decades but then only if the brain is already dead and is dissected. And even then it won't be possible to figure out how exactly it functions.