To live far longer in good health our best and first course of action is to build new and better medicinal technologies: ways to repair the known and enumerated root causes of aging, the forms of low-level cellular and molecular damage that accumulate with age and eventually kill us. How this might be achieved is outlined in the SENS proposals and currently the subject of a research program that deserves far more funding and attention.
Plenty of people have other ideas about how to engineer far longer life spans. One of the more popular involves discarding our biology to move minds into software or replace the brain with some form of more easily repaired and robust machinery. This is focus of the 2045 Initiative, for example. From where I stand, this looks a lot like replacing a hard problem with a harder problem - I can't envisage a scenario for the next 20 to 40 years in which building the foundation for artificial minds can outpace rejuvenation biotechnology in terms of offering more healthy life to old people. (And when I say "old people," I of course mean "us." Time waits on no man, and clock is ever ticking).
Nonetheless, the development of an artificial mind is a popular topic. It will only become more so as large-scale funding continues to move into efforts to simulate brains. Ultimately there will be people running on software and hardware that is not biological in origin. I just don't think that's going to happen soon enough for those of us in the later half of an old-style life span. With that in mind, let me point you to a couple more articles on the topic, to append to a fair number of the same that have appeared in recent months:
Having a positive view of mind uploading is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a transhumanist. Mind uploading has been posited as one of several routes toward indefinite human life extension. Other routes include the periodic repair of the existing biological organism (as outlined in Aubrey de Grey's SENS project or as entailed in the concept of nanomedicine) and the augmentation of the biological organism with non-biological components (Ray Kurzweil's [view]). Transhumanism, as a philosophy and a movement, embraces the lifting of the present limitations upon the human condition.
Dmitry Itskov's 2045 Initiative is perhaps the most prominent example of the pursuit of mind uploading today. [Is] Itskov's path toward immortality the best one? I personally prefer SENS, combined with nanomedicine and piecewise artificial augmentations of the sort that are already beginning to [occur]. Itskov's approach appears to assume that the technology for transferring the human mind to an entirely non-biological body will become available sooner than the technology for incrementally maintaining and fortifying the biological body to enable its indefinite continuation. My estimation is the reverse.
Too often is uploading portrayed as the means to superhuman speed of thought or to transcending our humanity. It is not that we want to become less human, or to become like a machine. For most Transhumanists and indeed most proponents of Mind Uploading and Substrate-Independent Minds, meat is machinery anyways. In other words there is no real (i.e., legitimate) ontological distinction between human minds and machines to begin with. Too often is uploading seen as the desire for superhuman abilities. Too often is it seen as a bonus, nice but ultimately unnecessary.
I vehemently disagree. Uploading has been from the start for me (and I think for many other proponents and supporters of Mind Uploading) a means of life extension, of deferring and ultimately defeating untimely, involuntary death, as opposed to an ultimately unnecessary means to better powers, a more privileged position relative to the rest of humanity, or to eschewing our humanity in a fit of contempt of the flesh. We do not want to turn ourselves into Artificial Intelligence, which is a somewhat perverse and burlesque caricature that is associated with Mind Uploading far too often.
The notion of gradual uploading is implicitly a means of life extension. Gradual uploading will be significantly harder to accomplish than destructive uploading. It requires a host of technologies and methodologies - brain-scanning, in-vivo locomotive systems such as but not limited to nanotechnology, or else extremely robust biotechnology - and a host of precautions to prevent causing phenomenal discontinuity, such as enabling each non-biological functional replacement time to causally interact with adjacent biological components before the next biological component that it causally interacts with is likewise replaced. Gradual uploading is a much harder feat than destructive uploading, and the only advantage it has over destructive uploading is preserving the phenomenal continuity of a single specific person. In this way it is implicitly a means of life extension, rather than a means to the creation of [strong artificial intelligence], because its only benefit is the preservation and continuation of a single, specific human life, and that benefit entails a host of added precautions and additional necessitated technological and methodological infrastructures.