Re: Vogel says brain too complex to upload

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 11:56:22 MDT

On Mon, Apr 23, 2001 at 01:13:05PM -0400, Robin Hanson wrote:
> V. Vogel, University of Washington
  [ snip ]
> But it is important to remember that these nightmarish scenarios are
Spot the dispassionate observer: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

He then goes on to say ...

>For example, these scenarios rely on the assumption that the brain is
>nothing more than a hard-wired neural network, and that knowledge of
>the 3D brain architecture would be sufficient to assess its functional
>states. This may be the case for nematodes - the worm C. Elegans has a
>nervous system consisting of 302 neurons whose connections are all known
>(White 1986). But the brains of higher vertebrates have fundamentally
>different system architectures than computers.

"But, but, we're *different*!"

(Do I detect a note of special pleading here?)

>Furthermore, single neurons are highly nonlinear systems.

"Highly nonlinear" seems to be becoming the standard buzz-word for the
"man was not meant to travel at more than sixty miles an hour" crowd
these days. First he concedes that we *have* successfully mapped 300
neurone systems. He also concedes that scanning resolution adequate for
mapping a brain will probably become available. Then, having painted
himself into a corner, he insists that "the brains of higher vertebrates
have fundamentally different system architectures than computers" (which
is true -- hasn't he ever heard of simulation?) and then he appeals to
Mystic Properties of single neurons to save them from the grisly nightmare
fate of being mapped and uploaded.

Sorry, I don't buy it. I think he's got a contrary agenda (that phrase,
"nightmarish scenarios", is a dead giveaway) and he's trying to weasel
out of it. Next thing you know he'll be invoking Penrose's microtubules ...

-- Charlie

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