>H: Upgrading

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Fri, 26 Mar 1999 13:20:36 -0600

Billy Brown wrote:
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> > I guess the question everyone else has to ask is whether the possibility
> > that late-term Powers are sensitive to the initial conditions is
> > outweighed by the possibility of some first-stage transhuman running
> > amuck. It's the latter possibility that concerns me with den
> > Otter and Bryan Moss, or for that matter with the question of whether the
> > seed Power should be a human or an AI.
> So, remind me again, why exactly are we so worried about a human upload?

Well, we aren't. I think human uploading will take a transhuman - just to straighten out the architecture change, if nothing else; William H. Calvin, a neurologist, thinks that the uploadee would run into all kinds of problems. One imagines that simulating neurons down to the last decimal to avoid the problems would take about a thousand times as much computing power as was intrinsically necessary. And of course, I think it will take exotic hardware. But the main argument is simply that uploading is such advanced software and hardware ultratechnology as to make it easily possible for one guy in a lab to either eat the world or write a seed AI.

> The last time I looked, our best theory of the human brain had it being a
> huge mass of interconnected neural nets, with (possibly) some more
> procedural software running in an emulation layer. That being the case, a
> lone uploaded human isn't likely to be capable of making any vast
> improvements to it. By the time he finishes his first primitive neurohack
> he's going to have lots of uploaded company.

I think it's even worse than that; I don't think our neurons are doing anything as inefficient as an emulation layer. I think the brain's low-level algorithms will look like Vinge's description of a skrode - unchunkable without a specialized domdule. Like trying to understand the "spirit" of a piece of art by examining it pixel by pixel, only more so.

We would get there eventually, of course. I would concentrate on decoding interfaces between brain modules rather than the modules themselves, with the hope of being able to post-process information, add a neural-understanding module to the "bus", or even replace modules entirely. Presumably, although not necessarily, the interfaces will have a simpler format. I would also try and reprogram the visual cortex to model neurons instead of photons, since the visual cortex is relatively well understood and chunkable. To enhance general smartness, once armed with a neural domdule, I would look for modules based on search trees and add power. And of course, I would make backups, and operate on a duplicate rather than myself.

But your logic about having lots of company doesn't necessarily hold. My computer is faster than it has RAM - and, relative to computers, the human brain uses a *lot* more RAM relative to processing power. (Also, don't forget that uploading requires incredibly sophisticated nanotechnology.) So once uploaded successfully, and even before any functional improvements were made, the first upload would be running at days per second, or even years per second.

> I think a seed AI closely modeled on the human brain would face similar
> problems. What gives Ellison-type architectures the potential for growth is
> the presence of a coding domdule, coupled with the fact that the software
> has a rational architecture that can be understood with a reasonable amount
> of thought. Any system that doesn't have the same kind of internal
> simplicity is going to have a much flatter enhancement curve (albeit still
> exponential).

Very true. (But don't leave out *documentation*, particularly documentation of the interface structure; so that new modules can be designed even if the old ones, not being self-documented, can't be understood.)

So why am I worried about human uploads? I'm not. I'm just making the point that, *given* the uploads Otter wants, he has no chance of being the first in. It's a general point that applies to imperialist nanocrats as well, to name a higher line of probability.

        sentience@pobox.com          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.