[ExI] Meditations on the million year mind.
ALONZOTG at verizon.net
Wed Oct 9 04:57:15 UTC 2013
Tonite I feel like mumbling incoherently about how you would go about
engineering a mind to last a million years. The problem is much less
trivial than it would first appear because the main issue is to maintain
a youthful learning capacity even when memories spanning thousands of
years are already stored. Other aspects of cognitive performance must
not degrade eather. Any non-zero rate of degradation will turn out fatal
over protracted time. This posting will make some brief comments about
the physical requirements of such a mind but mainly focus on the
architecture of the mind itself. Some consideration will also be made
with regards to changing workloads and the inherent need to move beyond
the baseline in terms of capacity and capabilities.
A cursory glance at the world will inform you that minds exist,
primarily, in order to solve the problems of maintaining and operating
their embodyment. These problems are protection, maintainance, and
socialization. Additionally, if the embodyment is mobile, then it also
involves navigation. Virtual 'embodyment' is frequently proposed so
therefore I will address it. While there is certainly some value in
being able to use a VR environment, it cannot serve as a primary
environment because there will always be a physical substrate and
because. By definition, any action in VR is utterly inconsequential on
the physical layer and is therefore completely uninteresting.
Furthermore, a VR intended to preserve a mind over long periods of time
is, by definition, hell because it would cantinually have to force the
mind to solve somewhat difficult but completely contrived problems just
to provide the stimulation required to keep a mind in working order.
Regardless of what you wish to deem the embodyment to be, the mind will
exist within a physical substrate. If there is one true thing about the
universe it is that it loves to kick the shit out of substrates. Any
feeling of safety you might have is both temporary and illusory. So you
will need to engineer a countermeasure for every conceivable scenario
that might damage your brain. But more importantly, you need a way to
service and repair it to factory spec. So therefore it will not be a
solid block of computronium, A more plausible configuration is .1 mm
cubes of computronium packed in a classical organic phospholipid
membrane or in a more trendy nanosystem. In any event it must be sturdy
enough to do anything from play football to get mildly zapped by the B+
on a classic tube amplifier.
While the substrate is much fetishized, in the bigger picture it is
profoundly irrelevant. The real issue is how the brain actually works.
In the crudest sense, the brain works kind of like a flash memory.
Because synapses can't form in specific locations, they must form in a
shotgun fashion and then get pruned back. Similarly, a flash memory uses
electrical currents to reset a bank of fuses and then selectively blows
the fuses to write information. To erase information, the entire bank
must be cleared. So as you are learning, you are progressively loosing
synapses, as they are pruned back. There are some exceptions to this but
that is the basic process.
Inevitably, however, the brain exhausts it's plasticity and simply
cannot form new memories. Any approach you would use to grow new
synapses, or add additional cortical columns will have the effect of
erasing existing memories, or, if you must, the existing personality.
So therefore we need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a
new system for thinking that can be expanded or re-configured as needed
without unobtanium. Reconfigurability is important because there are any
number of reasons you might alter your embodyment and your mind must be
able to adapt as well. While we are at it, there are several crucial
areas of performance that should also be addressed. These include the
ability to deal with many tasks concurrently, as well as the depth and
breadth of knowledge that can be brought to bear on any given problem,
not to mention the capacity for higher-dimensional thinking, a deeper
short-term memory stack, etc...
The first thing that needs to happen is the abstraction from the unit of
data from the unit of computation. Doing this will open up the whole
universe of data manipulation techniques. The current cortical column is
both data and processor approach might be fast but it is not flexible or
What we find in the brain is a network of interconnected sub-modules,
each with a relatively discreet function. A brain of the type I propose
would start out with a hanful of functional modules dictated by the
embodyment and what is essential to create a functioning mind. The rest
would be created dynamically and without limit. The learning rate could
be extrordinary by human standards and, on account of the ability to
create new modules to process new ideas, could *OUT CLASS* any previous
human genius (or upload thereof).
Because the system would be based on database theory, the amount of
information could grow to the limits of the hardware, instead of being
bounded by the limitations of the original equipment due to emulation,
and because the original brain lacks capacity for expansion.
The next problem, is how to take advantage of such a system personally.
The unchallenged standard proposal is to scan the existing brain
(subsequent to sacrificing the patient in an occultic ritual involving
removing the patient's heart and showing it to him while it's still
beating; yes it's that primitive!). But the prospects of extracting
anything useful much less extracting the data from the processors in
that secenario is extremely dubious. Actually, that's much too polite:
It ain't going to happen. You just aren't going to extract enough
information to dump it into the new mind architecture and have anything
even remotely like the original.
Now, what Just Might Work (tm) is mind coalescence. You use a BCI to
mind-meld with the new platform. The new platform will acquire your
knowledge not by trying to un-tangle your rat's nest of dendrites but,
*ghasp*, *shudder*, etc etc, by communicating with the living system.
The next step would involve stimulating each cortical column to
play-back all of it's information which can be remembered by the new
The ultimate question is whether the universe will allow you to choose
your point of view. This is the most profoundly non-trivial question
there is. Unfortunately, only experimentation will even begin to shed
light on it. =\ Will your original mind ever become "spare" and
disposable to your new mind? In any event, the best result will almost
certainly be obtained by operating both minds in their joined state for
as long as your original brain can be maintaned. Therefore it is urgent
to construct the new mind at the earliest possible date, preferably ten
years ago when I came up with this idea. =P
I was working on a story involving it, but then my DOS partition got
wiped out so I had to manually hunt down fragments of the manuscript
with a disk editor and re-construct the thing... FUN. Wanna read it?
So, you can either spend the rest of your lives debating whether
cryonics is better than plastination, and then, uppon your death,
someone else decides to creamate you... Or you could develop AI, neural
interfaces, and mind coalescence now and start the journy toward your
first-millionth birthday... The choice is yours, punks!
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