One of the themes you frequently explore in your fiction is immortality. In Mindscan, a kind of immortality is conveyed via transferring the mind into a robot body, and in your latest, Rollback, immortality is achieved through medical means — a kind of cellular regeneration. Which of these possibilities do you think is more likely to be put into practice someday, and do you think either will be available within our lifetimes?Read the entire interview.
Sawyer: I say in Rollback that, by the time of the novel — 40 years from now — Vernor Vinge's technological singularity had still not come to pass. But I do think we will see enormous technological strides in the next 40 years, and they will far exceed those of the last 40, and that will include huge breakthroughs in both the areas you've mentioned. Absolutely, we'll make great progress in slowing down and conceivably rejuvenating our bodies. And I'm just as sure that we'll make a lot of progress in scanning human brains and being able to reproduce the fine structures of the brain—and therefore the mind that arises from that structure — at any level of resolution you care to name.
So, sure, both rollbacks and mindscans will be commercially available in our lifetimes (although only the former at Wal-Mart ...). Which of the two will be more popular depends on the prevailing psychology. Flesh and blood has a lot to be said for it, but it also means you can still go splat and die. Still, almost all people would immediately accept that a version of yourself that has been rejuvenated is still you; it's a bigger philosophical leap to recognize that a copy of you that exists when the original no longer does is also still you.
Check out Sawyer's wish-list for the cast should Rollback be adapted for the big screen.
Visit Robert Sawyer's website and blog, and read an excerpt from Rollback.