Re: Uploading

Christopher Maloney (
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 22:39:04 -0400

I agree with everything Hal has written here, but I think it needs more emphasis. I would like to ask how transformations such as those he describes possibly matter to the subjective sense of continuity of consciousness? Clearly, they could not.

The concept of a multiprocessing system is very basic to computer science -- a process could be suspended while another process takes over for a while, and then resumed without any loss of continuity. Now, if you accept the premise that our consciousness is a computational process, it seems to me that you have to accept that basic transformations such as swapping to disk for a time, running on a different type of platform, etc., do not make any difference, as long as the *program* is, in essence, the same.

I got lambasted recently for my post on "The Copy Question", but the deductive explanation for the point I was trying to make in that post starts here. I'll admit that in that post I did just lay out my opinions without any support, but I was just trying to get an initial reaction.

Anyway, I'll repeat what I said then. Again, *if* you accept that our consciousness is a computational process, then you *must* accept that it can "jump" around from one brain to another, as in a transporter booth, or a copy booth, or an "upload". I am not my brain, I am a process. Think about it from the point of view of the copy. He has a memory of a continuous consciousness from the time I was born, right through the time I walked into the copy booth and then "he" walked out in another location. I think the "burden of proof" should lie with anyone who claims that it makes any sense to say that the consciousness does not jump from one body to another, when to any objective observer, clearly the copy would profess to having had a continuous experience.

With regard to uploading, I agree with Hal that it is pointless to prefer a gradual approach instead of a one-shot dissection. As long as you can guarantee that the information content is preserved, and that the program will run as before, I will jump at the chance to be uploaded. wrote:
> Eric Hardison, <>, writes:
> > First, I'd like to point out that I think uploading is the wrong
> > approach. It would be better to replace the body with new
> > electromechanical technology -- cell for cell via multiple injections.
> > Once every cell has been replaced with an electromechanical version,
> > they can all dispense with the "organic pretension". The new body will
> > be programmable. Bored with the old style of body? Go in for a retrofit
> > or maybe a restructuring "operation".
> The question I like to ask in regards to this kind of "gradual uploading"
> scenario is this. What about the case of a person who is already uploaded
> into a computer? Let's ignore for now the question of whether he is the
> same person he was when in an organic body. Hopefully we can agree that
> there is "someone" in the computer.
> Should he have concerns about identity when his program is subject to
> similar kinds of transformations as uploading? Modern operating systems
> will move programs around in memory, or even swap them out of memory
> altogether and put them on a disk for a while before swapping them back in
> to run some more. If you were a program like this, wouldn't moving you to
> a disk "kill" you as certainly as uploading? Where is the continuity in
> a system which shoves around bits and pieces of your program willy-nilly?
> It would be even worse if you had a multi-processor system with dynamic
> load balancing, where parts of the program are moved from computer to
> computer in order to keep everything running efficiently. If the system
> were running many brains at once then your whole program could be moved
> around from machine to machine without your being aware of it.
> My feeling is that these kinds of transformations should not be relevant.
> The important thing in this model is that the computer manages to
> run through all the steps of the program that calculates your mind.
> The details of how the computer accomplishes this should not matter.
> At some level, all computers are equivalent. If some use different
> technologies for performing their calculations, that is not important,
> as long as the calculations get done.
> If this is true it doesn't matter if your program gets swapped out for
> a while, or moved from processor to processor. But if it's OK for your
> program to be suspended on one processor, have the data and state copied
> to another processor, and be resumed there, then isn't this essentially
> the same process as uploading? You shut down one processor (your brain)
> copy the data to another (a computer) and start it up there.
> Some people are uneasy at the thought of running on a computer system
> which would take such liberties with their program. They want to run on
> a nice, simple computer, no swap-outs, no jumping around, nothing fancy.
> Otherwise they are afraid they might die and never even notice it,
> which would be a tragedy.
> This is another example of how these seeming abstract philosophical
> musings may actually have practical significance for us in the next
> century.
> Hal

Chris Maloney

"Knowledge is good"
-- Emil Faber