I, Robot (I wish)

Sometimes I can't stand being made of flesh and bone.

What with my current materialist reading material I've come to terms with the reality that I am in fact a machine. A highly sophisticated machine, it's true. A highly inefficient machine and yet at the same time an immensely, insanely complex one. But a machine nonetheless.

What I don't understand is why they had to make it of such rubbish parts. I mean come on. The transportation mechanism is made of meat fer chrissakes. And bones. OK, they have that nifty self-repair process built-in (provided they're properly set after a break), but wouldn't it be better to just make them out of stainless steel in the first place and avoid the whole issue of breakage?

If nothing else this is a compelling argument for evolution and against the ridiculous notion of Intelligent Design. Idiotic design more like.

Still, as something arrived at by trial and error over the course of millions of years it's not bad I suppose. However, I can't shake the feeling that we could probably do better now. This was all sparked off by a visit to the dentist last week. Rather than pumping my jaw full of novacaine before attacking my teeth with a drill like a road worker, wouldn't it have been quicker and easier to switch off feeling to my lower jaw and then unscrew the offending tooth with the appropriate sized tooth-spanner, before replacing it with a brand new one from a box of spares?

But why stop there? The whole eating business is horrendously uneconomical. It would make more sense if I could be run off electricity. Of course in order to do that I'd have to replace all the body parts with electric ones. Nothing wrong with that per se, it would just be an advanced form of prosthetic after all.

It's when we get to the brain that people start to worry. "You won't be you any more!" they cry, "You'll become an emotionless soulless machine!"

"Excellent," I declaim, clenching my metal fist.

But seriously, I don't see why. I'm already a machine made of neurons, meat, bones and giblets. You can replace every single one of those parts with its functional equivalent and I would still be me. This includes the brain.

Of course it would have to be an exact copy. The way I'd do it is a neuron at a time. Install an artificial neuron along side the real one and get them operating in step. Then, when the artificial one's ready, hot swap them and remove the old one before moving onto the next. That way I'd maintain continuity of consciousness throughout the process, there wouldn't be a point when the old organic me died and the new electronic one was born. Perhaps it would be true to say that at the end of the process I would be different, but that's true already.

A popular meme has it that very cell in our body is replaced over seven years and that not a single atom that is in your body now was there when you were a child. I've always had my doubts about this so called fact, which sounds a bit like an urban myth, but on the other hand if it's good enough for Richard Dawkins... (The God Delusion, UK paperback p.416).

Of course it would be a very lengthy process. There are a hundred billion neurons in the human brain, so even if I replaced one every second it would take over three thousand years. Still I'll cross that bridge when I come to it - I'm sure I can come to some kind of arrangement with a friendly swarm of nanobots.

With my new found immortality and invulnerability will come a whole new raft of problems, I am sure. Interference from taxi cab radios. Problems with EMPs. And I expect I'll start to experience a whole new form of prejudice from the sharp end. My new body will put me slap bang in the middle of the Uncanny Valley. I don't think I'm going to be that popular at first.

Frakkin' toaster.


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