Re: Uploading
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 16:24:03 -0700

Eric Hardison, <>, writes:
> First, I'd like to point out that I think uploading is the wrong
> approach. It would be better to replace the body with new
> electromechanical technology -- cell for cell via multiple injections.
> Once every cell has been replaced with an electromechanical version,
> they can all dispense with the "organic pretension". The new body will
> be programmable. Bored with the old style of body? Go in for a retrofit
> or maybe a restructuring "operation".

The question I like to ask in regards to this kind of "gradual uploading" scenario is this. What about the case of a person who is already uploaded into a computer? Let's ignore for now the question of whether he is the same person he was when in an organic body. Hopefully we can agree that there is "someone" in the computer.

Should he have concerns about identity when his program is subject to similar kinds of transformations as uploading? Modern operating systems will move programs around in memory, or even swap them out of memory altogether and put them on a disk for a while before swapping them back in to run some more. If you were a program like this, wouldn't moving you to a disk "kill" you as certainly as uploading? Where is the continuity in a system which shoves around bits and pieces of your program willy-nilly?

It would be even worse if you had a multi-processor system with dynamic load balancing, where parts of the program are moved from computer to computer in order to keep everything running efficiently. If the system were running many brains at once then your whole program could be moved around from machine to machine without your being aware of it.

My feeling is that these kinds of transformations should not be relevant. The important thing in this model is that the computer manages to run through all the steps of the program that calculates your mind. The details of how the computer accomplishes this should not matter. At some level, all computers are equivalent. If some use different technologies for performing their calculations, that is not important, as long as the calculations get done.

If this is true it doesn't matter if your program gets swapped out for a while, or moved from processor to processor. But if it's OK for your program to be suspended on one processor, have the data and state copied to another processor, and be resumed there, then isn't this essentially the same process as uploading? You shut down one processor (your brain) copy the data to another (a computer) and start it up there.

Some people are uneasy at the thought of running on a computer system which would take such liberties with their program. They want to run on a nice, simple computer, no swap-outs, no jumping around, nothing fancy. Otherwise they are afraid they might die and never even notice it, which would be a tragedy.

This is another example of how these seeming abstract philosophical musings may actually have practical significance for us in the next century.