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Technologies could one day enable us to simulate the deceased

Dick Pelletier

Ethical Technology

February 04, 2013

Technologies that can simulate a deceased person’s life experience, consciousness, and memories do not exist today, but many experts believe that exponential advances in computers, artificial intelligence, and communications technologies could bring this dream into reality by mid-century or before.


Complete entry


Posted by SHaGGGz  on  02/04  at  08:51 PM

This is the most realistic depiction of how this will likely unfold:

Not quite what Fyodorov envisioned, but a satisfactory intermediate step until quantum archaeology is possible. Things will definitely get pretty complicated once all these forked identities start laying claim to the original, and all the associated perks that entails.

Posted by Dick Pelletier  on  02/04  at  09:18 PM

How future society will treat artificial life forms—androids, household robots, etc.—is yet to be determined.

Lawmakers will surely consider some form of “robots rights”.

Posted by rmk948  on  02/05  at  02:13 PM

Great post! Frank Tipler had a lot to say about this issue in “The Physics of Immortality.” Tipler had sort of an eschatological view of emulation of the deat - he set it in the deep future during the collapse of the universe. Since it would take only a finite amount of computing power to emulate a dead person (assuming consciousness is ultimately computable,) it could be done in the not so distant future.

Posted by Dick Pelletier  on  02/05  at  04:27 PM

I don’t see this as a difficult procedure.

If information technologies continue to advance exponentially, the ability to create a doable simulation of a lost loved one should be relatively simple.

it’s mainly searching for data, then crunching the numbers.

Tomorrow’s technologies could handle this with ease—maybe by mid-century or so.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  02/06  at  12:20 AM

“Tipler had sort of an eschatological view of emulation of the deat - he set it in the deep future during the collapse of the universe.”

Good idea for a SF flick: “The ‘H’ Program”...
The ‘H’ (as in Jesus H. Christ) Program simulates Christ on Earth, but immediately after Jesus is simulated the world ends coincidentally.
“Or is it coincidence?”, the announcer asks at the very end.
Quick! better write a screenplay before someone takes the idea and runs with it; unless it’s already been done—by now everything must have been thought of.

Posted by Rick Searle  on  02/06  at  11:22 PM

I hate to be the one to throw cold water on this, but I think this schedule is wildly optimistic. The human brain is the most complex phenomenon we have yet dealt with and we still have no full idea how such basic functions as emotions, memory, or language really work. We’re not even on the verge of curing neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or major mental illness let alone having a model that explains how the whole system works together. Promising endeavors such as the Blue Brain Project are trying to tackle this lack of systemic understanding, but confusing it with us being on the verge of building a living brain our own mind could inhabit is akin to thinking simulations of the weather will allow you to control when it snows.

The argument that we will crack this nut by mind century seems to be based on Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns, but what Kurzweil misses is that the problems we are trying to solve also grow exponentially in complexity and are thus harder and take longer to solve.

Just think about the “war on cancer” it started way back with Nixon and only now do we seem to be getting a handle on it. And two other words- COLD FUSION. I am afraid it will be some time before the mind uploading begins and none of us will likely live to see it.

Posted by Dick Pelletier  on  02/07  at  08:15 AM

@ Rick Searle,

I would rather stay positive about this possibility.

In the next two-to-three decades, amazing advances are expected in computiing ability, molecular nanotech, and information technologies.

Breakthroughs in these areas could very well unravel most of the mysteries we now associate with consciousness.

Stay positive, and should this technology be developed and becomes affordable, you too may one day revive a lost loved one!

Comments welcome.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  02/07  at  04:04 PM

“Comments welcome.”

It is a Go.
Simulating the deceased is a great advertisement for the future. The only time I was able to interest my family was via this topic (they wanted to simulate certain deceased ‘saintly’ Methodist aunts, but now they themselves are gone).
The bubble communities the majority of us live in or near mask the nostalgia of the masses; but what backward-looking—80% of the population—person doesn’t want to simulate a deceased individual or two? if nothing else, it’s a ‘selling point’.

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