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IEET > Rights > Neuroethics > Personhood > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Health > Vision > Futurism > Directors > George Dvorsky

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Would you copy your mind to a robotic body-double?

George Dvorsky
By George Dvorsky

Posted: Jun 25, 2013

A central theme of the recently concluded GF2045 Congress was the idea of achieving a kind of immortality by transferring our minds to avatars or robots. Indeed, as Japanese professor Hiroshi Ishiguro’s presentation clearly showed, our robotic doppelgangers will truly be made to look and act like the real thing.

During his presentation at Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln Center, Ishiguro was joined onstage by his look-alike android, the Geminoid. As Ishiguro spoke, the Geminoid sat on a chair, occasionally nodding its head, shifting its eyes, and moving its lips. At times, the resemblance was uncanny — and even a bit unsettling.

The Geminoid was controlled remotely by a person offstage, so it’s not completely autonomous. It’s just a mindless robot, of course, an empty shell that merely gives off the impression of a real person.


But at the conclusion of the speech, the Geminoid suddenly spoke up, telling the audience that it won't be long before it's able to give a better presentation than the real Ishiguro.

And indeed, Ishiguro’s Geminoid fit in rather nicely within the larger theme of the conference. The organizer of the event, Dmitry Itskov, has dreams of uploading himself to a surrogate much like Geminoid. To that end, the Global Futures 2045 Congress brought together roboticists, neuroscientists, AI theorists, and other experts to discuss this and other possibilities for radically extending life. Ideas on how to do so included brain preservation via plastination, detailed brain mapping, optogenetics, and the construction of neuronal replacement parts.

The Geminoid, which costs about $100,000, is being built with a “constructive” approach; the android’s mannerisms are being added iteratively to make it more realistic. And interestingly, the Geminoid has even been given flaws to make it seem more real, such as a scowl and unconscious movements.

Speaking after the event, Itskov said, “Personally, I will never forget Dr. Ishiguro pushing the hotel luggage cart with the ‘human’ passenger down Broadway and the expressions of those passing by.”

In addition to this, Ishiguro also showed off his Telenoid, a small, pillow-like robot made to look ageless and genderless so that people can project an imagined face onto its neutral appearance. The Telenoid is currently being tested among the elderly in Denmark, and initial reactions are very positive, he said.

Image: Japan Times.

He also showed off a handheld version of Telenoid, making the case that people might interact better with each other if their mobile phones looked more like little persons.

This article was originally published on io9

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.
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“Would you copy your mind to a robotic body-double?”

Yes, I don’t believe in heaven/reincarnation; thus think we have nothing to lose by attempting ‘immortality’. Many say immortalism is selfish: what about this world of ultra-status where many perhaps most are trying to push their families—even dynasties—as far up the foodchain as they can, despite the dislocation/chaos resulting?

For me, that all depends on what you mean by “copy.” 

Would I copy my mind to a disconnected, separate body-double?  Probably not, except as a backup in case I ever needed to restore lost functions and didn’t have better backups to work from.  The primary threats here are a breach of information security (“hacking” into my mind) or physical damage to the brain.  In either case, I would use the most recent copy to restore lost or altered function.  But I would consider that copy separate from myself for all other purposes.  A “mind twin” maybe?  I’m hesitant to say clone here. 

Would I mirror my mind’s state in real-time to a robotic body-double?  Yes, because it wouldn’t be disconnected from myself.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s an extension of my mind, rather than a copy.  I don’t like the idea of my brain being a single point of failure.  Let’s go ahead and fix that.

I’d probably also be willing to periodically synchronize with a mind-double, and then go about the rest of my day separate from it, but whether that mind-double would be “me” is hard to say.  I’d have to see how well I could function with multiple bodies and a single brain before I could give it serious consideration though.

What Are Mindclones?

“A mindclone is a software version of your mind.  He or she is all of your thoughts, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values, and is experiencing reality from the standpoint of whatever machine their mindware is running on.  Mindclones are mindfiles being used and updated by mindware that has been set to be a functionally equivalent replica of one’s mind.  A mindclone is your software-based alter ego, doppelganger, or mental twin.  If your body died, but you had a mindclone, you would not feel that you personally died, although the body would be missed more sorely than amputees miss their limbs.”

“There will be instances in which the mindclone and the original do not update each other.  Instead, the single identity decides, in conversation with itself (we biological originals do talk to ourselves, weighing pros and cons in our heads), to experience life separately.  Like being dealt two 8s in a blackjack game, and deciding to split, some people and their mindclones will go separate ways.  Even in such cases I believe we are speaking of a single identity.  We must remember that both the biological original and the mindclone share a unique psychological profile based upon a mountain of mindfile data.  They are the same person.  The fact that they subsequently have many unique, perhaps life-changing experiences does not change either of their individual identities, and hence cannot have changed their common identity.

While the original and the mindclone will be very different after years of unique experiences, they will still be the same person.  It will be as if you visited a close friend after first living ten years in Ethiopia, and then again after living ten years in China.  On the first visit your friend would remark on how the Ethiopian experiences changed you, but would still recognize you as his friend.  On the second visit your friend would see yet another version of you, this time changed by life in China.  Once again, though, your friend would surely recognize you as the same person who first left for Ethiopia twenty years earlier. This is the power of an established set of mannerisms, personality, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values.  Whatever changes will not be able to entirely mask the starting set of conditions.  It is all but impossible to completely crawl out of an established mind.”


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