Re: Dangers of human self-modification

From: Michael Roy Ames (
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 23:04:16 MDT


Your below list of consequences was interesting, and I am sure each
individual will answer them in their own way. Below are my responses to
some of your questions/dangers

You wrote,
> Some examples of possible consequences, off the top
> of my head:
> You've got memories of enjoying cheeseburgers.
> What happens to the memories when the sensory
> substrate of recollection shifts?

In bio-humans the memories would change. This happens in human brains
whenever we learn new information that relates to something we already know.
The new information subtly alters the recall in ways both predictable and

> Are you
> going to keep the old hardware around for
> recollection?

An uploaded human could chose to do this, if they so desired.

> Will you add in a complex
> system to maintain empathy with your old self?


Again, an uploaded human could chose to do this, if they so desired.

> Your old sense of taste was fine-tuned and
> integrated into your sense of pleasure and
> pain, happiness and disgust, by natural
> selection. Natural selection also designed
> everything else keyed into those systems. If
> you pick new senses, do they make sense?

At first new senses may not make much sense, and would have to be integrated
into the mind as any other new set of information would be. On the other
hand, with a (very) sophisticated installation program, it might be possible
for new modalities to make perfect sense, and to integrate smoothly with all
your existing knowledge.

> Does the pattern subtly clash with the pattern
> of systems already present?


I am sure this will happen. From such clashes great insight and inspiration
might come. Or they might just cause confusion and depression.

> What does the sharp discontinuity
> of direct self-alteration do to your sense of
> personal continuity?


This is one I will not predict. I am certainly willing to give it a try
though. I experience a sharp personal discontinuity every time I fall
asleep and wake up. Would a self-alteration be so different? Could it not
be more interesting in a positive sense as well as a negative?

> If the new taste sensation is more intense, do
> you become addicted to the act of self-
> modification for more intense sensations?


I suppose this is possible. It seems that humans can become addicted to
almost anything. Addiction is something to avoid strongly.

> Can you really appreciate the long-term
> consequences of altering your mind this way?
> Does the new design you decided upon make any
> sense with respect to those criteria that you
> would use if you thought about the problem
> long enough?


Figuring out the consequences may probably only be done in a general way,
without making the actual changes. Some people will undoubtedly go astray
after changing themselves - such are the risks of change.

> Other humans share your current taste
> sensations. Think of your awkward refusal of
> foods at dinner, the mainstream artistry of
> cooking you'll no longer be able to appreciate.
> Are you distancing yourself from the rest of
> humanity? Lest someone chime in that
> diversity is automatically good, let me add
> that this is one hell of a nontrivial decision.


This is an important point, and one that might not be given enough air time
in a North American audience where individualism reigns.

> And finally, what about all the consequences,
> and categories of consequences, that you
> haven't foreseen? When you imagine the act
> of self-modification, you will imagine only
> the easily mentally accessible consequences
> of the act, not the actual consequences. Just
> because you can't see the doom, doesn't mean
> the doom isn't there.

Ah, the Availability bias. This is certainly one to avoid. Though I must
play devil's advocate and suggest that we can't stay sitting on the couch
eating Pringles forever. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Not to play too
lightly with this important topic - your overall point is well taken. Self
modification is mighty tricky.

Michael Roy Ames

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