The No-Problem Problem
The No-Problem Problem
October 6, 2014
Suppose futurists are right and someday humans move their minds and consciousness into software to live forever. What then?
A software-based human would have no problems. There would be no pain, no need for money, no need for ego, success, or anything else that organic humans want or need. A software-based person would have no incentive to do anything, assuming the rest of humanity is also software-based and problem-free.
By the time humans can move consciousness to software I would expect us to have immense power over the environment as well. By then it will be practical to terraform new worlds, change the climate at will, and create new life forms with 3D printers. In other words, we will have Godlike powers over our environment.
So there we will be, someday in the future, software-based creatures with absolutely no reason to do anything. Our software will provide the sensations of pleasure, happiness, success, and whatever else we built into the system. There will be no reason to build homes, or run businesses, or create armies. Nothing will matter to software humans because all of our needs will be met internally in our program.
But let’s suppose the creators of our software anticipated our future lack of motivation and built into the program a need for learning. We might believe that learning is an endless process and can’t really go wrong.
But software would soon reach the limits of knowledge. Once the software can program itself, which is also predicted to happen, it will become super-intelligent fairly soon. And we future software humans might exhaust all normal avenues for seeking new information. What then?
Software-based humans would have the programmed need to learn but nothing left to learn that isn’t trivial. What might our future software selves do then?
One possibility is that we will build 3D printers and create organic humans based on our software personalities just to experience reality through five senses. An organic creature can keep learning its entire life. So our future software selves might find a need to bring some of our minds back into organic form just to keep up the challenge and the learning.
And you know where this is going. If the scenario I described might happen in the future, how can we know it didn’t already happen and we are the second-generation organic humans?
Let me boil this down to one idea. Today, engineers design robots to serve the interests of organic humans. But what happens when there are no organic humans left, after we move our consciousness to software and have no problems in our lives whatsoever? What would the software be programmed to do other than deliver streams of artificial pleasure to itself? It would have no reason for existence.
Humans seek challenge and novelty because we evolved that way. If our software selves acquire that programming from our organic minds it stands to reason we will someday move our minds back to organic form specifically because it is more of a challenge. And maybe it already happened.
But I would expect the new organic humans to be dropped off on a new planet so they can develop naturally, free from the protection of their software creators. That means Earth is a seeded planet and not an original. And it would explain why the second-smartest species after humans can’t even invent a flip phone.