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Upload your mind into a computer by 2050?


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#1 CraigD

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 10:10 PM

Ian Pearson, head of British Telecomunication’s futurology unit, seriously predicts that it will be possible to upload your mind into a computer by about 2050. (article)

Unlike robotics researcher Hans Moravec, who concludes that affordable computer hardware sufficient to match the intellectual performance of a human being will be available in the 2020s, Pearson goes a step further with his belief that the technology necessary to copy a human mind from its usual, organic host, into an artificial, cybernetic one, will exist not too long after.

I believe Moravec is correct in his prediction that sufficiently powerful hardware will exist. I’m much less certain that brain imaging technology will be able to copy a human mind by 2050. I don’t even want to consider the social and philosophical implications of such a technology.

Edited by CraigD, 31 July 2014 - 02:22 PM.
Replaced broken link with archive.org


#2 nkt

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 03:45 AM

upload your mind into a computer by about 2050. <snip>
affordable computer hardware sufficient to match the intellectual performance of a human being will be available in the 2020s,

I don't even think it will take that long. I think AI will be here in 5 years, at least to the level of no more call centers or human share dealers. (Then what will happen to the world of supply and demand? Most humans will be unable to keep up for even five minutes, and will be unable to earn a living!)

If you want a fairly good read that covers a lot of this ground, without too much science or moralising, try Accelerando, by Charles Stross (download from www.accelerando.org)
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#3 CraigD

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 11:06 AM

I think AI will be here in 5 years, at least to the level of no more call centers or human share dealers

I agree, we’re pretty close or perhaps already there now. Reasonable good limited Turing test-capable programs were running on OTS hardware 10 years ago, and with the current state of voice recognition and synthesizing a computer “matching the intellectual performance of a human being” doing mind-numbingly repetitive tasks like call center work.

What Moravec is describing, though, is akin to an unlimited Turing test-capable machine, with general reasoning skills equal or superior to a normal human being. His argument, which he bases on some pretty impressive comparisons of computer programs an animal neurology, and which Pearson draws from, is that practical computer hardware is currently about 100 times too slow to fully emulate human thought.

The real barrier to achieving either Moravec or Pearson’s vision is, I believe, our inability to image the functioning human (or animal) brain in high enough detail to
copy it into a computerized simulation without understanding well what it is doing, or
understand what it is doing well enough to create a similar computer program.

Although I disagree with them, some very bright folk, such as Roger Penrose, argue that the necessary detail may never be achievable.

#4 alexander

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Posted 01 July 2005 - 02:22 PM

well, there are a few things that need to get done before that happens, lets start with what exactly you define as mind. No matter the answer to the first question, you need an interface to the mind, and you have to realize that your brain stores information in neural impulses, and just about any doctor is afraid of messing with the brain, so how do they propose will the brain be interfaced. This one kinda goes with the first one, Yes, you might have enough space to store the data and you might have a way of extracting it, but in the digital world everything is based on a binary system, and if mind implies feelings and emations, would you imagine how will it be possible to store those, what kind of a filesystem, format? 5 years just doesnt seem like the time frame to me. And last but not least, reading and writing in the mind impies different things and procedures, what is the use of storing your mind of there is no way of reproducing it or for that matter really studying it, well, i guess there is some, but still, maybe 50 years, wont argue it, we'll see what happens...

#5 CraigD

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 09:46 AM

lets start with what exactly you define as mind

I’ll follow the lead of Moravec and Pearson here, and give the lazy, near-tautological definition “the mind is the effect produced by a functioning brain”. The problem of “hosting a mind,” then becomes that of “emulating a brain”.

you need an interface to the mind

Here, I think, you’ve found the meat of the problem. Moravec doesn’t touch this, because he never claims that actual human minds will be uploaded into computers, just that programs will be written to run on sufficiently powerful hardware that are roughly equivalent in intellectual ability to a human being. Pearson, being a “high level” sort of futurist, doesn’t sweat the details, just assumes that some technique will emerge in the next 40 years that will allow a mind to be read into a computer.

This is where I suspect he’s over-optimistic. None of the current brain imaging schemes - the Wikipedia article “Brain imaging” is a good summary of them – are within a power of ten of the necessary resolution to “read” data from the brain.

In Rudy Rucker’s novel “Software” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0380701774, brain uploading is done destructively by robots that carefully cut up as analyze the living brain (disguised as a religious cult that murders people by eating their brains – this is, after all, a cyberpunk novel!). This isn’t far from how fine resolution brain analysis is done now, and might be an accurate prediction how a mind-uploader might someday actually work.

Personally, my greatest hope for a brain imaging with the necessary resolution is with a scheme I first encountered in the (regrettably) late Robert Forward’s non-fiction “Indistinguishable from Magic” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0671876864. This scheme involves forming an image of the brain’s structure with atom-level resolution by measuring the annihilation by-products resulting from a minute stream of massive antiparticles (antiprotons, antineutrons, or protronium). Although you wouldn’t expect that beams of antimatter could be used for non-destructive tissue imaging, if you calculate the energies involved, you’ll realize this scheme is actually practical. What’s best, massive antiparticle annihilations produce very rich multi-particle annihilation events, which would allow individual atoms to be pinpointed in 3-d space.

your brain stores information in neural impulses

Your brain certainly processes information using neural impulses, but unlike dynamic RAM, this information doesn’t depend on a constant series of neural impulses to persist. Current theory holds that information is actually store in the brain via a complicated and far-from-understood combination of changes in the receptive and emitive potentials of the synapses at the end of neurons, and by the constant rearrangement of the physical connections of these neurons.

Though this distinction doesn’t make the problem of mind-uploading obviously easier or more difficult, it does imply that a scheme that images neural impulses (depolarization event) alone, such as MEG, won’t work.

how will it be possible to store those, what kind of a filesystem, format?

Compared to the “mind reading” problem, I think the “mind hosting” problem will be much easier. Folk have been experimenting with computer simulated neurons for some time. In everyone I know, interest peaked in the late 1980s – a websearch of the once-popular term for an idealized, simulated neuron, “neurode”, now yields several thousand hits of the term used in brand names, and only a hundred of so old ones like this referring to the once hot subject of “synthetic psychology”. Given the amount of processor and storage likely to be available in the near future, I don’t believe coding a “brain emulator” will be an insurmountable challenge.

#6 nkt

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 09:46 AM

£$%"£$% Google Adwords!

I just wrote a long and involved, well-referenced post on this topic. Then as a spot of light relief, I was going to quote

Artificial intelligence
Buy Artificial intelligence now! Compare and save at Lycos UK.
Shopping.Lycos.co.uk

but it went to the page, and coming back, my work was gone... Grrr...



I'm surprised AI isn't on eBay yet, though... I've been offered Chinese girls and many more things that I'm sure eBay don't allow, via the adwords! I suppose that proves it isn't on Google yet, either?

#7 C1ay

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 10:24 AM

Have you read The Law of Accelerating Returns by Ray Kurzweil yet? It's a really long paper but worth the read. Mainly it's about the exponential growth of the exponential rate of growth of technology. (yes, that's what I meant to say) Some prominent dates from his analysis include the following:

* We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2023.
* We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for one cent around the year 2037.
* We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2049.
* We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for one cent around the year 2059.

Something to think about....

#8 alexander

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 04:01 PM

I know the law of accelerating returns Clay :D

#9 nkt

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 06:16 AM

Some prominent dates from his analysis include the following:

* We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2023.
* We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for one cent around the year 2037.
* We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2049.
* We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for one cent around the year 2059.

Something to think about....

Or just de-bunk. Once you reach the stage of having a human level AI for one cent (!) or even $1000 the entire concept of money is outdated, almost overnight.

How do we all earn money these days? I do some manual work, but mostly, it is via thought and creativity, isn't it? Hence, once I have 20 machines that are as smart as me, yet 100 times faster, I will be able to design 10000 web pages an hour in my sleep, for a near-zero cost (after capital investment). But I can't get rich, since so can everyone else. And if I offer my services for 1 penny a page, there will still be lots of people doing it for free!

At this stage, money is worth nothing any more, for any job that doesn't involve manipulation of actual things. Those jobs that do involve moving things, they will fall as soon as a robot is mass-produced to do that job (or, indeed, almost any job)

People with the money will be able to build an army (or anything they wish), while those without will have to bootstrap, by having the one AI play games to get more, then use that to build one fabricator, then two fabricators, etc. Accelerando by Charles Stross deals with this scenario, with the fate of humanity being rather bleak. Sadly, I can't fault a lot of what he says. It's a free novel, and worth a read. 7/10 for the story, 9/10 for the technical future content.

But what will this mean for the great unwashed masses? The people who demand wide screen TVs for pushing out babies at tax payers expense? They aren't even fit for cannon fodder now, let alone once Terminator style robots are running around the place!

#10 pgrmdave

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:48 AM

But...not all the mind is stored in neurons, we also have chemicals that influence our personality, and our feelings. In addition to which, most of our brain is dedicated to our body, which we would no longer have. Imagine the confusion a brain would experiance if it suddenly had no heart to regulate, no information about a stomach coming in, no senses providing more information. I think that the idea of uploading your brain to a computer is simply something that we can imagine but that there is no way of actually doing it.

#11 alxian

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:49 AM

How do we all earn money these days? I do some manual work, but mostly, it is via thought and creativity, isn't it? Hence, once I have 20 machines that are as smart as me, yet 100 times faster, I will be able to design 10000 web pages an hour in my sleep, for a near-zero cost (after capital investment). But I can't get rich, since so can everyone else. And if I offer my services for 1 penny a page, there will still be lots of people doing it for free!

At this stage, money is worth nothing any more, for any job that doesn't involve manipulation of actual things. Those jobs that do involve moving things, they will fall as soon as a robot is mass-produced to do that job (or, indeed, almost any job)


you are assuming that in 20-50 years people will still be access the net externally

if you can digitize your consciousness that AI in the net will be you!

then identity theft will take on a whole new meaning anyone could potentially clone you and download your consciousness into that clone and murder you

this i think is why murder is forbade by the commandments. amoung other things killing without cause is wrong, which brings up another commandment abouts creating likenesses of a human, cloning is then forbade, if you then duplicate someone who should have the right to live?

the clone or the of woman born man?

the clone would be healthier have a cleaner mind to think with and possibly would be better for society if before its mind is "installed" its given muscle trainging like an athlete and mind training like a mathematician. as long as the brain graft takes that cloned body would be many times more important than the bacteria and virus infested ultimately corrupt human.

another question is if you upload yourself into the net, will you exist at once in your body and the net? able to mingles consciouness seemlessly through that link? can that consciousness be transferred such that the human mind transfers from the human body to the cloned body intact, without destroying the old person... i'd hate to think that cloning technology would mean that each clone once grafted with the mind of a human is independant from the original, instead you'd get the original transferring to the new cloned body, saying yes its me i'm here i made the leap, kill my old body.

what if thats the way it works but you are still in the old body? what happens if the instant the link is severed that the start growing apart becoming individuals? could the old body then rightly be killed? or should it be retired until it dies of natural causes?

for now unfortunately i think even if the human once link through a machine to its clones brain as soon as the link is severed the humans consciouness will remain in the old body, making killing it a sin against god. you'd be duplicating a human but once the link is severed they become two living breathing individuals.

the moment the clone takes its first deep breath after a graft and proclaims that body to be the property of the original bodies mind, will be as important and earth shattering as the harnessing of fire. we will have cheated death, in the last moment of life a human could connect himself to the net and plug into a reserve clone and upload himself, before the spark of life leaves him. unless that person had retained a backup image with genetic savings and clone where at the moment of death a clone is activated based on the last backup, which could be done as a streaming process, requiring the human to be connected to the net at all times. taking yourself off the net would in itself be a little death.


the mind is the process of a functioning brain


then linking the mind through a clone prolly by means of a direct brain to brain link (think siamese organism linked at the based of the skull, unable to see its other half), then systematically shutting down the original brain or all at once will mean the mind will find the new brain and begin functioning through both brains at once, four eyes, four arms two mouths, 40 digits.

once the mind in the clone signals the ok (that the conscious mind have made all the appropriate links to the new bodies systems), something like a day or more into the merging grafting process the old brain and body are shut down with sedatives, meaning the clone brain would take precedence.

or if the process is meant to be only a backup, with the clone living somewhere in the desert while the original goes thrill seeking, then occassionally that clone will have to be updated, the merging process beginning again. the original then would be updated with all the dull things its clone has been doing and the clone updated with the persons life experiences for the last little while.

a direct neural link may not be intirely necessary, so long as the throughput over a network link is fast enough to handle the throuput of millions or billions of neurons at once. brain to brain merging thus might require a computer assisted go between, mitigating the flow normalizing it for the recieving brain. thus gigabit throughput and gigabit processing, but that gigabit processing has to have gigabits of ram to hold the transitioning consciouness both live and in a buffer.

#12 CraigD

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 02:27 PM

... another question is if you upload yourself into the net, will you exist at once in your body and the net? able to mingles consciouness seemlessly through that link? ...

The answer to that question depends critically on how you upload the mind into the ... I'm reluctant to use the term "net", comparisons to the present-day internet are likely to be deceptive, so lets just say “computer”.

I think that the measurement of the brain’s state necessary to upload the mind is a very difficult, maybe impossible, task. If possible, such imaging might well be destructive (Rudy Rucker’s “Software” has a amusing description of a destructive mind-uploading process). If so, there’s no possibility of the destroyed original brain’s mind interacting with the uploaded one.

Of course, it may prove possible to upload the mind without destroying the original – the practical tech to do this is so far-off as to be impossible to speculate about with certainty. If so, I doubt that the uploaded mind would be any better disposed to forming a “joined cousciousness” with copies of itself or with the original than biological nervous systems are to being linked together in nature. Despite the evolutionary benefits to be had by members of a species “sharing minds”, nature doesn’t seem to have evolved any organism with this capability. Even “hive mind” organisms like ants and termites don’t literally link neurons, but use a sort of language. Since the human mind we’re proposing to upload is a product of terrestrial evolution, I doubt it’s organized in a way that would allow it to link-up in the way you describe.

#13 CraigD

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 03:07 PM

But...not all the mind is stored in neurons, we also have chemicals that influence our personality, and our feelings.

For mind-upload to be successful, extra-neural factors like you describe would have to be adequately simulated by the hosting computer. I’m optimistic that this wouldn’t be an unusually difficult part of the problem, because the role of these chemicals – the endocrine system - in the mind appears to be less critical than the roll of neural synapses, depolarization, and physical arrangement – Although the mind is influenced by such hormones as estrogen and testosterone, the removal of the glands responsible for most of their production, the ovaries and testes, is commonplace, and does not cause the mind insurmountable difficulties, even when no attempt is made to artificially replace the absent hormones.

In addition to which, most of our brain is dedicated to our body, which we would no longer have. Imagine the confusion a brain would experiance if it suddenly had no heart to regulate, no information about a stomach coming in, no senses providing more information. …

Not to mention the confusion it would experience if it no longer had eyes and ears to provide it with sensory information. Mind uploading would be required to provide the simulated brain with realistic simulations of these and other critical body parts.

… I think that the idea of uploading your brain to a computer is simply something that we can imagine but that there is no way of actually doing it.

I, and I’m sure proponents such as Pearson, opponents such as Penrose and others such as Moravec completely agree that there’s no way of doing it now, or likely by the end of this decade. The question is, will this thing we can now only imagine ever be possible, as Pearson predicts, or will some insurmountable technical hurtle forever prevent it?

My opinion is that the tech to upload a mind will be very hard to develop, will require a new generation of biological imaging systems, but will ultimately be possible.

#14 nkt

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 04:32 AM

you are assuming that in 20-50 years people will still be access the net externally

No, not at all. I don't think we will be physically separate from our computers in another 10 years, let alone 50!

if you can digitize your consciousness that AI in the net will be you!

then identity theft will take on a whole new meaning anyone could potentially clone you and download your consciousness into that clone and murder you

Possible, but unlikely. You won't be a part of the net conciousness, any more than a webpage is the internet.

this i think is why murder is forbade by the commandments. amoung other things killing without cause is wrong, which brings up another commandment abouts creating likenesses of a human, cloning is then forbade, if you then duplicate someone who should have the right to live?

the clone or the of woman born man?

Difficult questions for difficult times. I don't see how you can deny a human born in a test tube their humanity, so why is a clone different?

the clone would be healthier have a cleaner mind to think with and possibly would be better for society if before its mind is "installed" its given muscle trainging like an athlete and mind training like a mathematician. as long as the brain graft takes that cloned body would be many times more important than the bacteria and virus infested ultimately corrupt human.

That's a dangerous road. Once you make some humans more equal than others, what do you do about the AIs 500 times smarter than the smartest human? Or the coma victim with the response of a cabbage?

another question is if you upload yourself into the net, will you exist at once in your body and the net? able to mingles consciouness seemlessly through that link? can that consciousness be transferred such that the human mind transfers from the human body to the cloned body intact, without destroying the old person... i'd hate to think that cloning technology would mean that each clone once grafted with the mind of a human is independant from the original, instead you'd get the original transferring to the new cloned body, saying yes its me i'm here i made the leap, kill my old body.

And what if it was a computer virus that pretended to be you? Or a hacker? Or a mistake? On the other side, what if there was a power failure just after the body ws destroyed? Is that murder? If you had the yourself in the machine use a pre-arranged coded device to kill your body, is it murder or assisted suicide, or just a weird funeral problem?

what if thats the way it works but you are still in the old body? what happens if the instant the link is severed that the start growing apart becoming individuals? could the old body then rightly be killed? or should it be retired until it dies of natural causes?

Indeed. It will be somewhat like the problems of two people working on the same code base. (In fact, even one person working can mess up a code base.) As for death from natural causes, well, by the time we are ready to upload ourselves, we will be effectively immortal, with both our minds being moveable, whether in electronic or wet form, to new host "bodies", so that isn't going to happen.

What about property rights and taxes? How can they work? The ultimate identity theft is you take your own, and unknowingly pass yourself off as you, at the same time as your other self does. How could this ever be stopped? Even a mind-reading lie detector wouldn't work. Nor would a universal ID system, since a copy of that would still work!

...requiring the human to be connected to the net at all times. taking yourself off the net would in itself be a little death.

More than a little, if you were used to it! It would be like loosing an arm or an eye, or worse! You wouldn't be able to turn the TV on and lights off by thought any more, nor find the answer to the question you thought of in a second, nor remember things as well, nor recall your past as live video...

#15 alxian

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 11:04 PM

(if the power is turned off while the humans "ghost" is in the machine) Is that murder? If you had the yourself in the machine use a pre-arranged coded device to kill your body, is it murder or assisted suicide, or just a weird funeral problem?


lets hope the memory is non volatile eh?

though it would have to be ram for the human to remain conscious, the backup process would in fact be programming an emulator of the humans consciousness waiting to be uploaded to the blank slate clone body.

but i'm sure many people want to be buried with their computers but when the consciouness last resided in the machine and the body is destroyed, yes.. that would be an exceptionally weird funeral, the greiving family interring a mainframe in a hole big enough to make a nice pool...

Difficult questions for difficult times. I don't see how you can deny a human born in a test tube their humanity, so why is a clone different?


a good question

i guess the test tube baby kinda invalidates gattaca (without the tests results held by an impartial commity (registration) anyone can have their genetics altered in a smoky backroom and not have to answer to anyone). those with the capital for the procedure will enjoy its spoils.

meaning anything built on 100% human dna, and even then at least using 99%+ human dna with whatever tweaks and modifications the govt society and the pope will allow... no prejudice would be tolerated against clones and constructs simply because they started life with a stacked hand?

sounds mighty progressive, and makes mountains of fiction wrong in its assumption that clones and constructs would be loathed by regular people for their genetic perfection.

#16 tarak

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 11:57 PM

Uploading the mind will be the ultimate mistake human will ever commit.This will lead to a degeneration of human race over a period time.

#17 Queso

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 12:04 AM

despite detail, i completely agree with you tarak.