It seems to me that much of current medical research is attempting to find good spare parts for the human body. It has a tendency to sometimes break badly and kill us with it. Today we routinely have parts removed or changed if there is a danger of breakdown, and soon we might be going for services we now adays more liken to garages. We've successfully constructed metal bones and joints, artificial kidneys, and mechanical hearts. Especially the last one gets me a bit, we can change out the very piece of us with which we associate feelings.
Anyway, for the sake of argument, let's say that you existed in a galaxy far, far away, in a different time which had access to much more advanced technology. Let's further say you are the illegitemate son of a guy mean on a galactic scale. While bickering with your old man with a photon based, energy emitting, arm extensions, he cuts your hand off. You then get a new hand, which looks and feels exactly like the one you lost, but it is made of electronics and mechanical parts.
Question: Would this hand be a part of you like your natural hand was?
Bonus question: Do you believe we ever will be able to transfer the human conciousness to a machine or something which is much more lasting that our brains?
I think this would be a question best answered by someone who has had a limb amputated. As for me, I often find that the principle tool of my current work, a knife, really becomes an extension of myself - maybe this is the Samurai experience. Anyway, I've actually found myself reaching forward to flip something over only to realize my hand became 'shortened' when I put down my knife: and the realization is really creepy. In this sense, I feel that a prosthetic that actually returned tactile signals and very much resembled my original hand would in fact be a part of me like my original hand.
As far as 'transferring' my consciousness, I have to say that I can only think of it in terms of a file copy. If all my neural patterns were replicated in a machine, that machine would probably scream, "Holy crap this is super creepy!" and at that point its experiences would diverge from my own and we would start becoming different 'people'. To this end, if the transfer process was destructive, terminating my physical brain, then I would say the process would capture a copy of me that would at that point cease to be 'me' and 'I' would cease to exist. That being considered, I would say that no transfer of 'me' actually occurred, only a destructive file copy procedure.
The extension of the body to encompass tools held in the hand or even our entire being to include a car we are driving is a very real aspect of the brain. The brain actually creates a projection of the outer limits of our bodies. Sort of a virtual body. A simple demonstration of this would be to take a simple rubber hand from a gag gift store. Place it on a table in front of you . If it is a left hand take your own left hand and place it on the table. Place a divider between you and your real hand so that you cannot see it. You are now just viewing the rubber hand. Now have a friend gently stroke the rubber hand at the same time and in the same pattern as your real hand. Very soon your brain will transfer its' concept of what is your real hand to the rubber hand. Now that is super creepy.
Soon but probably not soon enough for me, they will be able to augment the brain with electronics. They are already doing this with implants that allow paralyzed people to control computers on a small scale with simple interfaces. Soon those augmentations may allow for a merger between the biological brain and an electronic one. The shared thoughts may be recorded and intertwined in a way that the two may seem seamless. In such a case the electronic brain would at some point not really notice the death of the biologic brain it is attached to much in the same way we do not miss the brain cells that die everyday or the ones we kill with alcohol.
The redundancy of the brain makes the loss invisible. The fact is the sense of self is an illusion of the brain to start with. We are not conscious of the trick so we are unaware that there is no us up our scull. Why would it be any different if over time we were merged with then disconnected from an electronic brain.
People wonder how we will travel out into the solar system and beyond with our human limitations. Our next step in the evolutionary process may take these journeys. Our robotized selves would only need worry about an energy source. Not temperature , not food, not air, not water, not pressure,not radiation.
Brilliant. The extension of our 'self' into the circuitry, and a gradual shift from biological to electronic, would maintain the continuity of 'self' and eliminate the 'copy/paste' limits I perceived in this. The new 'self' would of course be 'different' than the 'me' that might have existed, but that's no different than making a major change in the course of 'my' life that alters what experiences I will have.
Ok, I learned something to day. Thank you. Mind re-opened to the possibility.