Uploading for Dummies

Joe Jenkins (joe_jenkins@yahoo.com)
Tue, 14 Jul 1998 14:54:26 -0700 (PDT)

Over the last couple of years I've been trying to put together a web sight called "Transhuman For Dummies". The goal was to try to explain most of the transhuman issues in laymans terms with the assumption of nearly complete ignorance of the reader reguarding extropian memes. The project has produced 20 pages of text with many attributed quotes from this and other lists. Below, I have cut and pasted various paragraphs from these essays that I think are pertinant to the current uploading topic:

When I was tackling the issue of uploading for myself, I had a lot of difficulty with the question of what does it mean for me to survive. As a result I developed a thought experiment to try to resolve some of the issues. Imagine yourself lying on a table and on another table next to you is a large empty bucket. Now imagine that an experimenter were able to take a single atom from your toenail and place it into the bucket. Then the experimenter goes to a stockpile of chemicals and gets a new replacement atom of the same type that was removed and inserts it into your toenail where the original atom was removed. Now the experimenter repeats this process for every atom in your whole body from your feet to your brain. At no time during the experiment are you missing more than one atom from your body and thus you will experience no side effects during the process. After all, no single atom in your body or brain is critical for normal functioning. I don't think you could argue that each time an atom was removed and then replaced that part of YOU had died and a part of an exact copy of you had come alive. This would be absurd. At the end of the experiment, all of the atoms in YOUR body have been replaced and YOUR original atoms lay in a random pile in the bucket. Now you are asked, are YOU the random pile of atoms in the bucket (dead of course) or are YOU the individual laying on the table made up completely of atoms that were taken from the stockpile of chemicals? I believe the correct answer is, YOU are the individual lying on the table with your new atoms. This is because you have no ties with the individual atoms that make up your physical body and mind. In fact, atoms have no individuality at all. There is no way to distinguish between them. One carbon atom is exactly the same as another carbon atom. The thing that makes you YOU is the information of how these atoms are arranged and the processing of that information. Because atoms adhere to the physical laws of the universe, they can be modeled or emulated in a computer along with their interactions with other atoms. This emulation can be modeled in a way that represents the configuration of atoms that make up your body and mind along with the environment with which you interact.

This thought experiment was designed to allow you to separate the identity of yourself from the physical world and understand that the essence of your soul and personality is fully represented by information and the processing of that information. So a rational selfishness for survival would be the desire for that information to be preserved and allowed to continue processing. This was a very big step for me because I always felt a sort of selfishness for my physical self (atoms and all) and I've probably stepped through the above thought experiment hundreds of times even though its very simple. Once this is understood and accepted though, it's not too big of a leap to understanding yourself as an upload. For me, the selfishness currently lies not in the atoms and not so much in the information either, but in the processing of that information. I have spent a lifetime evolving a society of competing mental agents. Sometime in my infancy these competing agents reached a complexity of sufficient critical mass to allow my consciousness to become spontaneously self aware. The continuing competition of this society of mental agents has brought me great joy and pain due to the struggles and resulting victory and defeats of the individual agents. To just bring all of this to an end and halt the execution and destroy the code is something I would avoid to a great extreme. At the same time I would go to great lengths to ensure that the information processing I call ME were not being processed by a duplicate. Shortly after the two processes diverged there would be two instances of an individual calling himself Joe Jenkins. This individual would claim to own all of Joe Jenkins' property. He would claim relationships with my relatives, insist on living in my house, sleeping in my bed. He would know many secrets that I prefer kept to myself. On thankgiving two people would show up at my parents house claiming my indentity.
For these reasons it should be every individuals right to prevent two instances of his or her process to be animated and diverged. The key word here is diverged. This is when the conflict of interest begins and each click of the clock intensifies the difference. As long as there is no divergence, the two copies are nothing but dual redundancy and thus are not capable of creating a conflict of interest. Thus, one of the redundancies could be halted with no ill effect to my existence and it wouldn't matter which one was halted because both would realize the other was not a divergent copy but only a redundancy. Flip a coin idiot (sorry I meant dummy).

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