Most who explore the idea of a brain upload as immortality push hard against your intuition of what your 'self' is. You think you're pretty darn sure what your self is, but it's actually a very slippery concept. For example, do you think you can define your "self" as your body? Many of the atoms in your body are changed out rather rapidly. While tooth enamel and some of the crystals in the lens of your eye show very low rates of replacement, a large portion of the body is made of brand new atoms every year!
Which brings up the Ship of Theseus. The Ship of Theseus is the most famous thought experiment on this topic:
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from
Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to
the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as
they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in
so much that this ship became a standing example among the
philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side
holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that
it was not the same.
— Plutarch, Theseus
In this story, we start with a famous ship, the Ship of Theseus himself. The Athenians loved that ship so much that they kept it maintained for hundreds of years. Whenever a plank got too worn out and decayed, they'd replace it to keep the ship in prime condition. At some point, every single piece of wood was replaced this way, so there were no original boards left from Theseus's time. The question raise is in three parts:
- Is this the same ship that Theseus sailed on?
- If so, why? There's not a single board in common between the ship Theseus used and the one described here. How can we call it the "same?"
- If not so, then at what point did it cease to be the same ship?
Philosophically, this is an unsolved question. It seems like it should be intuitively easy, but every line of logic which philosophers have gone down ends in an uncomfortable conclusion. Identity is not as simple as we think.
Another famous question pulling at these threads is a problem involving teleportation between planets. Let's say we develop a way to teleport between planets. However, there's a catch. It's not actually moving matter from one planet to another. That would take too much energy. Instead, the "teleporter" reads the state of your body, the position of every atom, every electric field, from your head to your toes. This information is transmitted to the other planet, where they create a new "you" with exactly the same properties in every way.
This obviously isn't "teleportation," its "cloning." However, what if we destroy the original after we create the copy on the other planet? Now we still have one body, and it has every hope, dream, memory, and desire that the original did. Is this not teleportation of your "self?" If it isn't, consider how hard it is to tell the difference between that and a really fast rocket ship flight empirically. The only difference would be which atoms make up the entity on the other planet, and we've already shown that's a hazy definition of "self" at best.
Now this sounds like a dangerous teleporter. What happens if something goes wrong during the reconstruction? Now you're dead. So let's put a safeguard in. The original is not destroyed until the teleporter on the other planet sends a confirmation that, indeed, the other body is complete. Now let's say the safeguards fail. Now there are two "you's" walking around on different planets, living potentially different lives. We would generally consider the "you" on Earth to be the "original," and the "you" on the other planet to be the "clone" because your Earthbound body was constructed before the clone body on the other planet.
I think this is very close to your argument. Your argument is that the body you inhabit right now is the "original" you, and the robot is a clone. This is very normal. Now let's make the intuition harder. Let's say that, instead of malfunctioning and leaving the body on Earth, it instead sent out two clones: one to Mars one to Venus. The construction of the new body/bodies completed, so the Earth teleporter destroys the old body. Now which one is the clone, which one is the original? Is it the one on Mars, or the one on Venus?
There are no universally accepted answers to these questions. These are philosophical questions that have persisted for thousands of years, and will likely continue for thousands more. However, one thought process to consider:
You gave examples from the perspective of the biological "you," but remember that your robot clone has all the same hopes, memories, dreams, and desires that you do. So how would the robot feel, being in a plane crash. Would he be comforted to know that the "real" you is still alive? If instead, your biological body died in an airplane crash. Would the robot feel any less lucky that it wasn't in the airplane crash? How much actual difference is there between the biological you and the robot you?
I leave with two parting stories. First is Valery Spiridonov, who has requested to be the first human to undergo a full-body transplant. Suffering from terminal muscular atrophy, he intends to have his head cut off and sewn onto the donor body of a brain dead organ donor. How different is this from being implanted in a robot?
The second story is the curious case of Krista and Tatiana Hogan, Conjoined twins joined in the skull (craniopagus). They are a fascinating topic for researchers trying to figure out if they are one consciousness or two. Sometimes they act like independent beings, doing their own thing. Other times, they act so extraordinarily in unison that you have to wonder if there's really just one consciousness controlling the whole body.
These are cases where the easy versions of "self" break down. And, indeed, brain uploads are one such example where the easy versions just get... complicated.