Uploading, AI, and Philosophy

Max More (maxmore@primenet.com)
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 11:46:40 -0700 (MST)

Last weekend I taught a course at a private college on "Philosophical Issues
of Artificial Intelligence". It was a two-day, 14-hour course in which I
covered topics including intro AI and computing concepts, intro
neuroscience, the mind-body problem (dualism, behaviorism, functionalism),
the Turing Test, Searle's arguments, and... uploading.

I found this an interesting experience. It seemed that by the end of the
class (we discussed uploading late on the second day) most of the students
were open to the possibility of uploading a human mind into a machine.
Considering that many of the students are Catholic, that was surprising.
This experience suggests that many people otherwise unwilling to consider
the idea will open up to it (and to the idea of replacing biological with
synthetic neurons) once they have the theoretical background in place. Too
bad that we rarely get a chance to sit down with someone and talk with them
about it for 14 hours!

Also of note was the fact that several students managed to accept a
material-functionalist account of mind despite continuing to believe in an
afterlife and soul. On questioning, they admitted that they couldn't
reconcile the ideas, yet they couldn't abandon either of them. One said that
she simply had faith in God and an afterlife, while seeing the sense of the
material position. Another said she didn't have a problem with holding
contradictory beliefs. ... No, I was very polite to these students!

I continue to be amazed at the capacity of the human mind for holding
contradictions. This is one reason that I seriously doubt that religion will
disappear with the continued advance of science and technology.


Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute, Editor, Extropy
info-exi@extropy.org, http://www.extropy.org
(310) 398-0375