Re: Will Gods be Lonely? [was Re: NANO: Custom molecules (gulp!)]

Charlie Stross (
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 13:45:31 +0000

On Sun, Nov 28, 1999 at 07:15:06AM -0800, Robert J. Bradbury wrote:
> So you are sitting there with 10^50+ Instructions Per Year doing *what*?

My guess: being bottlenecked by serial processes. The human brain may be massively parallel, but it's not _that_ parallel. Neural state transitions give rise to outputs that have to be summed before you can get the inputs for the next state transition: worse, the neural architecture of the brain expects propagation delays, so you have to complete a lot of neural state transitions before you can move on to computing the next ones.

I suspect that it may not be possible to optimize an uploaded human mind without (a) using external interfaces to properly designed subsystems, or (b) virtually re-writing the whole thing from scratch. And an unoptimized brain simply won't make efficient use of an MB -- once you get beyond being able to simulate the state of every atom in every molecule of every cell, as fast as possible using some local processors, you're just wasting CPU cycles.

> The only thing that seems to make sense (since you have the capacity)
> is to upload everyone (who wants to be uploaded). Then it least things
> are really interesting while everyone expands their capacity and the
> politics of SI management come into existence and sort themselves out.
> I agree that this has the odor of being an altruistic "nice" idea.
> But, can anyone paint me a picture of themselves post-uploading with
> clear descriptions of what they intend to do (potentially by themselves)
> for the next trillion years?

Let me add something else:

Call me an optimist, but I think the vast majority of human being mean well. Within the limits of the information available to them, they don't deliberately act against their peers unless there's a perceived cost to themselves for not doing so. Even an immature MB would be such an incredible resource that, at least initially, conflicts over scarcity wouldn't be an issue: people would have to figure out how to utilize significant amounts of that resource before there could be arguments about doing so.

Put it another way: the first uploads will be in the position of nematode worms moving into a nice juicy sewage works the size of the Earth. Is nematode #1 _really_ going to turn round and say "hey, guys, in fifteen million years I'm going to fill this WHOLE tank; so sorry, no room for latecomers ..."?