[ExI] Uploads

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Tue Mar 31 10:11:01 UTC 2020

On 30/03/2020 18:53, Keith Henson wrote:
> Ben Zaiboc<ben at zaiboc.net>  wrote:
> On 29/03/2020 00:19, Keith Henson wrote:
>> Fiction is a problem because
>> if the entire race uploads (possible), you don't have characters in
>> your story.
>> Sorry, Keith, you've completely lost me there.
>> Surely there's far more scope for storytelling in a world of uploads?
>> The much wider range of environments, personalities, and plotlines that
>> would be available?
>> Greg Egan manages a whole novel where more than 90% of the characters
>> and action are in an uploaded environment.
>> What do you mean?
> The essence of characters in a story is to identify with them.
> Uploads, where the entities are much more than human (virtually
> god-like), are impossible to identify with.  Or at least*I*  don't
> know how to write a story with characters about as advanced over
> humans as much as humans are mentally advanced over, say, cats (or
> maybe cockroaches).  I have no idea what might motivate them.
> The medical AI, Suskulan, who runs the clinic in "The Clinic Seed" is
> limited on purpose.

Ah, I see.

OK, that's not a problem with stories about uploads per se., it's a 
problem with stories about anything more intelligent than the author (or 
the readers). And it only holds true for uploads if you assume they will 
inevitably be more intelligent (I'm not saying that's not a fair 
assumption, just pointing it out).

The solution is simply to write about uploads that are not more 
intelligent than you are. Which is what Greg Egan did (he didn't write 
about uploads that were not more intelligent than me, though, I haven't 
a clue what some of the dialogue is actually about, when it goes off 
into theoretical physics and advanced maths).

I suspect it's an overblown objection, myself (for writing stories). It 
shouldn't prevent an author from making stories, if for no other reason 
than that they are just that, stories. Telling stories isn't an exercise 
in trying to get things right, or predicting the future. I'd be quite 
happy to read good stories about uploads that are no more intelligent 
than I am, and I think it would be a worthwhile effort, because it's a 
way to familiarise readers with some concepts that they may otherwise 
find bizarre and uncomfortable (and frightening) when they actually turn 
up in real life.

That seems to me a very good reason for writing such stories, no matter 
how unrealistic they might be in terms of the psychology and motivations 
of real uploads. If you want to frighten people and foster resistance to 
a new idea, keep it unfamiliar, unknowable and intrinsically different 
to what they know. I suggest doing the opposite with the idea of 
uploading. I'd rate the chances of successful acceptance far higher if 
there was at least a segment of society (beyond geeks like us) who find 
the idea of uploading exciting, full of possibilities, something to look 
forward to (even if they think it's all a bit pie-in-the-sky) than if 
the only exposure to the idea that most people had was from the luddites 
and bioconservatives, etc.

I just wish I had some skill as an author, or I'd be doing it myself!

Ben Zaiboc

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