Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?
The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.
Their descendants might damn them to it.
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Let us begin by noticing that justice, as most people presently conceive it, permits or even requires that at least some crimes be punished as far after the fact as is now possible. Take Hans Lipschis, who had far-exceeded his life expectancy by 2013, when the 93-year-old made headlines. He was living in southwestern Germany at the time. Police arrested him there. Prosecutors wanted to charge him with murders perpetrated seven decades prior. He had served as a guard at Auschwitz.