Merging With Technology
What is uploading?
(sometimes called “downloading”, “mind uploading”
or “brain reconstruction”) is the process of transferring
an intellect from a biological brain to a computer.
way of doing this might be by first scanning the synaptic structure
of a particular brain and then implementing the same computations
in an electronic medium. A brain scan of sufficient resolution
could be produced by disassembling the brain atom for atom by
means of nanotechnology. Other approaches, such as analyzing
pieces of the brain slice by slice in an electron microscope
with automatic image processing have also been proposed. In
addition to mapping the connection pattern among the 100 billion-or-so
neurons, the scan would probably also have to register some
of the functional properties of each of the synaptic interconnections,
such as the efficacy of the connection and how stable it is
over time (e.g. whether it is short-term or long-term potentiated).
Non-local modulators such as neurotransmitter concentrations
and hormone balances may also need to be represented, although
such parameters likely contain much less data than the neuronal
to a good three-dimensional map of a brain, uploading will require
progress in neuroscience to develop functional models of each
species of neuron (how they map input stimuli to outgoing action
potentials, and how their properties change in response to activity
in learning). It will also require a powerful computer to run
the upload, and some way for the upload to interact with the
external world or with a virtual reality. (Providing input/output
or a virtual reality for the upload appears easy in comparison
to the other challenges.)
hypothetical uploading method would proceed more gradually:
one neuron could be replaced by an implant or by a simulation
in a computer outside of the body. Then another neuron, and
so on, until eventually the whole cortex has been replaced and
the person’s thinking is implemented on entirely artificial
hardware. (To do this for the whole brain would almost certainly
is sometimes made between destructive uploading, in which the
original brain is destroyed in the process, and non-destructive
uploading, in which the original brain is preserved intact alongside
the uploaded copy. It is a matter of debate under what conditions
personal identity would be preserved in destructive uploading.
Many philosophers who have studied the problem think that at
least under some conditions, an upload of your brain would be
you. A widely accepted position is that you survive so long
as certain information patterns are conserved, such as your
memories, values, attitudes, and emotional dispositions, and
so long as there is causal continuity so that earlier stages
of yourself help determine later stages of yourself. Views differ
on the relative importance of these two criteria, but they can
both be satisfied in the case of uploading. For the continuation
of personhood, on this view, it matters little whether you are
implemented on a silicon chip inside a computer or in that gray,
cheesy lump inside your skull, assuming both implementations
cases arise, however, if we imagine that several similar copies
are made of your uploaded mind. Which one of them is you? Are
they all you, or are none of them you? Who owns your property?
Who is married to your spouse? Philosophical, legal, and ethical
challenges abound. Maybe these will become hotly debated political
issues later in this century.
misunderstanding about uploads is that they would necessarily
be “disembodied” and that this would mean that their
experiences would be impoverished. Uploading according to this
view would be the ultimate escapism, one that only neurotic
body-loathers could possibly feel tempted by. But an upload’s
experience could in principle be identical to that of a biological
human. An upload could have a virtual (simulated) body giving
the same sensations and the same possibilities for interaction
as a non-simulated body. With advanced virtual reality, uploads
could enjoy food and drink, and upload sex could be as gloriously
messy as one could wish. And uploads wouldn’t have to
be confined to virtual reality: they could interact with people
on the outside and even rent robot bodies in order to work in
or explore physical reality.
inclinations regarding uploading differ. Many transhumanists
have a pragmatic attitude: whether they would like to upload
or not depends on the precise conditions in which they would
live as uploads and what the alternatives are. (Some transhumanists
may also doubt whether uploading will be possible.)
of being an upload would include:
would not be subject to biological senescence.
copies of uploads could be created regularly so that you could
be re-booted if something bad happened. (Thus your lifespan
would potentially be as long as the universe’s.)
could potentially live much more economically as an upload since
you wouldn’t need physical food, housing, transportation,
were running on a fast computer, you would think faster than
in a biological implementation. For instance, if you were running
on a computer a thousand times more powerful than a human brain,
then you would think a thousand times faster (and the external
world would appear to you as if it were slowed down by a factor
of a thousand). You would thus get to experience more subjective
time, and live more, during any given day.
could travel at the speed of light as an information pattern,
which could be convenient in a future age of large-scale space
cognitive enhancements would likely be easier to implement in
an upload than in an organic brain.
couple of other points about uploading:
work for cryonics patients provided their brains are preserved
in a sufficiently intact state.
could reproduce extremely quickly (simply by making copies of
themselves). This implies that resources could very quickly
become scarce unless reproduction is regulated.
from Version 2.1 (2003) TRANSHUMANIST FAQ by Nick Bostrom
*Faculty of Philosophy,Oxford University.
10 Merton Street, Oxford OX1 4JJ, U. K.