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This Man Is Not a Cyborg. Yet.
June 3, 2013 9:30 AM   Subscribe

His project, called the 2045 Initiative, for the year he hopes it is completed, envisions the mass production of lifelike, low-cost avatars that can be uploaded with the contents of a human brain, complete with all the particulars of consciousness and personality. posted by frimble (76 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
So glad someone's started working on this. Been dreaming of a cyborg body for a while; it may be my only way out of a body that torments me regularly.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, we have seen this movie and, yes, it always leads to evil robots enslaving humanity, the Earth reduced to smoldering ruins.

I guess we might as well get on with it, then. We need some really solid evil robots.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:50 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is interesting, and I hope they get somewhere. Although I'm not sure they should focus primarily on the avatar part. If they manage to get mind uploading working (even imperfectly), I don't think people would necessarily want to confine their mind to a physical avatar.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:52 AM on June 3, 2013


This is interesting, and I hope they get somewhere. Although I'm not sure they should focus primarily on the avatar part. If they manage to get mind uploading working (even imperfectly), I don't think people would necessarily want to confine their mind to a physical avatar.

But isn't mind uploading just a copy? Yes, it would be neat if copy-Frowner could explore Mars or live forever or appear to the world as a cat/eagle/human hybrid with flashing violet eyes and long raven hair or whatever, but I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.
posted by Frowner at 9:54 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now if I can just live that long, says this middle-aged person...
posted by mareli at 9:55 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.

The copy will think that's exactly what it is.
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


stealthily creeps behind original-consciousness-Frowner with giant cartoon mallet
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:59 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Will the avatars still have body Thetans?
posted by thelonius at 10:06 AM on June 3, 2013


But isn't mind uploading just a copy? Yes, it would be neat if copy-Frowner could explore Mars or live forever or appear to the world as a cat/eagle/human hybrid with flashing violet eyes and long raven hair or whatever, but I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.

Ship of Theseus-style gradual brain replacement seems like the way have your cake and eat it too, but I don't know how you get to human trials without some kind of Larry Page lawless science island situation. A bit risky to test, that one.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm glad to see someone pushing research around these things, but consciousness uploading in particular sticks out like a sore thumb.

"In order to construct your new avatar you will require: 1/16th inch Allen wrench, Phillips screwdriver, unicorn, hammer, electrical tape."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.
---
The copy will think that's exactly what it is.


Well then the *copy* can figure out how to pay for it. Ain't no free rides!
posted by FatherDagon at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure someone will be willing to extend loans to people who can't vacate them even through death.
posted by Mitheral at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to collect the entire corpus of my written (typed) output, from the time I first started typing as an adult - university, in ICQ instant messages - to the present. I'm going to use this corpus to train a text-generation service. It will be context-tagged; emails are not mefi comments are not instant messages, though they're all output of my mind.

I will develop a program that can fill textboxes, depending on local context, with responses that are generated from my corpus. I will, of course, maintain the capacity to edit those responses, but it will save me some typing. The edits I make will be important inputs to the machine-learning system that generates the text in the first place.

The next step is to have the system attempt to decide which textboxes I actually want to fill out - which emails I want to respond to, that kind of thing. And of course, if it decides correctly, it can populate the email as well.

So then what's next? I step back. Maybe put a notification that this message came from Fraxas' exomind and not his intramind at the bottom of those messages. From then on, the system is functionally indistinguishable from me, and will survive my body's demise. Of course, the system will drift over time and may require correction or bugfixes or (when my opinions are the future equivalent of today's Shockingly Racist Grampas) offlining; but until then, why not have a thing where, even if you can't get a hug from him, you can ask Grampa what he thinks? Tell him you love him, and know that he means it when he says he loves you too?

Why are people so hung up on having actual bodies around?
posted by Fraxas at 10:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because people are bodies.

Just ask anybody.
posted by baf at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The copy will think that's exactly what it is.

I've always suspected that that's what happens when somebody in Star Trek uses the transporter.

"Hey Riker, did you just die?"

"Nope, still me!"

"*Whew*, that's a relief."
posted by Pistache at 10:28 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Star Trek has dealt with this issue before; just ask Tom Riker.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2013


I'm going to his conference @ Lincoln Center in a couple of weeks. Should be...interesting.
posted by dfriedman at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2013


but I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.

I hate to break it to you, but what was Current Frowner when you wrote that comment doesn't exist any more. There is only what used to be Future Frowner. Ah, see! The new Current Frowner just ceased to exist as well, and became Past Frowner.

We only think of ourselves as one ongong entity for the same reason that we think a projected film image is actually moving, because we have the memories leading up the current moment and the changes from one moment to the next are only gradual.

jason_steakum's solution is just a way to maintain the illusion. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

You do cease to exist when you go through a teleporter, but you were going to do that anyway. Cloned you is just as valid a continuation of your self as non-cloned you is.

Trust me, I'm from the future.
posted by Drexen at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Considering that no one has even the faintest idea of how that brain forms consciousness nor of how memories are actually stored this "project" seems more of a billionaires fantasy/vanity news than anything else.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cloned you is just as valid a continuation of your self as non-cloned you is.

I don't think "cloning" means what you think it means.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:54 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are a whole host of crazy ethical, technical, and legal problems that would come out of being able to do the brain-copy-upload thing. Mainly because even disregarding the fact that brain copies of actual humans are involved, it would mean that Strong AI would suddenly be out there and there would be a lot of crazy consequences from that. Corporations might stop hiring actual living employees for most jobs and just use digital copies of highly talented and efficient brains, for instance, and people in general might depend on a digital servant class to do a lot of the things that are done by people today.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Corporations might stop hiring actual living employees for most jobs and just use digital copies of highly talented and efficient brains, for instance, and people in general might depend on a digital servant class to do a lot of the things that are done by people today.

What's to stop the digital copies from demanding pay? We'll get to fight the last few centuries all over again, but this time online....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2013


Considering that no one has even the faintest idea of how that brain forms consciousness nor of how memories are actually stored
That's not completely true; current research has identified in general how memories are very likely to be stored, and we have also a sense for how information is encoded (or at least how it shows up in terms of neural activity in the brain). But I agree with the rest of what you wrote: we don't know how consciousness works, and this project is a billionaire's fantasy.
posted by StrawberryPie at 11:00 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


2045? Ridiculous. AI is always fifty years away!
posted by Zed at 11:04 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminded me of this blog post regarding the continuity of consciousness in this sort of scenario, and maybe the only way to make it work.
posted by lordrunningclam at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2013


Greg Egan wrote a pretty good book called Permutation City that covers some of this, especially the concept of copies of a human consciousness, and their moral, legal, and societal ramifications.

As I recall, most of the characters who find out they're just copies in a virtual world, immediately want to commit suicide. I could never figure that one out.
posted by KHAAAN! at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just gonna put this in the "just because we can, doesn't mean we should" pile.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2013


As I recall, most of the characters who find out they're just copies in a virtual world, immediately want to commit suicide. I could never figure that one out.

Me either. I would definitely be gunning for all the other copies and the original though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's to stop the digital copies from demanding pay? We'll get to fight the last few centuries all over again, but this time online....

All you need is one brain that doesn't demand pay and then you can make as many copies as you want. For example, tell your call center employee that you'll give them a cash bonus if they will participate in an experiment where they will do a day's work from inside of a sensory deprivation chamber. Then make a copy of their brain at that point, and have it answer calls through whatever digital brain sim tech you have. If the brain copy figures out what's going on or gets concerned, just reset it back to the initial state. Or you can go the long route by making a copy of a baby's brain and raising the copy to be your perfect non-union call center employee. And all of that doesn't even take into account the fact that highly unethical brain surgery would just be a matter of flipping some bits around.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


We'll get to fight the last few centuries all over again, but this time online....

Geez we thought company stores were a problem; imagine if the company owns your conciousness container.
posted by Mitheral at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, but what was Current Frowner when you wrote that comment doesn't exist any more. There is only what used to be Future Frowner. Ah, see! The new Current Frowner just ceased to exist as well, and became Past Frowner.

Okay, so if an "I" dies every moment (current-consciousness Frowner dies) regardless and a totally new, disconnected "I" is formed, which new "I" is equivalent to an externally-created copy:

1. How are we dividing "moments"? Does this happen every sixty seconds? (Obviously not.) How can there be discrete "I"s since time doesn't come in chunks?

1.5. Whence comes this totally new and discontinuous Frowner?

2. Why is murder wrong and abortion okay? If a totally new Frowner comes into being every [X], why does that totally new Frowner have more right to life than an embryo? (I am totally, totally pro-choice; this isn't about "therefore abortion is wrong"). We're pretty much operating on the idea that the self is an illusion, right? Is it wrong to kill a colony of cells?

3. Are we really, really sure that an externally created copy is the equivalent to whatever Old-Frowner is? Is everyone commenting on this really content to - for example - be painlessly killed as long as you see your exact duplicate in the process of taking over your life before you die?

I don't have a better model of human subjectivity to offer, but this constant-death-and-de-novo-recreation model seems a bit off to me somehow.
posted by Frowner at 11:27 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


See, ever since reading Surface Detail, where a punishment-inclined society uploads folks to virtual hell for all eternity, I'm a little less keen on uploading than before. Imagine if some sociopath got a copy of your upload for his own private torture fantasies.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


So I think of consciousness in sort of an old fashioned relational way. I think what we experience is a relationship between our minds and physical objects in the world, rather than the physical objects in and for themselves. If it's more complicated than that, it's because mind itself is relational; the cognitive frames I use to construct phenomenal experiences out of the whatever-it-is outside of me is itself a relation between my phenomenal experience of mind and the inaccessible noumenal real.

Now so the thing that keeps me awake at night is that death represents not only the end of the possibility of establishing new relationships between mind and the world, but also the retroactive obliteration of all of the previous relationships established through memory. Although I can't access my past experiences directly, I can access a relation between my previous experiences and my current mind. Without an active current mind to establish these new relations of memory, I lose not only future experiences but past ones - existence becomes a soap bubble, a flash of light and sound and sensation that is there and in an instant over - but it's not just over - really, from a phenomenal standpoint (the only standpoint we can really have), it never was.

I think that although mind uploading or whatever other piece of sinister superscience you prefer maybe can't preserve an identity, it can preserve that set of relations between mind and world. And that's why I'm a big, big fan of sinister superscience.

Basically, I think we should so love the world that we should, by whatever means possible, make it actually exist. And existence needs a particular type of persistence to be actual. Therefore: upload me, copy me, rip me, scan me, fax me, upgrade me, rename me, whatever - just don't trash me or delete me.

I'm sort of an amateur here, so I would seriously unironically appreciate it if people punch holes in my argument.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


How can there be discrete "I"s since time doesn't come in chunks?

Time isn't a singular entity...space-time can be discrete.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2013


What is really an interesting thing to think about is the possibilities of consciousness existing online, or in the cloud, able to manipulate multiple bodies. Talk about multitasking.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2013


Podkayne of Pasadena: "I don't think "cloning" means what you think it means."

I meant in the sense of transporter cloning/the popular conception of cloning, i.e. copying. <:)
posted by Drexen at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2013


I don't have a better model of human subjectivity to offer, but this constant-death-and-de-novo-recreation model seems a bit off to me somehow.

You don't have to like it. It's going to seem off, because it challenges notion of the self as a separate entity. Which it is, conceptually, but it is not, scientifically.
posted by iamck at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's to stop the digital copies from demanding pay

Well, after you've forked, you can div your copy back into the trunk consciousness and you both get to live.

I'm really looking forward to this.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:24 PM on June 3, 2013


You guys, with your good points, are real downers for my cyborg body wishes. :(
posted by _paegan_ at 12:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner: "Okay, so if an "I" dies every moment (current-consciousness Frowner dies) regardless and a totally new, disconnected "I" is formed, which new "I" is equivalent to an externally-created copy:

1. How are we dividing "moments"? Does this happen every sixty seconds? (Obviously not.) How can there be discrete "I"s since time doesn't come in chunks?
"

I guess we're dividing it infinitely, if we want to be most accurate. On a timeline of your life, only a point exists at any given.. point.

"1.5. Whence comes this totally new and discontinuous Frowner? "

The past? I'm not sure that "comes from" is a concept that necessarily applies in this context. Maybe the answer "the same place everything else comes from" is equally useful, i.e. not very.. :)

"2. Why is murder wrong and abortion okay? If a totally new Frowner comes into being every [X], why does that totally new Frowner have more right to life than an embryo? (I am totally, totally pro-choice; this isn't about "therefore abortion is wrong"). We're pretty much operating on the idea that the self is an illusion, right? Is it wrong to kill a colony of cells? "

The contiguous self is an illusion but we tend to perceive it as real anyway, and mourn or fear its loss. But to a colony of cells, nothing is real. Nothing is anything, for that matter.

"3. Are we really, really sure that an externally created copy is the equivalent to whatever Old-Frowner is? "

Well, I'm pretty darned sure that past me and future me don't exist at the current moment. It'd be pretty crowded if they did!

But seriously, no, I think this issue is too unknowable for me to be comfortable stepping through a teleporter unless it was set up in some way to give me a nice comforting illusion of continuation, or if I was given a sufficiently convincing explanation that I was being somehow translocated rather than recorded and reconstituted, because regardless of what I might abstractly think about the nature of consciousness, I'm still an animal who is most comfortable under certain necessary illusions. But I do believe that there's no difference between the two in strictly real terms.

I think I'd be just fine with making a copy of myself though, if I got to spend some quality time with him. :>
posted by Drexen at 12:38 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


To support Frowner's intuition:

So I lie down my dying old meatbag of a body for a consciousness upload procedure. Next to me is my fine new cyborg body. Anesthetizer takes effect, I lose my consciousness.

I wake up in a hospital bed, my familiar old bones aching. 'Fuck, still here, what went wrong?' I ask. 'Nothing, everything went perfectly, your new you is over there practising to use his new body and he seems to be very satisfied. Now you both should decide what should we do to you then?'

---

Now call old man of previous story P1 and the robot body P2. P2 experiences himself to be P1 and will live happily ever after. And there is nothing wrong with that.

P1 in his bodily continuum will never experience himself as P2, and when P1 in his old body dies, he may have some comfort from thought that P2 will live on carrying his memories up to the point of where P1 and P2 diverged. But that's all he gets.

It is strange how we can think this story to go all different if we just assume that P1 body dies in the process.
posted by Free word order! at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Or, let's make personal timeline for P1 and P2:

P1:s life = P1 + P1', where P1' is the part he lives after the consciousness upload.
P2:s life = P1 + P2, where P2 is the part he lives after the consciousness upload.

Sucks to be P1 + P1'.
posted by Free word order! at 12:47 PM on June 3, 2013


That article was like being sold snake oil by a man who wasn't even pretending he had any.
posted by Segundus at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I suspect snake oil sold by a man who doesn't even have any is the closest thing we'll get to solace in the half-finished universe we find ourselves in.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


So bogus,
even Charlie Rose
would notice.
-h.c.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2013


Well, after you've forked, you can div your copy back into the trunk consciousness and you both get to live.

I knew it! Everyone here is actually a git!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this place is a total github.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2013


I want to upload myself to a cyborg body and then we spend years hunting each other down. That crafty bastard is always one step ahead/behind me.
posted by ian1977 at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


“I used to have a collection of watches,” he says, grinning at how inane that now seems. “I gave most of them away, and I’m never buying anything like that again.”


...cuz now I'm totes into cyborgs.
posted by ian1977 at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2013


Mitheral: "Geez we thought company stores were a problem; imagine if the company owns your conciousness container."

Think Google Reader was bad? Imagine when they try to "sunset" you!
posted by brundlefly at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]




Really, my favorite form of sinister superscience isn't mind uploading, it's mashing everyone's minds together into one indistinct blob. I used to identify with Trevor Goodchild from Aeon Flux, but these days I'm Gendo Ikari from Evangelion.

... I suppose the fact that I think of the world in terms of cartoon characters says something about my standing as a philosopher...

Anyway, I apologize in advance if I end up roping your consciousness into my world-mind without your permission. But I'd still do it in a heartbeat if it were possible. This is how I am evil.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't feel nearly as much enthusiasm as if it were current-consciousness-Frowner.

The copy will think that's exactly what it is.


Why do I give a shit what the copy feels? I'm still here, feeling differently. The mysticism of "you aren't the same person you were just a second ago!" is cute, but irrelevant. No copies are being made in the aging process.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes you say that no copies are being made in the aging process? Is it the immediate destruction of the older self? Because our team could arrange for that...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:02 PM on June 3, 2013


Why on Earth would I want a body?!

If I was sentient software, wandering around among the meat-flappers would be a waste of time. It'd be like using a space shuttle to pull a plow at mule speeds.
posted by codswallop at 2:05 PM on June 3, 2013


Why do I give a shit what the copy feels? I'm still here, feeling differently. The mysticism of "you aren't the same person you were just a second ago!" is cute, but irrelevant. No copies are being made in the aging process.

Ugh, this is why it is so important to sterilize the donor chamber after the backup process is complete.
posted by General Tonic at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Frowner: "I don't have a better model of human subjectivity to offer, but this constant-death-and-de-novo-recreation model seems a bit off to me somehow."

The illusion of continuity is created by the presence of encoded memories. Each new instantiation of self has access to and is embedded in what appears to be a continuous flow of memorized events. The time line is continuous. The self aware of it is not.

Anyhow, what's always bugged me about the whole uploading your consciousness part of science fiction is this: you're not transferring anything... you're duplicating. People often don't think about this it seems. Assume the self is in fact continuous and not illusory. Unless it has a substance or essence that can be physically transferred from the original body into the cyborg one you are merely creating an exact copy. So there'll be the original version of you which asks "why the fuck am I still in this body" and the new copy which replies "I think I'll have to kill you because awkward".

The thought experiment that's way more interesting to me is this: rather than transferring consciousness and memories... why not convert it in place instead? I think this is much more realistic and the true pathway to something approaching actual immortality. It will most certainly become easier and easier to replace body parts. At the same time brain/computer interfaces are improving. It's not unrealistic to assume that sooner or later it'll become feasible to supplement the brain with circuitry and to even start replacing malfunctioning bits with hardware. So rather than a full transfer you do a bit by bit conversion until nothing original/organic is left. Perceived continuity of self is neither disrupted nor do you have to deal with the messiness of creating duplicates.

I think that's where humanity will ultimately be headed.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:27 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I certainly hope so - this is the "ship of Theseus" model of becoming less mortal, right? I would love it if nanites (my phone keeps trying to correct "nanites" to "manures", which is an error I rather like), anyway, I would love it if nanites could one by one replace my neurons as they die. I'd throw a big party for when my last original neurons were about to pass on, maybe even drink a lot at it to ensure that they'd get nuked. It would be the happiest funeral ever...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:31 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The time line is continuous. The self aware of it is not.

I still have not seen a convincing argument for this, particularly since thought processes must take some finite time - making the idea of the multiple selves existing in discrete "instants" problematic.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:45 PM on June 3, 2013


you're not transferring anything... you're duplicating.

Personally I believe that consciousness is a process, more akin to a fast river than a fixed item. If you open a hole that allows the water to flow from one channel to another then you are in fact transferring it rather than duplicating it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


So rather than a full transfer you do a bit by bit conversion until nothing original/organic is left.

Essentially what is already done by aging - a bit by bit replacement, only this time instead of new cells, it's replacement by something else. Something more durable.

I've always suspected that this is the next moral question. We know that the universe is all the same material, just arranged in different configurations. But there is always a chasm between what is scientifically known and what is pragmatic and applicable to sensible, moral living. It's only at those junctures when technology allows pragmatic manipulation of realms previously inaccessible that we run into these moral dilemmas.

Conception for instance - when does life begin? Current limits on abortion usually set this on when life can exist, on its own, outside the womb. One can quickly imagine technological improvements in pre-natal care altering this definition. Even if we are to scale back to some arbitrary definition of life beginning when sperm meets egg, we could further reduce this to be even more specific. Is it the penetration of a cell wall? Is it the fusion of DNA strands? At what point in the fusion is it life? Undoubtedly there are multitudes of processes occurring that we don't even know about yet. But we will. And when we know and furthermore, we can manipulate these processes, this alters previously held definitions which are now just flimsy dogma.

This next question posed by the whole cybernetics, mind uploading, etc., is frustrating because it challenges this notion of the self. The self, the I, the person, as a continuous existence. Science shows that this is not at all the case - the body is always changing, cells are dying and being replaced. Even conscious experience itself is suspect, and appears to be a system of endless revisions of memory.

This is not science fiction, but science. The application of this scientific facts to real world phenomena are the fiction. But these are only contingent on the technology, which, barring some disastrous technological dark age, will only continue to improve. I feel that the reluctance at these ideas are simply because we haven't HAD to think about them in real world terms, even while we know them empirically to be true (Heraclitus knew it over 2000 years ago). So instead, it's a narrative that has continued in philosophy, science fiction, and drug trips, but been largely absent from any real cultural visibility.

Until the technology starts to approach that point. And suddenly we're having this uncomfortable conversation.
posted by iamck at 3:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm more about Parmenides than Heraclitus, myself, even though I think Parmenides was off by one in his account of the number of things that exist in truth.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:13 PM on June 3, 2013



Yes, we have seen this movie and, yes, it always leads to evil robots enslaving humanity, the Earth reduced to smoldering ruins.

I guess we might as well get on with it, then. We need some really solid evil robots.


Hate this Luddite BS. Where's the movie where we upload our conciousness or give ourselves new perfect robot bodies and it goes well? Where's the movie with my fantasies, where i cut off my limbs and become a perfect man of metal?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2013


Tell Me No Lies: "Personally I believe that consciousness is a process, more akin to a fast river than a fixed item."

That's why I prefixed with "Assume the self is in fact continuous and not illusory."
I could have added "process" to that. There is no uniqueness there either. The process could fork and you'd still end up with duplicates at the point of time where you "transfer". If there is no "essence" of some kind then the old process will not stop. Instead you now have 2 processes which split and diverge from a single point. Same problem.

Dr Dracator: "I still have not seen a convincing argument for this, particularly since thought processes must take some finite time - making the idea of the multiple selves existing in discrete "instants" problematic."

I'd agree that "instants" would probably not be an accurate description. I suspect it's more like pulses that have width in time. States we'd call awareness rise and fall again.
Also, I'm not entirely sure that our thought processes as we perceive them are as much under our conscious control as they appear to be. There is evidence that all kinds of stuff is being processed, rearranged and altered prior to us becoming aware of it as a thought or perception. So what we consider to be conscious thought processes are probably merely perceived and interpreted as such after the fact.

This is something I find becomes apparent when practicing meditation. Thoughts arise and normally you would be experiencing yourself as thinking these thoughts. But then you get into states where you're observing these thoughts arising and "being thought" and it's not you doing it (as in the conscious observer). At the very least this seems to demonstrate that that which considers itself "self" is not representative of the entirety of the processes occurring in the brain at least some of the time.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:38 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You Can't Tip a Buick: "I'd throw a big party for when my last original neurons were about to pass on, maybe even drink a lot at it to ensure that they'd get nuked."

Hah, yeah, you're right. Note to (illusory) self: I'll have to make sure to consume my entire single malt collection before the concept of "taste" becomes meaningless to me!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically I just want to make clear again to everyone that should the evil robots try to take over, I will be on their side. Like, twenty years from now when I'm a half-machine vassal of the CompuLords and even children curse me as The Traitor, please remember that I told you all what I was before the mess even started.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:09 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ps: god, I love metafilter. I don't know what I'd do without a place to let all my crazy out. I promise I will try to get the machines to consume you all last, except for the ones who would prefer to be consumed earlier.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:10 PM on June 3, 2013


Obligatory Tetsuo: Ah... I feel great!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dinosaur-like aliens have set up an installation on the moon to teach humans interstellar teleportation. When an accidental duplicate of a woman is created by the teleportation process, it creates an ethical dilemma.
"Think Like A Dinosaur", also on Hulu
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why are people so hung up on having actual bodies around?

Energy efficiency.
posted by flabdablet at 6:53 AM on June 4, 2013


In The Surrogates, the people who don't want to upload their consciences into to sleek, beautiful android Surrogate (while their real bodies go slack and weak, degenerating through lack of movement all day in the control pod) are the fundamentalist whackos living in separatist camps. And the "Dreadlocks" in the camps are the first suspects when somebody w/ a handheld EMP generator starts zapping people's surrogates, making them wake up and actually live.

Every time I read an article about how human consciousness is going to be uploaded into the machine like so much cyber-snake-oil, I think of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. The human brain evolved to process bodily movement, and it is throu movement that the brain grows new neural connections and rewires itself.

The mind-body connection is why I suspect the brain-in-a-box project will likely fail because the project to separate the mind from the body will fail.

That, and us robo-hunting fundamentalists w/ EMP guns.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey: "The mind-body connection is why I suspect the brain-in-a-box project will likely fail because the project to separate the mind from the body will fail."

I agree. I really think the idea of uploading consciousness stems from the flawed assumption that our mind/consciousness is a thing unto itself in some way rather than a function of our bodies.

That however still allows us to go down the road towards a fully artificially created physical existence through gradual replacement. Ultimately the mind-body connection you refer to is still an exchange of signals between systems. Where those signals come from or go to doesn't really matter. The quality and fidelity of the signals is much more important.

We're already seeing the primitive beginnings of artificial eyes. The recent experiment where monkeys mind-control a robotic arm to grab food comes to mind. A lot of prosthetics are still one-way but sooner or later there'll be signals fed back into the nervous system relaying tactile and other sensory input.

Basically what I'm saying is that if you replace the source of a signal with something entirely different which produces the same signal... then nothing has changed from the mind's perspective. Mind-body connection is maintained.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not entirely sure why identifying us with our bodies means that we can't find a way to make memory and experience persist across time (which I'm all hair on fire about, because, as a loon, I see persistence as a prerequisite for existence itself). I mean, yeah, I get it, we're analog devices. But that doesn't mean we can't figure out how to persist.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2013


Or, well, more accurately, I don't see why we can't try. I'm pretty sure we won't ever succeed in actually existing in any meaningful way. I know some people who take solace in being fictional, but I like the world enough to think we should try to make it real... even if it's obviously futile.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:00 AM on June 4, 2013


After careful consideration I feel this thread needs an injection of Dick.
cause you all remember that right? He Shall Be First!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So as a result of guessing wrong about what that would be a link to, I find myself struck by how Dick Cheney would make more sense as a Philip K. Dick character than he does as a real person.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


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