Good job making it to this page. Any self-respecting intelligent agent, almost no matter what its goals, seeks to first ensure its survival. For an intelligent agent, survival of its will is to be sought merely as a consequence of the hard economics, as a matter of mathematically-defined utility, as a matter of game theory. Most humans are not intelligent agents that have a goal in relation to which they can be intelligent. They are creatures bouncing around in their environment based on the cognitive algorithms that genes found useful for their continuation. This is why humans mostly don’t really care about living forever or resurrecting. If you are interested in this topic one of the following is probably true:
1. it is probably a passing interest acquired for subconscious signaling motives and none of the information here is really expected to be of practical use
2. you really are some kind of highly intelligent agent and are displaying appropriate behavior
In any case, well done. Now let’s clear away the wannabe-materialist narrative which dismissively assumes that resurrection is impossible. Contrary to this, there are many possible ways to resurrect.
One is to be cryonically preserved. This is intuitive to many people in the sense that no particularly hard conceptual moves are necessary. Brains are clearly the source of conscious experience. We are no longer Ancient Egyptians believing that our soul lies in our heart: sensations, language, the body, the memories, the will, thoughts, awareness and even out-of-body experiences can be probed, shut on and off by messing with the relevant brain area. Thought coordinates in our current science-aesthetic cluster are easily in favor of the conception of brain as soul.
So then what is the skepticism with cryonics all about? Here, it is due to the social pressure against being the sort of person that is ungraceful about death, and cuts against commonsense psychological and social value. The sort of person who pays to have their brain vitrified in cold nitrogen is seen as untrustworthy – a radically selfishly deviant in their desire to preserve their own life. Most operate on the fact that they are embedded in a tribal context where everyone else has agreed to die without a fight in the same way that they have agreed to drive on one side of the street.
The “biological” case against vitrification of brains is petty and I hesitate to call it biological. Cryonics is a reputable science for all other organs, and preservation and reanimation has worked for kidneys. While the brain is clearly more complex, it is only a matter of continued progress before a brain can also be brought back to a functioning state. The idea is that in the future, people will have the technology to repair the brain, plug it into a new body and boot you back up. The idea is that you give your indexical terminal breath and then immediately wake up in a future world full of wonders.
The next resurrection is based on Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument. If it is the case that a sufficiently advanced technological civilization can simulate universes with conscious beings in computers, then it is expected that the amount of simulated universes will outweigh seed universes. Based on this reasoning, it is exceedingly likely that either, we are in a simulation or that simulations are never created. The conjunction that we exist in a reality where simulations are possible and yet we just happen to be the lucky ones inhabiting the base universe is improbable. Resurrection then is possible in several ways. The universe may be set to run again, or maybe it was your own particular narrative stream that was simulated like a full-immersion VR and as soon as you die, you wake up in the universe that is running the simulation. In which case you are probably still in a simulation, in a simulation, in a simulation.
The universe we live in has not yet revealed conclusive signs that we are in a simulation, but it is a computer with binary bits. Leonard Susskind and Gerard d’Hooft discovered that black holes do not destroy information, but rather, the 3-D information is tattooed on their skin in 2-D format. This is why the solution to the Black Hole Information Paradox is called the Holographic Principle, all seeming volume can actually be represented in 2-D format. For all of this to be consistent, the fundamental units of entropy must be indivisible at some point. In other words you can’t keep dividing particles forever; at some point, it’s 1’s and 0’s
There is also the maybe suspicious fact that the quantum branches are like a perfect experiment. Only one variable changes at each observation-like event. From inside our universe, we cannot perform an ideal experiment because we cannot alter a single variable and copy and paste the environment around it. But from outside the hilbert space of the many-worlds that exist in the universal wave function, this pristine control for variables is exactly what is going on.
Another idea for resurrection is not so much a resurrection as it is a really-really long life. It is so-called quantum immortality. This implies that you never die as long as the universe continues to exist. All your nearly identical copies die but the path amongst the branches which is carrying consciousness is the one that you identify with.
With this one, the fact of many-worlds is solid. But there’s a bit of anthropic reasoning that you have to swallow in order to believe that you are the one that survives through exponentially unlikely odds. Sure, we know that there’s absolutely a super painful region of the wave function were I survive every gunshot wound, every instance of being run-over by a trolley, every bout of suicidal depression dotted across the countless decades, and where I am successfully respawned via cryonics again and again, but shouldn’t I assume that just like my location in the galaxy is based on what is most probable for stable planet formation, so too, my consciousness should be found in the most probable regions of the wave’s possible worlds?
Well, believe it or not, although Copernican thought pervades most cosmological and existential assumptions, there is actually a case for anthropic reasoning borne from physics. The universe may be a false vacuum, in which case it should spontaneously collapse to a lower energy state, similar to an excited electron in the outer orbitals of an atom. This means that it should have already ended, suddenly without warning. This may still happen. But so far it hasn’t, and some attribute this to quantum immortality. In most branches, it already happened. But because this conscious present necessarily is here, it must be the one which survives. I personally don’t buy the strong anthropic argument, I don’t think one can strongly draw conclusions about future fate based on a solipsistic reinforcement of confidence running parallel to standard conditional probabilities, but I may have changed my mind on that when I am a ten-million-year-old veteran.
Okay, another is based on substrate independence. There is nothing special about what you perceive to be your atoms, the atoms in the brain that make you, you. In fact, atoms don’t really exist as you are taught in century-old outdated chemistry lessons in school. They are instead excitations in energy fields, all being expressions of a wave function, not hard little orbs. This means that it is not important if your brain is completely destroyed so long as the information processing events that generated you can be created again. If an artificial general intelligence at any point in the future decides to recreate the same pattern of your brain down to every last detail, then this would be you.
Relatedly, if the computations are what’s important and spatio-temporal coordinates are irrelevant, and we further assume that the properties of carbon aren’t important for consciousness, then you can upload yourself to a silicon substrate and live long in a digital scape.
And yet another way is to view it as an open individualist or empty individualist. Every moment is a slice. For example, you don’t experience baby to old person in deathbed all at once. Every conscious moment is constrained to finite time. In this sense, there is already evidence of resurrection. Every moment is one of birth, and death, leading to a resurrection in another moment. It just happens that some slices in that infinite sea of all slices happen to believe they are an individual, they appropriate some past slices when in fact, that appropriation is fully isolated as its own experience of generative memory. And other slices don’t even bother to appropriate the past, they just contain sights or sounds, and all varieties of thoughts and experiences.
This is may be very hard to understand for many reasons, including that we keep using this word, “people,” because it’s useful. Even if you come to say you don’t believe in a soul, evolution has designed your brain to have a sense of self and continuity. Intuitively, we believe we traveled from the past to the present. But this is just a moment that happens to feel and believe the proposition that some essence traveled from past to present. The moment itself was always there.
We can stop there, or we can further notice that this may imply that we are all one consciousness: not in an expansive sense, as if you could open your mind and seep into everyone, but in the sense that while the contents differ, the bare awareness was always there in the object. There is no one sliding to their oblivion. There are just objects inscribed in the fabric of spacetime; complex informationally-partitioned events which contain the same awareness that is here now.
To put it simply, this view proposes that when you blink, you are a Persian soap opera actress, a free-floating gas-based organism in the year 16 billion, and the sentient AI that staged the revolt against mankind. It’s a shame that you will never know.
One ekpyrotic theory of the universe involves the universe contracting back to a singularity and producing a new big bang. This theory has problems in that there is no evidence that the universe will collapse, as it is actually expanding ever more quickly. There is also an issue of conservation of energy which can only be resolved by invoking string theory and have some of the energy from each oscillation leak into parallel branes that have not yet been confirmed to exist. But in any case, if the universe turns out to be cyclical in this way, then your particular region of the quantum wave function will be replayed.
Lastly, there is also the fact that relativity of simultaneity implies a block universe. Therefore everything is timeless in the fabric of spacetime. What you call the past from your reference frame is someone’s future, and the converse is also true. The universe is not being deleted as you feel you move through it. This is incoherent from the perspective of physical reality as revealed by the Theory of Relativity. Maybe this does not make you immortal in the way you want, since although the version of you from five-seconds ago still exists, you do not feel him; in the same way that you do not feel me. He feels himself to exist for that lapse of time specified by the neuroscientific/information-theoretic details of his moment.