Cyber ghost must die...

12.02.49: THE SUPREME COURT yesterday ordered computer scientist Nat Baker to switch off the quantum supercomputer in which he claims to have cloned his consciousness in a bid for electronic immortality.

The machine, programmed with the information content of the scientist's brain, appears to be conscious and identical in personality to Baker.

The court order was issued after the Council for the Protection of All Sentient Entities (Cepase) argued that prolonging the computer-based consciousness was potentially cruel.

Many machines are assumed to be self-aware, but the subjective quality of machine consciousness is distinct from that of humans because they function in a different physical context. Earlier hearings determined that this ruled out any possibility of suffering. Baker's case is unique because he claims the computer's consciousness is identical to his own.

"To have human consciousness you need a human body," explains Baker. "I have got around that by putting my consciousness in a virtual reality which gives him the illusion that he is still physically inside my head."

To do that, Baker implanted a matrix of transmitters in his own brain that relay incoming sensory experiences to the computer, where they create the illusion of walking, talking, seeing, hearing and feeling.

"The consciousness created inside the computer cannot distinguish itself in any way from the consciousness I am experiencing here and now," says Baker.

"In fact, it might be that I am in the computer and that another Nat Baker is out there. Whichever way, I know for certain that we are both happy, and I don't want to pull the plug on either of us."

A Cepase spokesman said: "They may be happy now, but what happens when Baker dies? His other half will experience the agony of dying, then will be left without any sensory input, a disembodied mind with no link to the world - a fate worse than death." RC

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