Mindscan by Robert J Sawyer
The premise of this book is that several decades from now a technology has been developed to scan the brain of a living human and use the data to create a copy of the person's mind in an artificial brain in an artificial body. It's a very new technology, and the artificial body and other factors made this process very expensive. As a result, the only people currently using the technology to put their minds in artificial bodies are wealthy people whose aging or health problems mean the life expectancy of their organic bodies is rather short.
From this premise Sawyer develops a lot of food for thought in various areas.
The mind scan results in a copy of the mind being put in an artificial body. But the organic brain and body remain. There become two versions of the mind in different bodies. In this story, there is not yet any legal framework for two such legal persons. They "solve" this problem by having the artificial body with the long life expectancy to take over the ID cards, home, finances, etc. of the person who has previously existed. The mind with the organic body then has no ID or anything. These organic versions are flown to a luxury community on the Moon where there are no nations or laws regarding who is a legal person. Once on the Moon, those people are not allowed to return to Earth - among other considerations, it is the other version with the artificial body that has the passport that would permit travel.
The book follows the lives of both the organic and artificial body versions of Jake.
Artificial body Jake faces a future of virtual immortality. But is rejected by people he knew previously. He becomes involved with a woman who has also been copied into an artificial body. (Yes, the artificial bodies are “anatomically correct”.)
Organic body Jake faces the prospect of a few years on the Moon before his brain condition kills him or at least damages his brain leaving him mindless. That is, until he learns a cure has been found for his condition. But he is already on the Moon and forbidden from returning to Earth. He wants to return to Earth to pursue a relationship he had previously limited because of his medical condition.
Should the organic version which existed before the version with the artificial body have preference over the later version? Should they both be legal persons with equal status? What rights do the two versions have to property the organic version had prior to the copy being made? When the organic body dies, does the person's Will become effective with heirs taking what is designated to them, or must both the organic and artificial bodies die first?
The artificial body technology is new - it doesn't look exactly natural and can't do exactly everything the organic version could. The artificial body is upgradable, so eventually it may look and act indistinguishable from an organic body. In the meantime, the people with the artificial bodies have various advantages - long lives, lack of pains, not being vulnerable to various diseases, not depending on certain "necessities", etc. On the other hand, there are disadvantages - not looking quite natural (therefore not being accepted by many people), having a limited sense of smell, although they are free of the requirement of eating they are also incapable of eating for the pleasure of it, etc.
The book tells us that one of the first minds copied into an artificial body was subjected to an elaborate Turing Test, which may be the best method we have to determine that the artificial body with the copied mind is an intelligent entity. But is an "intelligent entity" a "person"? Even assuming we all agree that proves we are talking about a "person", how would we prove it is the same person who had their mind scanned? The question isn't necessarily, "Does a perfectly copied mind constitute 'the same person'?" We can also ask: “How do we know it was ‘perfectly copied’?”
There is a court case in which the question of whether the artificial body with the copied mind is the "same person" as the one who had legal rights to the property and identity prior to the mind copying. There are interesting arguments presented by both sides of the case, although I wouldn't say the reader gets an unbiased view of things.
There are various ways the book raises issues such as the questions above.
Some readers will also find interesting the presentation of Canadian social thinking versus US social thinking.
I'd say this is one of the more idea-rich books I've read in some time. While the premise is a new technology, the ideas aren't so much a bunch of hi-tech gizmos explained with tons of tech-talk. The ideas have to do with the implications of the technology - how it affects individual people, the issues with which it faces society, questions of philosophy and psychology, etc.
I have been known to express a disinterest in reading stories that I've described as being like looking through a neighbor's window and watching their personal dramas. Of course, fiction is about people - simply writing about inanimate objects, even if they are wonderful futuristic devices, does not make a work of fiction. In Mindscan, the story is very much about people and their lives, but in a way that is full of ideas. That is partly because they are extraordinary individuals in a way significant to those interested in science and technology. They are not simply extraordinary characters in the sense of being oddballs, dysfunctional or such. They are different in a way that helps us see possible futures and raise questions about this or that possible future.
The book also includes a few jokes told by one character to another.
Rene Descartes is drinking in bar. When his glass is empty, the bartender asks if he'd like another drink. Descartes says, "I think not" and disappears.
Heisenberg is pulled over by a policeman for speeding. The cop asks Heisenberg, "Do you know how fast you were going?" Heisenberg replies, "No, but I know exactly where I am."
Albert Einstein is riding on a train. Another passenger asks him, "Dr. Einstein, do you know if New York City stops at this train?"