Uploading - It's not all about you

Robin Hanson (hanson@econ.berkeley.edu)
Wed, 15 Jul 1998 11:10:15 -0700

I think the whole premise of most of these endless uploading discussions is ill conceived. They focus on the scenario where you have been ripped from your current world and thrust into a future uploading sales room, where the slick-talking salesperson is pitching their upload copying service, and all you have to go on is some abstract philosophical analysis of dozens of strange transformation scenarios, where in each case you need to answer "but is it me?" It's Socrates in the Twilight Zone.

Come the day when you actually have such a choice to make, I don't think such philosophy will matter much. You'll be embedded in a whole social world to help inform your decision. You'll be able to talk to uploads and their copies, and read articles about their experiences. You might well know friends and relatives who've tried it. You'll have consumer reports type evaluations. You'll have reasonable expectations about how much fun it is to be an upload, how much pain they suffer, the economic rewards possible to uploads, and the social penalties they suffer. And you'll have a reasonable idea of the rewards and penalties to you from creating such a creature.

Given all this context, I think the self-centered question "is it me?" will fade relative to the parent's question "will the creature I create have a good life?" How will I feel about creating such a creature, trading off parental positives I feel against the trouble of being such a "parent", and the costs this new creature might impose on the other creatures I've created? Will it get along with its siblings or fight with them? Will it take resources away from them, or provide them with needed supports? Do I have to devote decades of my time to effort to "raise" this new creature, or is a few days work enough? How much do I like being around such creatures? Do then enhance my social world, or make it more trouble?

Given the range of feelings out there about the value of creating new creatures, when the joy of a life outweighs the sorrows, how much we like being around people like ourselves, even about "is it me?", it seems obvious to me that *some* people will choose to be uploads. And given that some do, I think that, using our best understanding of people and social systems, we can say a lot about all these factors that will influence the choice to
"parent" an upload copy.

This seems like the interesting question to me: assuming many people choose to make uploads and upload copies, what will life be like for such uploads, and for those that don't choose to make copies? The answer to this question will be a much better basis for choosing to make a copy than
"is it me?"

(I made an initial stab at such analysis years ago with my article http://hanson.berkeley.edu/uploads.html, but there's lots more to do.)

Robin Hanson
hanson@econ.berkeley.edu http://hanson.berkeley.edu/ RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627