Re: Uploading

James Rogers (
Tue, 05 Nov 1996 15:25:50 -0800

At 05:54 PM 11/5/96 UT, you wrote:
>We've been discussing uploading and whether the upload is really the person
>who was uploaded, or whether they are some new person who only thinks they are
>the original person.

>First of all, if we're assuming that we can be uploaded into a computer in the
>first place, we are assuming that our consciousness is basically a type of
>computer program. A computer program can be looked at as a way of
>transforming numbers into other numbers. In the case of a person's
>consciousness running on a computer, the computer would be transforming a very
>LONG and complex number into another very long and complex number from moment
>to moment. It doesn't matter how long the moments are in between
>transformations of the numbers that represent the process of someone's
>consciousness, it only matters that the same process is being carried out. An
>interruption of a million years would make no difference to the upload, if
>they carry on then just as they were before. The "stream of consciousness"
>doesn't have to be flowing all the time; it can stop and start, but as long as
>it always picks up right where it left off, it is still the same "stream of
>consciousness". As long as uploading faithfully copies the computational
>process that is your consciousness, you will be uploaded AS you. There may be
>disagreement about how accurately an uploading process can copy your
>consciousness however. But as long as it doesn't alter it any more than it
>typically gets altered in the normal course of events, I see no way to argue
>that the upload isn't as really you as you are. But, we'll just have to wait
>around and see how good the technology is (of course, those of us who are
>interested should actually get out and work on this technology, rather than
>sitting around waiting for someone else to do it).

I don't think the argument is whether or not what is uploaded is equivalent
to you. The argument is whether what is uploaded is the *same* as you.
Equivalence and sameness are very different, especially when factors such as
self-awareness come into play. Although a self-aware program cannot tell
the difference between equivalent instances of its own program, it can tell
the difference between itself and other instances.

There is a parallel to this in the computer world. Consider what happens if
you start two copies of Microsoft Word on your computer. You have two
identical programs both running in the memory of your computer, quite
possibly in exactly the same state. Question: how does your operating
system tell the difference between two copies of identical software in
exactly the same state?
The answer is that every instance of Microsoft Word has an externally
identifiable signature that only has significance to the operating system
and other programs. When the Word program is running, it operates only in
its own context. It does not require knowledge of the signature to run

Note that the signature is based on spatial and physical properties of each
instance of Microsoft Word, since there is no other possible way of
distinguishing identical programs. In the case of computers, this would be
a RAM address. You could start and stop each instance of Word as many times
as you like and the signature, hence identity, would remain the same.

The signature is essentially the "self-awareness" of the program. A program
is deleted by changing or erasing this signature. Suppose now that you copy
one of the running copies to a whole new block of memory and continue
execution exactly at the point it was at before you copied it. This would
automatically generate a new signature by definition. In the context of the
running program, nothing would have changed. From an external context
however, it would be an entirely different instance of the program that was
just running before it moved.

The point to all this is that even though your consciousness "felt" the same
after upload internally, external observers would only recognize an
equivalence, not a sameness.

-James Rogers