According to a group of scientists, future biotechnology could make it possible to make a convict believe that they have served 1,000 year prison term in just a few hours. Philosopher Rebecca Roache and her team have been contemplating ways in which serious prisoners could have even longer sentence terms in their minds, yet only spend a fraction of the time actually in jail. As Roache says, “There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people’s sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence.”
She also proposed a second option involves uploading a person’s consciousness to a computer and extending their perception of time which seems like something straight out of a Philip K. Dick story. “If the speed-up were a factor of a million, a millennium of thinking would be accomplished in eight and a half hours… This would, obviously, be much cheaper for the taxpayer than extending criminal’ lifespans to enable them to serve 1,000 years in real time.”
Now everyone’s opinion on this will differ, but if we have the ability to upload minds and experience 1,000 years in a work day, why wouldn’t this technology be used to expand the human ability to learn and grow, so that hundreds of problems can be solved in ways that could never be achieved before? And even if this could work, wouldn’t someone’s mind essentially “break” by being subjected to that kind of time lapse? Could this be considered inhuman torture? It sounds like something out of Silent Hill or a Lovecraftian horror story. Then again, you would have the rest of your life back, which is not an option in today’s prison system.
Roache has her own opinions as we’’ saying, “To me, these questions about technology are interesting because they force us to rethink the truisms we currently hold about punishment. When we ask ourselves whether it’s inhumane to inflict a certain technology on someone, we have to make sure it’s not just the unfamiliarity that spooks us… Is it really OK to lock someone up for the best part of the only life they will ever have, or might it be more humane to tinker with their brains and set them free? When we ask that question, the goal isn’t simply to imagine a bunch of futuristic punishments – the goal is to look at today’s punishments through the lens of the future.”
So is it better to spend 30 real years in prison and lose your youth and abilities, or is it better to spend 1,000 years in jail in your mind, but be able to walk out as a young person later that day?