Life inside a Computer

Discussion in 'Intelligence & Machines' started by kmguru, Sep 8, 2001.

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  1. kmguru Staff Member

    Privacy is or will never be absolute. They are degrees of grey. What is private to a burkha clad female may not be to a porn star. This just happened to one pakistani female that had a head cover (not face) while going through the airport security. The male security people (the same ones who barely mustered GED) asked her to remove it. The woman asked for the female security guards. It took a long time to get there.

    So, privacy is in the minds of the beholder. I am sure rules and logics can be setup to comply with the right groups. I remeber an Indian friend telling me how he shared an apartment with a whiteboy during his cllege studies. The first day, he found the roommate running around nude in front of him after taking a shower and getting his clothes to put on. It continued for a while, until he finally spoke up and told the roommate that where comes from, it is an insult to do that. His roommate did not know the culture but learned quickly.

    So, I think we can work it out....the privacy issue...that is...
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  3. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    If you just want to talk about the technical aspects and the possibilities that's fine. People clearly can't work out there differences in many group situations. Even if privacy can be I brought up other issues as well. Don't sweep them under the carpet and say they aren't problems though. That approach will always bite you in the ass in the end if it is a serious undertaking and it is an issue science has to learn more and more to deal with. Often it doesn't the outcome is not so great.
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  5. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

    Privacy??? Does that actually exist?

    Privacy never really exists, there is always someone that knows something about your affairs who's quite happy to talk to others without even asking you. Okay so they keep it a secret from you, but suddenly this betrayal in the form of polymorphic whispers and your walking around like the Emperor wearing his new cloths. (I'm sure you've heard of the story of the Tailor that made the invisible but equisit garments, and everybody kept quite about it, until he walk infront of the populous that laughed at his foolishness.)

    The only true privacy would be to be marooned on a desert island and sheltering in a faraday cage while listening to a variable hum, no not meditating just stopping people from being able to train their systems on picking up on thought dopplers.

    You could also mention that no matter how secret you would like to keep the way you look beneath you clothes, we are all pretty much built the same and this leaves it to the imagination.

    So is imagination a breach of privacy? Afterall if I imagined a female that I liked alot and thought of in comprimising positions would that be a breach of her privacy (without of course you knowing about it) Of course if that was a real statement, this could be classed as a breach in itself.

    At the end of the day what would a world void of lies, deceit and treachory be like? Afterall if people could see your thoughts during businesses negotiations, or at a job interview or trying to get in at a college or university then you wouldn't be able to lie.
    If you were a criminal you wouldn't be able to hide what you did and to whom or what "conspiracies" your plotting for the future.

    Crime would be cracked at every turn.

    Of course the problem is then what if the criminals begin utilising this system themselves, or for that matter those with power being corrupted by power.

    Again an equilibrium, the blight of balance.
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  7. kmguru Staff Member

    My point is, if we are going to address the "privacy" issue, we need to define what it is in excruciating detail. Otherwise like "environment" issue, "cultural contamination" issue (french are big on this), it is meaning less or will not provide adequate understanding to manage it.

    For example if it is found that the spanish speaking countries are falling behind (in economy) the english speaking countries - does that mean it is a cultural issue as many have suggested. And if so what should be done about it?
  8. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    Personally, I don't think there is any need for privacy other than the fact that people have an easier time learning things when they aren't worried about embarassing themselves. Privacy often leads to a lot of serious problems, like in domestic abuse cases. I'm not worried about privacy issues myself.

    My main point is/was that I think conversations about technology that will drastically alter society should try and explicitly discuss social impact. Since this is a very hypothetical discussion you are free to skip this part, but I think that people should try and be as socially aware as possible. You seem to have thought about all the good things about it, but not the bad. That situation makes me nervous in a general technological context ...
  9. kmguru Staff Member

    That is understandable. Looking at the dark side of technology. The difficulty here is the same people faced during industrial revolution and automation. At the time, the dark side was discussed at length. People will lose their jobs. We will have a society of beggers. Crime will be rampant and so on. Even though there were definitely some bad side effects initially, the society adjusted itself to stability. It is difficult to guess the extent of side effects and whether the society can manage. Our law makers do not have any faith in our society. That is why marijuana is still same level as heroin. Here there is already a society such as India that has minimal restrictions on Marijunana, yet that country did not turn into a nation of jombies.

    The point is the degree of side effects and whether a matured society can handle it. Any new technology, process, activity has both good and bad effects. It is matter of degree. As long as good things outweigh bad - most society go for it.

    So, yes, we should look into all the issues - but should not throw the baby with the bath water because we get paranoid on our predictions or lack thereof.

    Good thoughts though...
  10. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    I wasn't suggesting that the good get thrown out with the bad. I think you might be a little optimistic though (including considering our government mature). If technology is developed intelligently it can help avoid potential social problems. If people race to market for economic reasons the incarnation of a technology can have bad implications.

    For instance if these computer entities can vote, the company that does the transfer might be encouraged to distort their political beliefs for its own empowerment. Say energy can be used on agriculture to feed people or keep the virtual world powered (and remember with NO death these numbers can grow very fast) if they can vote they will outnumber the living quite quickly.

    Just something to keep in mind, I think technological development is a good thing in general. Population growth does have me a little nervous, and is semi-relevant here. If people kill off too much of the biotic environment we could de-stabilize the whole web. The virtual world is less dependent on that web than the living population would be. If power is shifted to them we might lose a lot before it was obvious that had happened and we might even kill a lot of the world off and drastically reduce the population that could be supported. As long as an energy source was available the virtual world would not have lost as much. Maybe they wouldn't be as careful or maybe they would be more wise and help us avoid it. Society is a complex beast ...
  11. kmguru Staff Member

    Again I agree. It all depends on the applications of the technology. One possible scenario is where you can retire into a computer (assuming the safety and security issues have been solved). One way that might work is that you will be scanned weekly until your natural death. Upon your death, the previous memory scan will be activated inside a computer simulation environment based on the conditions you set in your will that is socially acceptable. That virtual world will co-exist with our real world (which could be as zion puts it, another virtual world by an alien race that we do not know). Your living loved ones could interface with you through a neural connection just like you visit the hospital during visiting hours.

    Inside the virtual world, you could have two moons, snady beaches with crystal sands and so on. You could move into a designer habitat or a base habitat depending on the fees you paid.

    Let your imagination run wild....
  12. Imahamster Registered Senior Member

  13. Rick Valued Senior Member

    Refreshing the memory by weekly scans may be good idea,but it is hectic for a life to be immortal.if brain is scanned and exactly and if it behaves exactly inside the system as it did earlier,we "ll have the memory of the man scanned within the system.the scanning off course would occupy loads of memory,but imagine linked lists,(Data structures i mean) we"ll simply add more as when there is requirement,but adding will be based on brains needs.if system runs out of memory,we"ll transfer the man to another...

  14. Rick Valued Senior Member

    Gaming as i have discussed before,can be arena excitedly used for approaches like brain downloads etc.

    future games as i mentioned earlie will be Matrix style loader.they"ll load inside the temporary memory and refresh constantly to give a realistic effect,as if you"re in a dream.designed dreams you may call it.

  15. kmguru Staff Member

    I had an eureka moment that may fit in this topic. Suppose we are inside a giant natural computer that creates the self learning program and we are part of that simulation. Even if we become aware (a la Matrix), how can we change the program so that we will know for sure, we are part of it?
  16. Rick Valued Senior Member

  17. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    I don't think you can ever be sure unless the "programmers" made some mistake that made it obvious (here the evidence would depend on the mistake).

    Our world obeying the laws of physics is certainly being computed in some respect even if it is the fundamental elements and laws which do the tallying ...
  18. Rick Valued Senior Member

    In fact thats where our concious mind will play an important role to make us realise...

  19. whatsherface imaginary entity Registered Senior Member

    In fact thats where our concious mind will play an important role to make us realise...

    Unless it is our conscious minds which trap us inside the program, then the glitches will come from our unconscious, where the programming is done.
  20. Bobby Lee member Registered Senior Member

    Brings to mind

    All of this discussion brings to mind a question for me. Is there such a thing as "ABSOLUTION?"


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  21. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

    Is there such a thing as "ABSOLUTION?"

  22. Rick Valued Senior Member

    As confused as a dinosaur(sorry for bad metaphor)

    Absolution in what sense??

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  23. Rick Valued Senior Member

    The following interesting article i have taken from MURG site.

    The Prospect of Mind Uploading
    by Graham Hearn
    (Editor's note: This is a draft version of an article submitted to Open Scientific Publications for review and publication, January 2000. Please quote and reference the final version of this article, as it appears at Open Scientific Publications.)


    Mind uploading is a hypothetical and actively pursued technology whose purpose is to achieve the transferral of a human individual identity into an artificial system via whole brain emulation. Stated another way, mind uploading aims to create "software with human-level intelligence, yet created using little understanding of how the brain works, on anything but the lowest levels of organization." [1] The author will refute the arguments denying the possibility of mind uploading to show that there are practical routes to the attention of whole brain emulation.


    Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) (or mind uploading) is a technological objective that has been used as a motif in science fiction for a considerable amount time, [2] but was not mentioned in a widely read work of nonfiction until 1988 by Hans Moravec in Mind Children [3]. Currently, there is an expanding field of awareness being payed to the objective of mind uploading, including the recently established Whole Brain Emulation Research website [4]. Conversely, as with all technologies that are difficult to conceptualize in advance, mind uploading has also been a target of ridicule [5].

    In order to develop science from science fiction, it is necessary to establish that it is theoretically possible to transfer the mind into an artificial system. The transferal is done by scanning the brain, analyzing the scan to extract relevant features and constructing an equivalent reprensentation of the mind in an artificial system with brain emulating behaviour [6]. Objections at this level arise mainly from the fields of philosophy, physical anthropology, and psychology.

    Once it is established that mind uploading is scientifically realizable, there are myriad philosophical questions regarding the future status of ethics, law, morality, and public policy to consider. There are also many issues for futurists to deal with, concerning cultural anthropology, economics, and the future effects of answers to the above issues [7]. This level of study goes beyond the scope of this paper, as is the question of how to realize WBE scientifically.


    In order to reproduce a person's mind such that their identity and self awareness remain unchanged, Whole Brain Emulation requires (a) that the mind is an emergent property of the human organism; (b) that the mind is localized to the brain; and (c) that both personal identity and self awareness are properties of mind [6]. These assumptions combine to form the major assumption of WBE: that personal identity comes from the matter making up the brain (or the behaviour thereof).

    To show (a); we know that each living human body with which we communicate is correlated with a unique mind. It is worth noting that identity comes from primarily environmental and not genetic factors; Identical twins that are an accidental occurrence of early splicing of the same fetal cells do not share the same mind. [6] Thus we cannot reproduce a persons mind simply by cloning her.

    To show (b); "Exchanging (or losing) any part of the body - except the brain - is not fatal to the sensation of" mind. "Conversely, any drastic damage to the brain...has a major impact on" mind [6].

    The proof of (b) also applies to (c). In other words, something affects personal identity and self awareness only if it affects the brain. Thus the mind is defined to include self awareness and hence personal identity (and not vice versa). To clarify that personal identity comes exclusively from the mind, consider adding a prosthesis to your body (but not your brain). Your personal identity remains the same. Do this to your brain and the issue becomes debatable.

    With regard to the mind-body ontological problem, the assumption that personal identity comes from the matter making up the brain amounts to physicalism, or more precisely non-dualism. Physicalism includes the theories of reductive materialism, eliminative materialism and funcitonalism. What each physicalist theory has in common is that it holds matter (or the behaviour thereof) to be the sole cause of consciousness. Dualism, however, contends that consciousness comes from a nonphysical form of existence that is in no objective way perceivable from this universe [8].

    For dualism to be compatible with the assumptions made by the pursuers of mind uploading, a further assumption must be made that shall be coined here as functionalist dualism. Dualism holds that a human soul or spirit is an essential property of a person's identity. Functionalist dualism would hold that the soul is "attached" to whatever matter acts the role of a person's material brain. Thus, an uploaded mind would maintain its soul in the new medium for the mind. "Popular dualism," [8] however tends to be of the non-functionalist variety which is a severe hindrance to the acceptance of WBE.

    Since dualism is based upon asserting the unknowable, it cannot be proven (or even argued using logic) whether functionalist or non-functionalist dualism is correct until mind uploading is actually attempted. The only source of appeal is God who is not known to have written on the subject. The main arguments for dualism [8] and their simplified refutations are as follows.

    The argument from religion and the argument from introspection are arbitrary assertions because they are not falsify-able. In other words, there is no scientifically valid evidence for either argument, nor can there be. Arbitrary propositions such as these are not admissable for consideration, i.e. they are neither true nor false [9].

    The argument from irreducibility, however, is falsify-able. The Cartesian and Platonic views that knowledge can be apprehended "directly" from its non-physical existence both require that consciousness possesses primacy over physical existence. The primacy of consciousness can be proven wrong given the axiom that "existence exists" [9]. To avoid going into the long, boring proof (see the reference "[9]" for this), notice that the term physical existence is redundant and that non-physical existence is an oxymoron. The argument from irreducibility uses contradictory terms which implies that it is false.

    The next most difficult ontological theory for mind uploading is materialism, both reductive and eliminitavist. Their main difference, over the Semantical problem [8], is not relevant to WBE. Since materialism holds that the specific form (rather than function) of the brain is essential to consciousness, artificially constructed hardware for the mind must be an exact duplicate of the natural, biological human brain.

    This understanding is problematic for certain approaches to mind uploading because is raises problems for using non-organic materials and chemicals to improve the performance and adaptability of the brain. The question of specifying the exact physical properties that must be possessed by the matter used for uploaded brain hardware become crucial to solving these problems. The purist materialist answer would be, "All of them!" which makes it very difficult to replicate the human brain.

    However, materialism is compatible with certain approaches that try to form a perfect reproduction of the brain down to the smallest possible level of detail using tools like scanning tunneling electron microscopy. Such an approach would require advances on par with mature development of nanotechnology, which are not predicted until betweeon 2010 and 2050 A.D. or more [10].

    The author finds pure materialism to be unlikely, given the recent successful use of a cortical implant for a man who was previously incapacitated by a cerebral hemorrage. The form of the brain was altered when brain tissue grew around the implant and the brain developed a new function to interface with the implant [11] to move a cursor on a computer screen. This implies that the brain's form is far more malleable than materialists assert.

    The most uploading friendly ontological view of mind is that of functionalism. Functionalism is essential to the Strong AI Postulate [12], which basically states that an intelligent machine can be built, at least in principle.

    Functionalism has the advantage of not only being compatible with the materialist approaches to mind uploading, but it also presents the possibility of developing intricate cortical implants and auxiliary systems to enhance cognition once a strong understanding of the information processing relationship between mind and body is developed.

    The author considers this to be the best view by elimination of the other two, but finds validity in the materialist idea that certain physical properties of the matter composing the brain are integral to the operation of mind. Functionalists also hold this view, to a certain way which is expressed by their strategy of modeling the brain using silicon instead of Play-Doh. Functionalists do not deny that an intelligent system can be built out of Play-Doh, but the material properties of silicon are a nearer simultation of the carbon based brains.

    I will now discuss what amounts to a subtle difference between these two theories, whereby one logically leads to the other.


    Another problem for Whole Brain Emulation is the "emulation" part. Even after conceding all of the above, one might still say that one's personal identity comes from the specific matter of which one is composed. This, literally, is what the major assumption of WBE (as stated above) says. However, this is a misinterpretation of what is meant, as I shall explain.

    This argument only applies to the materialist position. A functionalist would say that since the properties of the matter are not limited (provided they serve the proper function in mental operation), the exact molecule of a certain type is surely irrelevant! And a popular dualist, would of course say that matter doesn't count at all -- only the spirit does.

    The argument becomes especially interesting if a mind if reproduced by non invasive means. That is, if your mind were perfectly emulated (down to the atomic level) by a means that did not destroy the body you now have (including the brain), then which copy one would be you? Or suppose that your current body were destroyed in the process but an atomically perfect copy were created. Can you be said to have died? [16]

    The problem presented here is that the "new" matter of which your brain is composed is not identical to the original matter. The emulated brain, it is claimed, is therefore just a copy and not really the same person as before--even if it possesses consciousness and claims to be the same person.

    For Calvin and Hobbes fans, this problem is much the same as the title cartoon strip in Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" [13], where Calvin replicates many copies of himself with a cardboard box. A more abstract version of the same idea is the joke:

    "This is a very old axe. It belonged to George Washington... But it got old, so I replaced the head and the handle. [i.e. All of it.] <laughter> It occupies the same space."

    - Michael Davis, Juggler/Comedian

    This problem calls for an explanation by the philosophical principle known as the Identity of Indiscernibles [14]. This principle comes from Liebniz's Discourse on Metaphysics and it states (essentially) that no two objects have exactly the same properties. If this principle is true, then your newly uploaded self cannot be perfectly identical to your earlier brain: There must be some discrepancy with which you can discern the two. The difference, however, can theoretically be reduced toward a limit of zero and it then becomes a matter of degree as to whether your uploaded self can be said to have the same identity you had before the upload.

    If the Identity of Indiscernibles is not true, and there is evidence from quantum mechanics to that effect [14], then the problem theoretically goes away because it is possible to replace one arrangement of molecules forming a brain with another system of molecules that are identical in every way.

    Recall, though, that there is a certain amout of uncertainty already existing in the brain from both Heisenberg's quantum uncertainty and from Brownian motion due to the kinetic energy of particles within the brain [15]. Recall also that the human body (,including the brain at the atomic level,) replaces itself periodically with the food that one has ingested [16] (,which of course consists of different matter than you do previously.) Thus you are constantly being replaced by "different" matter. So even if your uploaded brain pattern is not molecularily identical, it can still be sufficiently near to act identically to the way it did before.

    To the attentive reader, that last sentence (which came from an argument that presupposes materialism) will sound suspiciously like functionalism; And indeed it is exactly what functionalism states!

    To reiterate: If a system of molecules that produce mind are acting in the same way as a natural brain would, without being identical to that particular brain, then at least one of the actions of the molecules in that system must be different by the identity of indiscernibles. Thus the sameness of action that associates these two systems is a relational one; i.e. they are creating the same result from a different organization of molecules. Therefore, materialism reduces to functionalism.


    Assuming that a human mind is successfully uploaded, there remains the question of what sort of system to attach to the sensory and motor control centers of the brain. There are four general possibilities: the use of an artificially designed and constructed body, the use of an artificially constructed body using the design provided by nature, the use of an organic body that has already been designed by natural selection, or letting the mind exist as software within a computer generated world. The most important scientific fields to consider in selecting how to approach the body problem are those of engineering, neuroscience, philosophy and psychology.

    Engineering and neuroscience each deal with technical challenges in constructing an artificial body and connecting it to an uploaded mind. These areas are less important at this stage, as this paper concerns whether uploading is possible in principle. Since we have already covered the philosophical objections to the practicality of WBE, philosophy can only pose problems for law and morality which are also not relevant to the issue at hand. Psychology, however, is crucial in maintaining personal identity in a new medium.

    The mind is utterly dependent upon the body in which it resides for gathering information through the sensory-perceptual system and for carrying out instructions through the motor-control system of the brain and body. Since a human brain has never been observed to function completely independently of the rest of the body, we can only theorize as to what the effects be might be. The effects upon the mind of the individual can be classsified into social psychology and cognitive psychology.

    The difficulty presented by social psychology is that of interacting with other people while existing in a bodily form that is alien to our natural form [16]. An artificial body creates potential difficulties in communication due to losing or altering the subtleties of facial movements and body language. There is also a problem concerning a change in the ability of the body to experience touch in a social context using non-organic materials (eg. sex). This poses a major problem for catering to human values, which is essential to its practical application.

    This problem can easily be translated into a technical one, because of potential advances in genetic engineering and material engineering that allow for effective emulation of human expressiveness and haptic emulation. There already exists a robot at MIT known as Kismet [17] that performs rudimentary social interaction via its facial expressions. Developments in the computer animation of humans and in facial recognition software also contribute to the understanding to facial expression. It is easy to imagine an extended and more sophisticated simulation of body language from an artificial system combining these three areas of research.

    Cognitive psychology concerns WBE with the matter of maintaining sanity under new conditions of the mind-body interface. Because the brain is continuously interacting with the rest of the body, a change in the input and output systems of the body would significantly affect the functioning of the brain. At a conscious level, there is the constant flux of sensory information entering and of motor neuron signals exiting the brain system. At an unconscious level, there are continuous procedures dedicated to operating routine bodily functions such as the beating of the heart and regulating body temperature. The problem here is that the brain is intimately tied into the central nervous system and does not operate independently of it.

    For unconscious bodily operations, the absence of a bodily subsystem to operate (,as in the case of respiration for a non-cellular and non-organic body,) does not interfere with the conscious mind and will therefore not affect consciousness. In other words the lack of lungs due to no longer having need of them will not cause automatic panic or shock to the uploaded person. This happens on a smaller scale now, where someone may lose the use of a lung or kidney. As for the brain's systems that give and take the brains input and output, these will have to be connected to the centers of the brain that already handle these protocols and made to simulate motor neuron activity as closely as possible. Similar breakthroughs exist that allow a person's brain waves to control a prosthetic hand [19].


    In the end, the crucial inhibiter to actually uploading one's mind is that the technology just doesn't exist yet. It has just been shown that Whole Brain Emulation is an attainable technology given that that personal identity comes from the matter making up the brain (or the behaviour thereof).

    Also essential is the ontological position of functionalism; or, using more limited techniques, materialism. This condition is valid because the competing theory of dualsim is an erroneous theory of mind. Functionalism is the more tenable theory and it requires less advanced technology to emulate a brain functionally.

    When uploaded it appears likely that the mind will be able to adjust to the new situation. In 1970 a rhesus monkey's head was successfully transplanted onto the body of another rhesus monkey. "When the monkey awakened from anesthesia, it regained full consciousness and complete cranial nerve function." [20] This procedure is now feasible for humans and more advanced surgical methods may allow for the transplanted head to integrate itself with the new body.

    All we need now is the desire to pursue the scientific development necessary to achieve immortality by whole brain emulation. Traditionally popular religions have long preached metaphysical immortality which is the immortality of the soul and life after death. According to the Principia Cybernetica Project: "The decline of traditional religions appealing to metaphysical immortality threatens to degrade modern society. Cybernetic immortality [which subsumes Whole Brain Emulation] can take the place of metaphysical immortality to provide the ultimate goals and values for the emerging global civilization." [21]
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