Change the meat machine, change you: You are the meat machine.
Unlike talk of intangible 'souls', this is falsifiable. We see it demonstrated EVERY SINGLE DAY.
We have seen, oh so many injured brains. The changes they make in the unfortunate 'souls' who suffer those injuries.
There is another way that this 'meat machine' concept is falsifiable.
Scan, process, copy your CNS (central nervous system), simulate it correctly
, put it into a virtual body in a virtual environment. I see no reason not to emulate the spinal cord down to peripheral nerves. That's just a small fraction more to emulate in addition to the nerves in the brain. It simplifies many things. Where to put the sound signals. Where to put the light signals. Where sense and motor signals come and go. Apply that to a model of the body, which the same whole body 'scan' to get the nerves could provide the specifications for.http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-opensim-open-source-software-stanford-accurately.html
See if anyone can tell the difference. If you're a writer, can the doppelgänger write? If you're a programmer, can the doppelgänger program? If you're a composer, can the doppelgänger compose music?
Have friends and family quiz and chat with and interact with original and memorex over some medium that prevents them from telling meat from bits. Video chat, or whatever passes for telepresence by then.
Much more intensive than the 'turing test'. Many of the people should KNOW the person being emulated.
And then keep working on the sim. Get smell, taste, balance, hunger, etc. working. Until the person being simulated can't tell the difference, either. Other than they can't be 'killed' by their environment, and can eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they like, with no ill effect.
See how long it takes them to figure it out. Put into similar environments, the original might come to believe he's the sim.
The technical capacity to run this experiment in a computer is theoretically less than half a century away. Though I think scanning technology of sufficient resolution to fully pick out all of the microscopic details of the brain necessary to gather the data to copy a mind is probably not going to develop apace with the computers.
Without the gooey, messy, temperamental biology, there's no reason a virtual image of a person, properly backed up, could not exist forever, once he or she has been successfully booted up. Information does not have a shelf life, so long as the media containing it is maintained. So the only catches in this is emulating the 'mind' process correctly, without growing the virtual brain into some demented state that needs to be reverted.
Even put the mind under version control to do virtual 'surgery'. Improve it. Nobody's going to nick an artery and have a bleeder. Delete the wrong nerves? Undo, or restore from an earlier version. Software development is an iterative process. So would be understanding minds, or any single mind.
One could in fact work on a model of an injured brain to come up with treatments to apply back to the original. Especially if they had an emulated image of the original from before the injury. Put a 'chip' in their head to replace or stimulate the damaged parts. Or perhaps replace the whole brain. When you're talking about a brain-dead patient that still has a heartbeat, I wonder how many families would rather drop in a replacement brain from a backup scan, and have their loved one back among the living? Or for that matter, why not a full body restoration?
And another gruesome little thought occurs to me: I wonder how long after a brain stops working, that it could be scanned and modeled into a working virtual person? If it hasn't been turned to mush yet, if it is still mechanically intact, then even though the cells all died and stopped working, the connections are still there, and the kinds of cells and connections are still identifiable. Freshly found and refrigerated or otherwise preserved immediately. Bringing a truly dead person back by booting them up virtually could be possible.
Computers are good at picking over a zillion little details and reversing them. You could, for instance, even figure out how swelling of the brain after a lethal concussion or infection damaged it. And find where the connections broke. Fit the puzzle back together, so to speak. So eventually, you might even be able to 'recover' some of those idiots who had their heads frozen in LN2, by figuring out how the ice crystals damaged the brain, and virtually re-assembling the frozen mess back to some semblance of the original. Certainly that brain would never be able to work any more, and would turn into goo if it was ever defrosted, but the contents
might be recoverable.
And the possibilities don't stop. Think and live faster than realtime. Or slower. Through generations of better hardware, and better software, too. Be anywhere on earth in a second. Well, give or take the time it takes to serialize all those bits, PLUS the ping time, and whatever error detection and resends have to happen. A trip to Mars is pretty easy, once you're data, and the hardware is there to receive it. Space travel for computer hosted minds becomes trivial. Pack thousands of friends along, and a whole world to live on comfortably, into a pretty small and lightweight package that only needs electrical current to run. And it can all be paused indefinitely, or run very slowly, to save power.
Versus the life support for very few humans to live in a cramped can, and all of the redundant spares and tools to keep all of that working. Air. Water. Temperature. Food. Power to run all of that, all the time. It can be made relatively simple, but a very stinky, uncomfortable and spartan existence, while the humans waste away the whole time as they lose muscle and bone mass. Humans could go to Mars within 50 years, but they couldn't stay there without an all-out effort to colonize Mars, and by the time they got back, they wouldn't be able to live on Earth without 'round the clock medical care, like VERY old people. They might recover enough to live unaided after a year or two of therapy, but they'd probably suffer permanent frailty and weakness. So throw in an 'artificial gravity' centrifuge, too. Mass, mass, and more mass.