The premise

What would be the consequences of transferring the consciousness of a middle-aged person to a mechanical object or device (such as a robot), as opposed to another biological body?

Specifically, self awareness, inner thoughts, complete memories (implying continuity of identity), to be transferred to a machine which could function and have abilities completely different than those of a human body, and well beyond its limitations, including infinite existence

The object would be capable of storing new memories and experiences (including the transfer itself), be able to learn new things continuously, and at least match our brain's complexity (~85 billion neurons and all current synapses) including ability to imagine, and "forget" or filter memories deemed unimportant or not useful for a given situation.

This would mean that the individual would also be able to have intuition, empathy, be inspired, ecstatic, impressed, philosophical, hopeful, but also disappointed, sad, devastated, depressed, cold, or desperate, like any other human being. Another aspect: a third of our days are spent sleeping, so this will automatically increase the accumulated knowledge/experience without the need for sleep and its by-process - dream

To eliminate a controversial subject: it is given that the transfer would be instantaneous and it would terminate the biological body as soon as it is completed, and biological death is perceived by the new consciousness - observing your self from two different perspectives simultaneously is off-topic, as it implies a new consciousness, regardless of how exact the copy of "history" and personality is. The continuation of identity takes place when all sensory inputs of the new object become active

The question(s)

How can the consciousness safely adjust (psychologically) to the surrounding reality, and its own existence in general, like suppressing subconscious instincts - breathing, hunger, thirst, procreation (sex drive), and accepting the concept of endless life with overwhelming possibilities, compared to the previous mindset of embedded limitations - relatively fragile body, ever-present danger of sickness with pain, and inevitable end of life? (It must cope one way or another, but to eventually emerge without unbearable emotional distress and psychological damage)

If this adjustment is possible, is eternal existence truly desirable - with the same personality and self-accepted behaviors, reactions, and subjective defects? What would be the infinite drive or motivation for existence: fears, passions, unhappiness balanced against new notions of satisfaction or joy, abstract appreciation for new forms of art or "beauty". Or would feelings and emotions become irrelevant over time? How would "good" and "evil" transform or be perceived? What is the ultimate benefit of immortality once an individual achieves their full potential? Would a "full potential" be achieved?

I guess, this transfer would mean a fundamental change in mentality, from the known evolutionary process of genetic transfer, to continual self evolution and improvement, ... but to what end - why do we desire to live forever? Why do we want to be perpetually aware, when we don't know the meaning of our existence as it is now (minimalist suffering), contentment?

Ps. Our minds can't hope to fathom the concept of infinity - no beginning and no end, EVER ! - so we just gave it a label, not to deal with its disturbing, unimaginable magnitude (for both time and space), never mind "looking back on your life after a few trillion years, as if it were a second ago"

Research (terms used in searches):

Implications of "eternal life" -bible -religion -belief - faith immortality

Most scientific answers refer to the study (and more imminent possibility) of biological immortality

  • 1
    I don't know that we are mind and body such that our mind could be moved to a machine. I think neurologists have found that our mind-brain more or less infuses our body. Could we live without our human body? It could be said: we are bodily. Here Merleau Ponty might interest you and/or some reading in neurology. As far as "eternal" I have my doubts about what it's practical significance is. Eternity?
    – Gordon
    Sep 5, 2017 at 21:21
  • Thanks for the feedback @Gordon - I'll do some reading. About eternal life I was wondering more if it'd be a blessing (as we tend to imagine) or more of a curse
    – paul bica
    Sep 6, 2017 at 3:17
  • I can't even wrap my head around eternity
    – Gordon
    Sep 6, 2017 at 4:58
  • 1
    Hubert Dreyfus is on at least one YouTube video discussing the topic of M. Ponty and the body I think, save you having to read a lot of Ponty which may not be relevant. I mention neurology above instead of neuroscience because the book I read about the unitary nature of mind-body was written by a medical doctor/researcher but I can't remember the name of the book.
    – Gordon
    Sep 6, 2017 at 5:16

3 Answers 3


The question is mistakenly put. There is no eternal life. Even if you apply the best machine, the probability that it is destroyed is greater than zero. That means your death will happen with high probability. You cannot be sure to survive.

Further the lifetime of a universe that can supply your machine with free energy is limited.

But even in the short term, you will not remain what you were when pressed on a hard disk. It is well known that a lot of your psychological constitution and mental state depends on peripheral (with respect to the brain) organs like your heart or pituitary gland, stimulating good or bad feeling by hormones and other products of metabolism. Lack of these stimuli would change your personality in an unforeseeable way.

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm not really looking to debate the premise - Let's suppose that eternal life IS possible. Like a robot that can repair itself, and make self-improvements, can travel through space, find more resources to re-construct itself in a more durable way, and always find unlimited energy, or adapt to different forms of energy - suppose we can make this possible, somehow. The main question is what you addressed in your 3rd paragraph (very good points btw) - you have to adapt somehow because you just can die, but how to cope with all changes and still enjoy life?
    – paul bica
    Sep 19, 2017 at 1:34

Let's imagine that. You have created a robot that is running some mechanical process similar to your brain such that it responds as you would and can retrieve any memories you have of your life as you would. We know all about your brain and what it is doing and have duplicated it in a similar way inside the robot. It reports that it is you when asked and appears to behave like you. Wouldn't that be interesting to talk to a robot like that? What makes you believe that if you blew your brains out that your consciousness would transfer over to the robot? What would happen if we created five or six robots just like you? Which one would you wake up in after you died?

I suppose we could look at each other the same way, couldn't we? I have a brain similar to yours in many ways, with similar structures and things going on. I have different memories, personality, and so forth but those things can change as you continue to develop and alter over the lifespan. You can develop a brain disorder or have a head injury occur any day that could radically change your personality, access to memories, and other functions, yet presumably, you might still have some form of consciousness inside you experiencing things that might be "you" in some different way. Our brains are made of the same materials even, assuming you are not a robot or some strange alien life form from another dimension or something. I am assuming there is some sort of similar process going on inside your brain giving you some form of consiousness like I have. If I die, does my consciousness transfer over to another human or some other life form in the same way people are describing downloading their consciousness to robots and things?

I suppose there doesn't have to be any reason why I would have to end up at the same point in time where I left off this body. All of these bodies and brains could be spread out as fixed elements of the fabric of spacetime, just existing forever in some sort of fixed way. Nature could have lots of brains just like mine in some distant galaxies or eons in the future or in some other universe or multiverse whatever if it is big enough and goes on forever. Perhaps it has already done this countless other times if this whole thing is somehow bubbling around creating present moments and destroying the past and future, or if the past and future never exist and this moment is all there is (which doesn't make sense, but perhaps the time issue another puzzle to fit in).

Okay, so if we take you apart and put me back together again, perhaps with a few alterations, have we recreated your consciousness? It could be, then, if consciousness can move around in time like that and take different forms, as your brain has over your lifetime and there is some sort of live moving element or stream of experience going through it, that I could die in this body and go to another body in the past, present, or future perhaps to all bodies and conscious things that ever exist anywhere at some point. Or perhaps redo this one countless times in different forms and ways in other universes or something. Perhaps I have to go through each life, including you, one at a time. Oh my, that will take a while. I'm glad I have the power to forget some things, at least for a while anyway, as I go through these lives... if that is the case. The lab animal circuit does not look like it will be fun to go through. The horror. The horror. Of going through some of these little possible lives out there seems.. well, perhaps there is more to it on some other level that keeps us from going through some things... We could die at any moment and end up anywhere.

If nature can do it once (make this experience you are having right now through some finite material process), in whatever way it is doing it, why couldn't it ever do it over again? There may be -no escape from existence ever- if materialism is true and we are totally at the mercy of various unguided tiny particle arrangements, energy fluctuations, and such.

  • Thanks for the feedback - your points made me think at aspects I haven't considered. But just so there is no debate about the premise, suppose that in the not so distant future (the singularity is expected by 2046, or maybe 2050, based on the exponential growth in knowledge of the latest years) that we are capable of transferring our exact consciousness to a neural network, or a system that has the capacity to accept all information stored in our minds, and accommodate much more growth - let's take this as a given. (1 of 2)
    – paul bica
    Sep 19, 2017 at 1:53
  • Another subject you touched on is time alteration - this is like you mentioned, for another topic, so another constraint is that time always moves forward. What I haven't thought about is the multiple copies of you... that would imply that they will become different persons from the moment the copy is completed (new perspective and experiences with a totally different subjectivity without the ability to instantly share their experiences with the other copies (don't know how that would "feel like")
    – paul bica
    Sep 19, 2017 at 1:59
  • I just realized that both answers, yours and @Heinrich, made very interesting points, and this subject is far more complex for me to address all of them, but now I have to ponder much more aspects of this, so thank you both!
    – paul bica
    Sep 19, 2017 at 2:02
  • Suppose I told you that the singularity thing you are talking about already happened ages ago. The number you are talking about 2046 is meaningless in this state. You could just be living through a training module right now. There are different levels to it like a video game, although you aren't really competing with anyone other than yourself as you may eventually need to go through them all to see what it feels like. If you make it to the next level you may have to respawn into a less developed or disabled body and it becomes even more challenging to find you way. There is no escape. Sep 19, 2017 at 5:25

One implication to eternal life would be the end of the life insurance industry. Without death to profit from by actuarial calculation, there would simply be no need to take out term or whole-life policies. This would be one of a number of changes that would occur to scarcity economics that results in the eternal lengthening of human life.

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