Re: advantages of uploading (was Re: re [2]: What is "New Age"? )

Hal Finney (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 12:30:09 -0700

Brent Allsop, <>, writes:
> > > (I prefer to call it spiritual stuff)
> >
> > Why do you prefer this?
> Thank you for asking. I hope you don't mind if I reply to
> this publicly since I would love to have much more discussion about
> this topic.
> There are many reason. First and foremost it seems to me to
> be the most natural.

Naturalness is relative. I suspect that to most people "spiritual"
is not a natural description of the internal representations created
by the mind. Rather, they associate it with religion and mysticism.
It is a completely misleading use of the word for most people.

> This is a vast "cartoon world" inside our mind
> that is everything we know. At the center of this "cartoon world" is
> a representation of ourselves. It is isomorphically very identical to
> our real physical selves and mirrors our physical selves via data
> collected by our senses. Calling this our spiritual selves certainly
> sounds much better than calling it a "cartoon" rendition of ourselves.

Why not just call it an internal representation? That's the phrase you
resorted to when you wanted people to understand you. Use the terms
which promote understanding, not confusion.

> Further, scientists and philosophers have been avoiding this
> "S" word for years now. I ask why? This is what has caused the great
> divide between scientific thinking and religious thinking. To me, the
> most important goal of science today is to discover what this
> substance of ideas is. What is consciousness made of? I believe we
> are about to discover precisely what this mirracusouls phenomenal
> stuff is as Crick argues in his book: "The Astonishing Hypothesis".
> This will be the most significant discovery made to date by man. This
> discovery is what will make uploading possible. For me, it is
> precisely the discovery of the spiritual.

I'm not familiar with Crick's book, but I can't imagine that any
scientific explanation of consciousness will make uploading possible in
itself. The hard problem is and will remain getting specific information,
at the neural level, about the internal workings of the brains that we
want to upload, and having computers big enough to accurately model them.
It should be possible to create uploads without having any scientific
understanding of consciousness per se.

> Realizing that this spirit world exists inside our mind
> rationally explains all the "spiritual" phenomenon religious people
> claim proves we have a spirit. Of course it is possible for our
> spiritual selves to have an out of body experience in this cartoon
> world.

Not in the sense people think of it, where the out of body experience
represents an actual interaction with remote parts of the real
world. Here is where your terminology is confusing. There are
two interpretations of an OOB experience. One is that it happens
strictly within your brain, a simulation of what it would be like if
you could go out and interact with the world mentally; the other is that
something actually leaves your body (as the name implies) and goes out
and interacts with the real world. You, who are trying to draw a sharp
distinction between our internal representations and what is "out there",
should be the most aware of this. If someone in the next room puts a
randomly chosen playing card on the table, and I visit that room in an
OOB experience, can I expect to come back and say what that card is?
The two explanations provide exactly opposite predictions about the
outcome. Which do you accept?

> Of course there is phantom limb pain after an amputation. It
> is the spiritual self in our brain which hasn't had it's spirit limb
> amputated feeling the phantom pain. This is real stuff that really
> exists just as our physical body exists. We must call it something.
> What is more natural than calling it the spiritual self inside the
> spiritual world inside our brain?

It is more natural to call it the brain's representation of the state
of its body.

> Anything is possible in this dream world and that is why so
> many people have so many experiences that they think are "spiritually
> supper natural". They are spiritual but they are not supper natural.
> If people realized that all this was simply occuring in the natural
> fantasy spirit world inside our brain and not beyond our brain people
> could more rationally think about and understand the significance of
> all such occurrences.

Surely you are aware that for hundreds of years people have been arguing
about whether such experiences are all in the heads of the people having
them, or represent actual interactions with the outside world! Your
terminology sheds no new light on this debate. Do you think people will
now accept that their experiences are all in their heads simply because
you have labelled them "spiritual"? It is far more likely that they will
tell you that you have misunderstood the nature of what they are

> Also, most people reject the notion of abstract uploading
> because deep down they know there is something spiritual inside of us.
> What an abstract machine uses to represent red is very different than
> what we use to represent red. True, we will be able to make an
> abstract copy of ourselves that has no spirit at all, but this is not
> uploading. It is only abstract simulation. There is no feeling
> involved. Such would be a zombie that would be lying when it was
> trying to describe what the color blue is really like since none of
> what it knew would be represented with real blue.

I don't believe in zombies. The idea that someone can behave just like
a human being, argue passionately that he *is* conscious, that he does
have internal experiences, that he loves life and treasures every moment
of his existence, while actually (I guess) lying about this, is incoherent.
You ought to read some of the philosophical arguments against the existence
of zombies. David Chalmers has some good stuff on his web page. (I don't
agree with Chalmers on some issues, but his arguments against zombies are

One example is Chalmer's "fading qualia", from Imagine your brain
gradually being replaced, a bit at a time, with electronic circuitry which
mimics the neural functions. Zombie lovers might suggest that at the end
you have no consciousness, although you continue to act just the same.
Now imagine what it would feel like to undergo this transformation.
Presumably at some point you have a "faded" sense of consciousness;
you are part way to being a zombie, but not all the way there. Yet you
continue to act just the same, and claim that the intensity of your
sense of self has not changed at all. How can you rationalize this

> These are my thoughs on this subject, what do you think? Do
> you fear or wince at the idea of calling it "spiritual" stuff? If so
> then why?

I just think it's confusing. You are taking a term with an established
set of meanings and using it in a different way. This will not further
the cause of enlightened discussion.

I should add that I am tired of people claiming that we fear or react
defensively to these terms. That's just an attempt to argue by
intimidation, and I find it rude.