Have you ever considered the possibility of transferring your consciousness into a computer? Sabine Hossenfelder, a German theoretical physicist, believes that this may one day be possible.
According to Hossenfelder, the fundamental laws of physics as described in the Standard Model of particle physics can explain everything in the Universe, including human consciousness. She suggests that we are simply a collection of elementary particles, but it is the arrangement of these particles that gives us our unique qualities and abilities.
Therefore, it may be possible to capture and transfer all the information about the arrangement of particles in our body in order to transfer our consciousness into a computer. So, could we one day upload our consciousness and exist within a machine? It’s an intriguing possibility.
SABINE HOSSENFELDER: In principle, what we are is just a big collection of elementary particles. And yes, it’s really complicated, and no one in their right mind would try to describe a human being in terms of those elementary particles. But particle physicists have collected elementary particles in what’s called the standard model of particle physics. And those particles for all we currently know, make up everything around us, the entire universe, including us.
Now, a lot of people seem to be a little bit uncomfortable with this. They’re wondering, isn’t there something more about me? Am I not a little bit more than just those fundamental particles? Where’s my consciousness come from? Whatever happened to my soul? Personally, I don’t think that to describe our observations, our experience of us thinking requires anything more than particle physics. I’m happy to leave the understanding of consciousness to neurobiologists or whatever those fields are called. But I also don’t think that we need to add anything to the fundamental laws of nature that we have collected in physics. I think it’s sufficient. But a lot of people have difficulty with that. They want there to be something else, this thing that they call the soul.
So one possible route that you can take is what’s called dualism that just says we have all those fundamental particles and atoms and gravity and interactions and all that kind of stuff. And on the other side, we have the soul. And it just lives in an entirely non-physical realm. And this is where I reside in some sense. And this is perfectly fine. It’s compatible with all we know, so long as this soul does not interact with the physical side. Because once it starts interacting with it they would have to be part of our theories in the foundations of physics. So for all we currently know from the foundations of physics, everything that isn’t in the standard model of particle physics plus gravity is emergent from those particles and the forces between them. And by emergent, I just mean that it can be reduced to the properties of those fundamental particles like the color of a metal or something like this. And this is something that is known under the word reductionism.
There’s no observation that we have ever made that contradicts this idea of reductionism, that fundamentally everything is made of and everything derives from the properties of those fundamental particles. But the properties of collective assemblies of particles that in principle you could calculate. In most cases, we cannot. There are certainly no particle physicists who can calculate what your eye color will be if you give them the properties of all the particles in your body. But in principle, you know it should be possible. If you had a big enough computer you would be able to calculate it. So on some level you could say that, yeah we are really just constituted of all those elementary particles and all that we can do comes about from the interaction of those particles, even though that might be an entirely useless description of us. It’s nevertheless correct.
But I think that actually we’re much more than that on a different level. You could say we’re somewhat less than that. By which I mean that what’s important about us is not the particles that we are made of. It’s what those particles can do. And that’s what’s contained in the information of how those particles are put together. That they make up a human body. Someone who can walk and talk and think and write books or fly to the moon. Where does this come from? Well, it comes from the way that those atoms are arranged. And I actually think that this is a very hopeful message because it means that in principle it should be possible to upload your identity and actually not just your thinking apparatus but your entire body to a computer because there’s nothing that stands in the way. All this information about the configuration of the atoms in your body, you can formulate it in mathematics and put it onto a computer.