Re: Paths to Uploading

Bryan Moss (bryan.moss@dial.pipex.com)
Tue, 5 Jan 1999 14:53:01 -0000

Billy Brown wrote:

> > Perhaps a complete model of the brain in fine-grained detail will be
> > used simply to reassure potential uploads that no 'essence' will be lost
> > in the translation.
>
> Computers capable of running that fine-grained model won't exist until
> long, long after uploading a higher-level model becomes feasible. A few
> paranoid types might wait, but their experience would hardly be typical.

I'm not sure of the time distances we're talking of here but I doubt the experience of uploading will be "typical" at all. If we're going to talk about realistic scenarios we must include social factors. Firstly, will anyone fund uploading specific research? If not you have to be sure your technologies have other more mainstream uses. It's possible neurobiology and artificial intelligence research could reach a point where a "mind abstraction" algorithm, built to create high-level models for the purpose of uploading, would become trivial. This would, however, be long after we have the computer power. Added to this is the lack of willingness of scientists to treat age-related death as something that needs to be overcome, especially in such a radical and mind-bending way. Secondly, uploading has major philosophical ramifications. Although many of us, myself include, have thought about it enough to see uploading as a reasonable goal it's still the hottest subject of dispute on this list besides politics. Cloning - something that's causing massive social upheaval - didn't get much of a look in on this list; philosophy wise it was a non-issue. Now factor uploading into the equation. Currently it's at the level "so bizarre I'm not even going acknowledge the possibility" soon - perhaps when it's done to a sheep - it will reach the status of "bastard scientists trying to reap our souls". It is my opinion that these factors will be more likely to shape a feasible scenario than technology.

> > Since the majority of scenarios are used to explore the
> > philosophical ramifications (although a few members of this list (names
> > withheld to protect the not so innocent) may be considering uploading
> > neighbourhood pets in their dank underground secret laboratories)
> > realism is probably not the most important factor..
>
> If all you care about is the identity question and other philosophical
> issues, then yes. However, the moment you get into practical
> considerations (what will it be like, what will we be able to do, etc),
> good projections become critical. It is very easy to project only one
> technology while ignoring everything else, but if you fall into this trap
> you end up with a scenario that could never happen.

We're fairly ignorant about the possibilities. For instance, I could argue that intelligence cannot be increased, that there is a "window of intelligence" that results in creatures more intelligent than us being increasingly unlikely. You cannot currently refute this claim because we don't have a good explanation of what exactly intelligence is. Yet such a claim will crush any dreams of super intelligence. It's possible that much of the brainís power comes from social interaction and physical interaction, making lone 1,000 speed minds impractical. It's possible that the mind is a very rigid and fragile thing and making it 'see' in four dimensions (and so on) is impractical. Again, you can't refute these claims and I doubt you could give much evidence against them.

BM