Re: Consciousness/Uploading

Anders Sandberg (
06 Jul 1998 17:34:31 +0200

"How are you, Mr. Nilsson?"

I looked around in the room. It was fairly small, dominated by my bed and a large panorama window overlooking forested hillsides bathing in sunlight. The air was crisp and somewhere pleasant classical music played. Everything had a distinct hospital feel, the feel of an expensive private hospital. I wondered why I was there, but a vague memory of explosions, disaster and pain made me stop thinking about it for now. But I felt quite fine, in fact better than I could recall feeling in a long time. I looked at the nurse in the doorway.

"Oh, I feel fine."

"Great. We were worried that our reconstruction of your neural
structure was not complete. If you notice anything odd, be it memory problems, strange sensations or odd thoughts, please tell us and we'll help."

Reconstruction? Some facts began to fall into the place.

"Please, tell me the truth: did you upload me?"

The nurse looks concerned. "Yes, it was the only way. The accident killed too much of your brain for conventional medicine to save, but we were on site very soon and could begin scanning immediately. This is virtual reality."

This place isn't real. The bed is just information in some computer doing physics calculations and then converting them into simulated experience. The sunlight, hillside, even the nurse are all virtual constructs (the nurse probably just a puppet controlled by a real nurse elsewhere). And I'm not me. I am just an impostor thinking I'm myself, a soulless construct with no consciousness.

Wait a bit. Who am I? *I'm* certainly conscious, I experience this existence (whatever it may be). But I had always believed computer programs, ais and uploads to be just simulations, mere appearances of thinking despite what all others said. Could it be that the nurse lied for some strange reason, and I was not an upload? No, deep down I felt the truth of it; that accident had been far too real to survive. So if I was an upload, then it at least proved software could be conscious - something I would never have believed just a few days (?) ago.

But I was not my old self, could not be. I... no, *he*, was dead. I was just a copy of him, a perfect copy that thought he was the original. Not even that, an impostor who knew he was an impostor. How could anybody believe that uploading gave immortality! But at the same time... I remembered my (no, his) childhood, the old house my (his!) grandparents had on the rocky island, the graduation ceremony, the job interview - everything. I felt like he did; despite the worries of the nurse everything seemed to be alright in my mind: the same habits of thought (like my tendency to introspect instead of facing the fear), my feelings, my faith.

My faith. I asked the nurse to leave me, and began to pray. I had heard all sorts of intellectual arguments of why uploading preserved identity, I knew them all. Even if many of them were ingenious and logical they were in the end just arguments, they could never prove anything. Only experience could truly prove something, like the fact that I was actually conscious. But did I have a soul? Could I still pray to God for guidance? Regardless of who I was, that was the most important thing for me. So I prayed more fervently than I had ever done (had I already begun to truly believe I was the continuation of my physical life? So much for convictions in the face of experience). I prayed to God to help me out of this awful metaphysical confusion, to find something to be truly certain of.

He answered. I suddenly felt Him in the core of my being, around me, everywhere; something infinite and omninipotent but at the same time familiar. "OF COURSE YOU HAVE A SOUL. YOU ARE HEARING ME NOW, AREN'T YOU?". It was not so much a voice such as a realization; I felt uplifted, fearful, awed and overjoyed. No matter if I really *was* that person who had been mortally hurt in the accident, I retained his memories, habits and personality, I was his continuation, I had a soul, I was a person, I was with God. Everything was fine.

But I had a small question remaining (two questions, actually). "Is it the same soul as I had before the accident? And why didn't you answer my prayers like this before?". "YOU DID NOT HAVE A SOUL BEFORE THE ACCIDENT. NOW YOU HAVE."

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y