Re: uploading, it even conceivable (the "wet" objection)

Harvey Newstrom (
Mon, 20 Jul 1998 11:47:58 -0400

Jonathan Colvin <> wrote:
> I'm not picking on you Harvey, but this seems like an opportune place to
> dipute the whole idea of uploading.

Please, do. Thin skins don't last very long around here. I don't take any objections personally. As long as you don't call me stupid, feel free to call my ideas stupid.

> It seems to rest on a very narrow model
> of consciousness that regards neurons as discrete computational elements
> that can be simulated. I think this model seriously de-emphasizes the
> chemical elements of consciousness...the enormously complicated stew of
> neurochemicals the washes thorugh our brains, and which seems to be a huge
> part of emotion/mood/perception....everything that we mean when we talk
> about consciousness. Our neural-nets are good at pattern recognition and
> lots of things that require computation, but I am of the opinion that much
> of consciousness is dependent on very complicated chemistry. You might say
> I am of the "wet" school of consciousness. And how can you upload
> norepinephrine?

Very good question! I was being very sloppy in my wording, and poorly expressing my belief that someday we will be able to duplicate everything the brain does.

I stand corrected that neurons cannot duplicate brain function. Between the neurons are neurotransmitter chemicals which carry messages. Besides duplicating neurons, we would also have to simulate a chemical communications network between neurons and learn to encode and decode the chemical messages. We also have to simulate the competition of neurochemicals for receptor sites, and simulate the rate of transmission success and loss, including thresholds.

This is much more complicated than my flippant remark about replacing neurons would really indicate. We either have to simulate chemical reactions so that the neurons can interpret the results, or we have to crack the coding of these chemical messages so that the meanings of the messages themselves can be simulated.

You are right that the wet chemicals also have to be simulated, and not just the neurons. The neurons might be data flags, but we still need software and messaging systems to access these data states. There also are different thresholds for neurons firing, based on various chemical levels. Neurons are not binary, either on or off. We may even have to simulate limited chemical availability, just like in the real human brain. If we make the simulated chemicals unlimited, would this overload the software or have a jamming effect as every neuron fires continuously?

You are totally correct that replacing every neuron is simplistic. We do have to duplicate the wetware, either with chemicals or full simulations.

Harvey Newstrom                                   <>
Author, Engineer, Entrepreneur,              <>
Consultant, Researcher, Scientist.           <ldap://>