Re: physics of uploading minds

From: Phillip Huggan (
Date: Fri Oct 28 2005 - 01:49:51 MDT

I don't *think* the universe functions as anything but an ordered series of snapshots, but I know reality at my consciousness's level of resolution is continuous somehow. Descartes's reasoning works here in a modified form: I think therefore I am, as the thought requires a non-zero amount of time to exist in my mind.
  I see no difference between flash-uploading and a Moravec transfer; both are impossible unless the ability to harness both types of Singularities are assumed. As I understand a Moravec tranfer, neurons are first simulated, incrementally if necessary, and then synapses.
  A Penrose refutation would involve stating that synapses are affected by quantum forces, so *chaotic* effects would affect the likelyhood of whether a path of branching synapses turns into a thought. Accurately computer modelling every single molecule in the human brain would be very difficult even with mature MNT. Multiplied across all neurons and synapses, personal identity might be lost within a second of turning off the biological neurons and turning on the robo-neurons. Alternatively, personal identity would be lost incrementally as each facet of our mind's biological counterpart was replaced incrementally with robo-neuron derived mental processes.
The real refutation assuming perfect brain copying capabilities, can be found in understanding a simple thought experiment. Assume two perfectly identical sheets of paper. If I write on one, is the other immediately stained as well? No. Why not? Each sheet's gravity independently warps space-time. Each sheet exerts, consists of, and is subject to a whole host of other forces and fields. This is the reasoning that is lacking in a the simple thought experiment contrasting robot neurons and bio-neurons. Incrementally switching the neurons only muddies the waters. If you take away a few of my neurons by hitting me in the head with a hockey puck, it is very unlikely to affect my identity or future actions. But keep taking away more and more neurons...
 As I said, I believe the process referred to as uploading can create conscious entities. Just don't look here for immortality. The difference is critical in how an AGI treats us. An AGI that kills us off and replaces us with conscious agents exhibiting a slightly improved standard-of-living is UFAI. Whereas an AGI that keeps us around and instead uses rocks to make slightly improved conscious agents, is a lot better than twice as good as the first AGI in my books.

Michael Wilson <> wrote:
This view is personal philosophy, not science; you've started with the
(implicit) premise that 'people' are unique and consciousness must be
continuous somehow...

When thinking about things like copying and uploading,
I'd say the important thing to think about is the frequency
distribution over experiences that you-like intelligences have; this
is the only view that survives a radically materialist perspective.
That isn't to say that various sorts of continuity aren't necessarily
important from a subjective point of view, though I don't think we
know enough to say which ones and how yet.

> I would take this further: uploading is too hard post-singularity;
> achieving it would require enacting new laws of physics.

You appear to be referring to absolutely perfect flash-uploading,
which is indeed impossible (as far as we know). Personally I suspect
there could be quite a lot of low-level imperfection in the process
with no noticable objective or subjective effect; the human brain is
accomadating in that respect. But if you /are/ worried about absolute
continuity, I suggest you forget 'scan-and-simulate' type uploading
and google 'Moravec transfer'; the first result that comes up is
actually a previous post to this mailing list (Eliezer summarised
it quite well in 'Staring into the Singularity', in 1996). I'm not
aware of any physical or (sensible) philosophical objections to this
process, which simply requires mature nanotechnology and brain science.

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