I have been trying to solve a problem. Einstein’s theory of relatively is very frustrating when it comes to deep Space travel for us little humans. Not only are we limited by the speed of light thus cant actually go very far without loosing time cohesion with our fellow humans back on earth. But the further we go the longer it takes for information to get back to us, for every year we travel away from the earth at light speed it will take two years to get any meaningful information back.
Even our own solar system is hard to explore as a real time experience we are so used to on our own planet. When controlling the rovers on mars the controllers here have a 13-minute lag between commands. (Anthony, 2012) So unless the world of quantum entanglement manages to throw up some unknown properties or we manage to create stable wormholes we will always be limited by Einstein’s theory, and that is just plain annoying.
You see I want to explore the universe, but equally I quite like my fellow humans right here on earth, would I trade my life in exchange for seeing deep space? Probably not and that is my problem.
Even though I am sure there are many people who would you only have to look at the success of the one way trip to mars to see that we can be lemming like in exchange for pushing new frontiers. (Juarez, 2013)
But my hope is that we wont have to make that choice, I hope to travel deep space from the comfort of my armchair. It’s hardly the bridge of the enterprise but my armchair may just be the next best thing.
We are starting to unravel the way our brains work, yes they are complicated, yes there are more neuron connections than stars in the sky. (Kamei, 2013) But ultimately the brain is a machine and once we start to understand it we can control it.
We are starting to get to the point that brains can be reprogrammed with new memories and I believe this could be the key for deep space travel. (Hogenboom, 2013)
You can probably see where I am going here, with the ability to lay down new memories as if they are our own then suddenly we can turn data into a human experience that we long so much for. Initially this will be abstract like implanting the memories of watching a film, it can create emotion but you don’t feel part of the film.
This is where the much harder and philosophical challenging advances need to happen, even though it seems inconceivable now we are actually not that far off replicating the brain in its entirety. We can already read memories from the brain so once you can read and write memories from the brain and we have the ability to create a working model of the brain we start to get into some very fascinating but uncomfortable territory.
Once these technologies become available we are not far from having the ability to transfer ones memories into a functioning copy of your brain. Now this within itself conjures up some interesting philosophical issues. Depending on your beliefs of whether we are just the sum of our memories or something more imagine waking up and realizing you are the copy of yourself. Some might say that you have just created a new life and some may say that it is nothing more than electrons in a circuit(but we equally are nothing more than atoms) but now you have an exact copy of yourself.
Before you copied yourself you had already mentally prepared yourself that one of you would be the copy and at the moment you copied yourself you would have to be prepared that you could be the copy much like in the film The Prestige(and for those Star Trek fans I also think this will be a philosophical challenge with transportation, as for a fraction of time there are two of you, who dies and who lives*). Given the advances in robotics by this time our fundamental senses and abilities will be replicated and suddenly you have a fully blown copy of yourself but without some of the biological hang ups of an actual clone.
Now you have robotic clone amazing possibilities open up, but for the purposes of this article deep space travel is one of the most interesting.
Imagine being able to send your clone into deep space, they will make the same decisions as you and want the same experiences, they will bring your unique problem solving and knowledge to the situation but most importantly the new memories they make can be downloaded and returned to earth and implanted back into your memory structure while your asleep as if you had experienced them yourself.
You maybe asking yourself why would we not just send robots to relay the information surely artificial intelligence will be good enough to achieve the same with cold hard data. I am sure that this will be done as well, but I do believe there is something unique about the human condition and as a species it is in our nature to protect that. Even now when we have the technology to explore mars in much more detail than a human could we still have a desire to send humans to explore.
So there you have it, I hope to be able to travel the cosmos while I am sleeping, and while Kurzweil expects this to happen in the next 30 years(because by its very nature we are partly talking about the singularity) I suspect we are a good 100 years away. Luckily I plan to live to a 150 so I will see you all in deep space! (Kurzweil, 2005)
*Given the physics we understand at the moment there are really two ways that I can see transporters working. The first and more challenging way would be to open a wormhole and physically transfer the matter to another location. However given the way information theory works it is likely this will be done in a linear way meaning if there is any failure of the system or the worm hole, death is likely to follow. The second way would be to read the state of every atom in your body send that data to another location and rebuild your body atom by atom. Once the transport is confirmed the system would then de atomize (or destroy) the original. But clearly this throws up a few philosophical challenges and the possibility of endless replication.
Anthony, S. (2012). How does NASA drive Mars rover Curiosity? Retrieved from Extream Tech: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/143884-how-nasa-drives-mars-rover-curiosity
Hogenboom, M. (2013). Scientists can implant false memories into mice. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23447600
Juarez, J. (2013). More than 100,000 want to go to Mars and not return, project says. Retrieved from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/09/tech/innovation/mars-one-applications/index.html
Kamei, S. (2013). Two Billion Euros go to European Research Projects. Retrieved from DUJS: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/news/two-billion-euros-go-to-european-research-projects#.UkBdM2RASrU