[ExI] Uploads (was: Covid)

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Fri Mar 27 17:56:28 UTC 2020

On 26/03/2020 19:08, Dave Sill wrote, then billw wrote:
> Ideally we'd want to move past playing by the rules of biochemistry in 
> order to do non-biological things.
>     I don't know what that means.  You want to do non-biological
>     things to a biological body? bill w

I don't know what Dave has in mind here, but to me, the long-term thing 
will be moving past the distinction between 'biological' and 'artificial'.

Consider that even an uploaded mind will need a physical substrate of 
some sort to run on (one reason I've always objected to the term 
'substrate-independent' - it implies somehow being independent of any 
substrate, which is clearly nonsense, outside of Star-Trekkian stories 
featuring beings of 'pure energy').
Many people seem to assume that this substrate will resemble our current 
computers, and anyone who advocates for uploading must be happy to have 
their mind be a software construct running on something like the massive 
server farms we have today (which of course implies all sorts of 
practical, legal and ethical considerations that are actually quite 
scary, once you start thinking about them).

While that may be a short-term prospect, I doubt it will be how things 
pan out in the longer-term.

The way we are now, we create and live in elaborate virtual worlds that 
are generated by our brains. We have no choice in the matter, that's how 
things work. This doesn't mean that we don't inhabit 'real bodies', though.

I see no necessary difference once we can upload (once the technology is 
mature, anyway). One factor that many people assume will be necessary 
for uploading is nanotechnology. Much better nanotech than what we 
currently use the word for. Another factor will necessarily be a much 
better understanding of biology. Biology of the brain of course, but 
also of other aspects of our bodies (even if only to provide acceptibly 
realistic - or tolerable - simulations of embodiment).

This is where the 'moving past the distinction' bit comes in. With 
sufficient understanding and technical ability, we'll be able to craft 
bodies for uploads to live in that are not 'computers' as we know them 
today, and not biological bodies as we know them today, but something 
new. Something that serves as a physical substrate for the mind, and as 
a body to act in the world, Something that gives us the best of both 
worlds, virtual and real.

Just because someone's mind runs in a synthetic brain doesn't mean they 
are inevitably stuck in a kind of limbo where nothing is 'real', where 
they can't experience smell or feel emotions, etc., etc. I expect that 
these kind of 'post-upload' people will not only be able to experience 
the full range of mental states that we can now, but a lot more. And 
most importantly, they will be able to control their own selves, in many 
ways. They won't be subject to the worst parts of being biological, or 
the worst parts of being a 'computer system'. No disease, ageing and 
decrepitude. No blue screen of death. No 'Singularity ruined by lawyers'.

The technology used to construct their bodies (and don't just imagine 
'Cmdr. Data' - type bodies, they could be anything you like) would be 
advanced enough that trying to classify them as biological or artificial 
would be hopelessly naive. At this point, even the question 'Are you an 
upload?' would be difficult to answer in a meaningful way. Even the 
phrase 'post-biological' might not be strictly accurate.

Ben Zaiboc

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