Last night I stumbled upon a recent Time magazine cover story called 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal. The article is about an event some scientists believe is upcoming, and quickly: the Singularity.
The Singularity is the point in history at which our technology—particularly computing power—becomes so advanced it changes the functional, physical nature of humanity.
Our technology is evolving faster and faster. My first desktop computer, an Apple IIe, had 64KB of memory and took up my entire desktop. My post-college laptop had 2GB of hard drive space and weighed five pounds. My iPhone stores 32GB of data and nestles in the palm of my hand. Soon enough, the exponential growth in the speed, storage capacity, and miniaturization of our computers will lead to machines that rival and then surpass the information processing ability of the human brain.
That’s when things get interesting.
Some computer scientists anticipate a time when humans could choose to upload our personalities into computers! Our thoughts and feelings, memories and hopes, would be decoupled from our organic bodies, becoming packets of digital data. Even more interesting, our consciousnesses might then be freed to network, virtually, in ways our bodies currently limit. We’d become both immortal and fully interconnected.
Imagine your Facebook page not just containing information about you, but actually being you.
Imagine not just having sex with your lover, but downloading him or her fully into you.
The implications are deep, hot, profound, literally awesome… and thus saturated with spiritual significance. Mystics throughout history, after all, have sought with great passion to overcome the duality of soul and body. Buddhist meditation, Hindu tantra, Hasidic Jewish ecstatic prayer, Christian asceticism, and Sufi Sema whirling—all these are attempts to transcend the body and actualize spirit. We seek to become complete, unbound, and wholly unified with God, the cosmos, and each other.
So what would a mystic say about a human consciousness disembodied and uploaded to a computer server, distinct yet downloadable? Is this equivalent to enlightenment? Moreover, what if someday we succeed in our current attempts to harness the power of quantum particles, turning atoms into computers? Then we could transfer the files comprising our souls into the very substance of the universe! The Hindu Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, “The universe confuses those who regard it as separate from the self.” This would literally become true.
They say the Singularity is coming.
Are you ready?