Thanshumanist Survey

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 13:06:52 -0500

I just wrote some answers to a Swedish transhumanist survey. 
If you see something wrong in this text, please help me improve it.
You can also take part in this survey by sending your own answers
to Jonas Roren <> within the next week.

>1. Do you consider yourself transhuman[ist], extropian, both or neither of
  I do consider myself an extropian. I would call myself a transhumanIST,
meaning that I agree with the general idea of transcending human limits,
and spend considerable time trying to understand related issues, and
advance my own personality.  I have made some success working on my
own personality architecture, taking increasing control over many  of
its elements, and actively pursuing growth on a rational foundation
of disciplines from cognitive science to advanced supplements - I would
say, that the extropian approach here is qualitatively different from
both traditional Western and Oriental ideas on self-improvement, though
partly it is based on both.  Still, no matter how satisfied I am with
my personal progress, I do not think my current state rises far enough
above the conventional human plain to qualify me for any trans-human status.

>2. Do you believe that the human consciousness has been mapped out to the
>extent that it has been made clear that mind uploading theoretically can
>be accomplished?

The understanding of the workings of the human consciousness is in a very
primitive state at this point, but I think methodologically we understand
its nature enough to know that eventually it can be learned, modeled, and
replicated in an external medium.

>3. Do you have any ideas about in what form(s) an uploaded person would
>carry on living? (Artificial worlds, mechanical bodies, colonisation of
>the outer space, merger of several individuals and multiple copies has
>been mentioned)

Uploading is the very first stage of liberating conscious beings from
dependence on legacy substrates and architectures.  Actually, partial
uploading has been going on for thousands of years: people have been
creating external tools for acquisition, storage, transmission, and
processing of information, and relying on these external tools to carry
functions originally performed by their brains.  Even a straightforward
upload, without any personality hacking, would have some dramatic
immediate benefits: real immortality assured by incremental personality
backups, instant cheap travel (it's just transmission of information now,
right?), ability to greatly speed up all mental functions (or slow them
to any level, that effectively gives one infinite patience), etc.
Then, the person could switch between multiple external sensors, so
all the world's telescopes, microscopes, microphones, thermometers, and
other devices would become people's shared sensory organs.
With better understanding of the structure of the uploaded consciousness,
the post-human beings would be able to redefine parts of their personality,
access other people's knowledge as their own ("remote thinking"), trade
internal mental images, accept arbitrary artificial extensions, and do many
other things that will make all our current notions of personality and
identity obsolete.
I theorize in greater detail about the possibilities of the distributed
"liquid intelligence" of the post-human future in my essay "Networking in
the Mind Age". - see 

>4. How would society be shaped in a future where mind uploading is a
>reality? Is it desireable to have all means of control abolished?

  The architecture of the global cognition system will be very different
from the current collection of individual bodies with downloaded social
knowledge.  The role of "personalities" would be transferred to "nodes of
influence" and then to what I call "Teleological threads" - sequences
of structures modifying themselves to achieve certain (also drifting)
goals.  Goals will be more persistent than structures in the time of
architectural self-control.  Of course, some methods of control are
absolutely necessary, as they have always been in all systems.  Others
would be detrimental to stability, growth, or efficiency of different
parts of the system. The set of control structures will never be optimal,
as it has never been. In any case, neither subjects, nor objects of control
will look anything like [collections] of personalities, in today's sense of
the word. The closest entity that I envision to the current concept of
personality, would be a set of interconnected contractual relationships
between various functional units (that at the same time can also engage
in other sets of relations), working on a coordinated set of projects -
an advanced analog of a "virtual corporation".

>5. For whom should mind uploading be possible? What factors will
>determine, economical, moral? Will any form of control be needed?

I think the first interesting question is for whom it *could* be possible.
People who cannot perceive themselves separated from their bodies and do
not have courage, intelligence, and experiential flexibility to accept
such a dramatic change (and that includes practically everybody currently
alive) could be uploaded, but for as their personalities cannot "digest"
such a transition, it would be destructive for them.  "Destruction through
improvement", is "death forward" of sorts.  It's not a new phenomenon,
we do this to the personalities of our children by raising and educating
them, which changes them beyond recognition, but here the transition would
be a lot more immediate, unexpected and traumatic.

Even when uploading becomes both technologically possible and personally
acceptable for some individuals, the transition to new forms and necessary
changes in social structures would be very serious, and would require and
cause a lot of control issues.  Most likely, the traditional power centers
will exercise their control against the requirements of progress, as it
is happening today.

>6. Isn't there an imminent risk for overpopulation if humanity gains

  The Universe is pretty large.  Immortality doesn't increase population,
making new individuals beyond necessity and reason does. If the population
of advanced countries was today granted eternal youth, there probably would
be little change in the population. Sure, old people would die less (except
suicides, accidents, etc.) - but younger people will delay having children,
as they can always do it later, and we would see a great drop in birth rates.
In any case, prohibiting immortality, that is, killing some people so that
some others could bring currently non-existent people to life, doesn't seem
more ethical than feeding old neighbors to your children.

In more distant future, post-uploads inhabiting artificially expanded
Multiverse, will take care of this problem.  Meanwhile, if every person
makes only the children s/he knows she can raise, their won't be any problem.

>7. What will be the further challenges for man if one could live forever?

Aggressive self-modification.  Immortality is a very conservative goal.
Nobody would just like to preserve themselves in the same state.
Those who do not change as aggressively as it is technologically possible,
will effectively drown in the rising tide of intelligence.  Even if they
are kept alive by sentimental hyper-transcendent entities, nothing will
depend on them, and they will not be able to discover anything new or do
any useful work for themselves or others.  As these things are fundamental
to humans, being human in the transhuman company will be also impossible.
So man will not live forever.  Our descendants will, hopefully, but they
won't be human.

>8. Do you see mind uploading as a step in the evolution of man?

Yes, it may be its final step.  I am not sure it would or should be done
though.  If we learn to build new intelligent structures before we figure
out how to replicate the brain, we could just build new and better entirely
artificial minds, and then nobody will need to preserve humans  :-)

>9. Mind Uploading would lead to a generation (the one in power) becoming
>immortal. Isn't there a risk that this would lead to some form of

The power structure always tries to use new inventions to better keep
its old positions.  I do not think it would be a great factor here though.
The society changes so rapidly now that it is very difficult to be relevant
for long.  Old people are under-represented in leadership of frontier
social movements (take extropians) or cutting-edge science and technology
partly because they are less numerous and physically and mentally able,
but mostly because their experiences are largely irrelevant in today's
world, and appear actually detrimental to their ability to contribute to,
or control emergent directions.  In Japan, with life-time employment of
industrial managers, they have a whole class of "sitting near the window"
old executives still holding nominal control positions, luxury offices,
and high salaries, but not understanding, and not controlling anything

  Old entities always have greater power, and always eventually lose, now
sooner than ever.  This applies also to humans.

Alexander Chislenko <>
<> <> <>