Re: Paths to Uploading

Bryan Moss (
Tue, 5 Jan 1999 20:21:22 -0000

Billy Brown wrote:

>I agree. However, a hard look at the technology tells you a lot about the
>social parameters. If dramatic life extension, AI, nanotech, or other
>radical innovations come before uploading, they will have a substantial
>impact on the public reaction.

Incremental leaps in life extension may prepare us, as long as there are no 'quantum leaps' (these tend to create problematic knee-jerk reactions). AI before uploading is the only route to social acceptance in my view, as long as AI isn't seen as an automating job-destroying menace. And only if AI is sociable, it could turn out that invisible computers are better than talking ones (I'd bet money on it).

> If you think uploading is possible, that implies that the mind is a
> complex information processing system grounded in physical reality. Once
> you accept that proposition, there is actually quite a lot we can say
> about what kinds of claims make sense.
> Information processing systems are ultimately very fluid things - it is
> just about impossible for them to exhibit the kinds of rigid limits you
> propose.

If you make a high-level abstraction (that is, a piece of code that recreates the exact input and output) of a neuron do you preserve subjective experience? If you make a high-level abstraction of the entire brain do you preserve subjective experience? What is identity? How much is different? Even if you do think uploading is possible you're still faced with hundreds of currently unanswerable questions.

> A claim like 'no mind can be smarter than a bright human' makes about as
> much sense as 'any mass of gold more than ten miles in diameter will
> spontaneously combust'. Neither claim can actually be tested, but it
> would be amazing if either one were true.

Why do we have such small brains? To me it suggests that the level of complexity achievable is *very* close to the achieved level.

Since we're talking about plausible future scenarios it might be fun, being in the midst of millennium fever, to come up with some. No dates or predictions, just how you think the next few major technologies will pan-out. How about it? (And fifty years from now, when we're all six centimetres tall and living in habitat domes on the moon, we can have a good laugh at them.)