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Becoming Cyber Angels
Giulio Prisco   May 10, 2012   Turing Church  

There is more and more, and often positive, coverage of mind uploading and cybernetic immortality in the press, and it appears that leaving biology behind and becoming cyber angels is an idea whose time has come.

In an article in The Independent, titled “Will scientists ever discover the secret of immortality?” Mark Piesing asks if we’re really going to be able to live for ever. I like this article because it does not even bother to discuss biological life extension too much, and goes straight to the beef: mind uploading and cybernetic immortality.

I strongly praise and support research on biological life extension, first and foremost Aubrey de Grey‘s SENS, but I consider it as an intermediate step. Sooner or later, we will leave biology behind and become cyber angels living as pure software in robotic or virtual bodies. Of course, Sir Arthur C. Clarke was one of the first to see it:

“And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and of plastic.”

Writer Stephen Cave, author of the new book Immortality, defines digital immortality as “So your brain is scanned and your essence uploaded into a digital form of bits and bytes, and this whole brain emulation can be saved in a computer’s memory banks ready to be brought back to life as an avatar in a virtual world like Second Life, or even in the body of an artificially intelligent robot that is a replica of who we were.” He considers digital immortality only as a backup solution, but others are fully committed to leaving our bio bodies behind in old dull meatspace and moving to cyberspace — a challenge that projects such as Carbon Copies and Russia 2045 already believe they can overcome within 40 years.

In the end, Cave argues, “theoretically the problems of digital immortality seem solvable, but whether the solutions are practical is another story… Although when it does happen it is simply inevitable that the rich will get there as they have the most power among us.”

Others are more positive about the prospect of true digital immortality within a generation.

Dr Randal A. Koene  is the founder of the non-profit Carbon Copies Project in California, which is tasked with creating a networking community of scientists to advance digital immortality.

For Koene the “digital you” is very much “you”, there being a “continuity of self” in the same way that “the person you are today is still the same person you were when you were age five”.
“This isn’t science fiction, either, this is closer to science fact,” he argues. Carbon Copies “is working to create a road map to substrate independence by pulling together all the research that is going on, identify where the gaps are and then what we need to do to plug it.” Koene believes that digital immortality is the next stage of human evolution, whether on this planet or another.

The Russia 2045 project is only briefly mentioned in the Independent article, but it is the main focus of another recent article appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle, with a press release titled “ Dalai Lama Supports 2045’s Avatar Project.”

The 2045 initiative has received the blessing and support from the Dalai Lama, as it prepares to announce the second Global Future 2045 Congress, being held in New York, May, 2013.

Dmitry Itskov, founder of 2045, met His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in his residence in Dharamsala, a small mountain town in northern India.

The final goal of 2045 Avatar Project  is developing an artificial brain in which to transfer one’s individual consciousness with the goal of achieving cybernetic immortality. Developing an artificial brain and understanding the nature of human consciousness, says the Dalai Lama, could be attainable, and would be a great benefit to future development of science.

“In the last few years, scientists now begin to show an interest about consciousness, as well as brain specialists, neuroscientists, who also begin to show interest about consciousness or mind. I feel that over the next decades modern science will become more complete,” said the Dalai Lama. “So up to now the matter side of science has been highly technical, highly advanced, but the mind side has not been adequate. This project, definitely, is helpful to get more knowledge.”

The 2045 initiative held its first Global Future 2045 Congress in Moscow, in February 2012. The next Global Future 2045 Congress will be held in June 2013, in New York City. For more information, please visit http://www.gf2045.com/.

Dr Randal A. Koene speaks at the Global Future 2045 Congress in Moscow, in February 2012, on The Engineering Challenge To Make Minds Substarte-Independent Via Whole Brain Emulation Within Our Lifetimes.

 

Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.



COMMENTS

Nice piece, Giulio.

But, how can we assure the continuity of the “self”? Let us imagine that, somehow, someone come up with a reliable process that copies with extreme accuracy the whole structure of your brain, with all your memories, thoughts, dreams. The process creates a very, very precise copy of your brain structure into an external substrate. Let us even say that this new substrate is essentially biological, with the same physical and chemical elements of the original brain, and connected to the same type of sensors that you used to have - eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin. A perfect copy, warm, functional and juicy as the old one. It guess it could not get better than this.

Now imagine the guy in white suit tells you - “ok, Giulio, now I will scan your brain for ten minutes. In six days it will be ready. Then come back here, we will scan you another ten seconds to update your copy, then we will finally kill your old body, and let you continue to live in the new form”.

Would you agree? I certainly would not. I am quite sure the process would kill me, and another individual, another, new man - would live in my place. How can they assure self continuity if there is no identity? Me and my copy could look into each other’s eyes, speak to each other. I would speak to another man - very similar to me for the first few seconds, but soon quite different - with a diverging identity, as more and more different environmental inputs start piling up. They cannot cut and paste my identity into another folder. They need to copy it.

I mean, unless the process is reversible, and unless they will let me first try it a couple of times - I am not going to get rid of my gross physical body. Maybe it works, I am not saying it is impossible. But I have to see, from my own perspective, that it is still me who wakes up in that new form. I would not trust a third person saying “look, it’s fantastic, and I feel I am still myself”.

Thanks André.

Re “I have to see, from my own perspective, that it is still me who wakes up in that new form”

Well, this topic comes up often when discussing uploading, and I am afraid everyone has to find their personal answer. My answer is that it is equivalent to go to sleep at night and waking up the morning after. Before going to sleep, how can you be sure that tomorrow’s you will still be you and not someone else? Note you are _not_ physically or mentally identical to yesterday’s you. Very similar, but not identical.

I think it is a matter of choice. I accept yesterday’s me as my past, and I know (by experience) that tomorrow’s me will accept me as his past, and I am willing to accept him as my future. Therefore I can go sleep in pace, knowing that the person who will wake up in my bad tomorrow is me (or more precisely, an acceptable future version of me).

I think this looser definition of identity can survive the cut/paste process of uploading. As I wrote here, “This will require reformulations of current notions of self, but we will be able to cope.”

I find is very interesting that the Dalai Lama has endorsed the vision of Russia 2045.  I hope other world leaders follow his example -

@Hank I also hope other world leaders follow the Dalai Lama’s example, but I am afraid it is not so easy. In democracies, politicians care only about staying in office and say only things that can bring them many votes, and they have advisers who tell them what to say and what not to say. Our ideas are not very popular yet, and I am afraid all politicians think endorsing our idea would lose them more votes than they would gain (which is probably right).

We don’t have yet a critical mas that can aspire to political support. We must wait some time, and become (much) bigger,

“I know (by experience) that tomorrow’s me will accept me as his past”

Even this can be questioned. First of all we don’t know whether the past exists: it may all be a hallunication, our memories of it having been created a few seconds ago by a super AI. Then even if we assume the past exists, that doesn’t tell us anything for sure about the future. We think we know something about the future because of what Giulio calls “experience”, but how do we know that the “future”, whatever that means, will be anything like the past?

The rules of causality that we perceive are just patterns. The patterns could change.

Of course, in practice we do assume that the past is some kind of guide to the future, and we do identify with our future selves. We have a narrative sense of self, with a past, a present, and an as yet undetermined future. And the traditional assumption is at this self is intimately bound to a specific human body, and will end when that body dies. As Guilio says, we will need to reformulate our current notions of self, but this may mean that we move away from any kind of narrative version.

This sounds like the beginning of an H+ band or superhero team.

I love it.

@Peter re “the traditional assumption is that this self is intimately bound to a specific human body, and will end when that body dies.”

No, this isn’t the traditional assumption. The traditional assumption (in the sense of the assumption that has been made by most people in history, and is still made by most people today) is that something survives physical death, or that we will be resurrected by a benevolent power in a better place.

Many modern intellectual think they know better.

Or do they?

I agree with Giulio on the incorporeal nature of our self, at least from a traditional perspective. Personally, I am more inclined to endorse a fuzzy notion of self, a notion that includes emotions, feelings, and flesh as essential elements. However this is not really the main reason of my perplexities. I think we can, albeit not in the next few months, emulate a biological substrate where a self can develop, or can be pasted. The problem for me is identity in space.

Giulio correctly points out that there is no identity in time, we change constantly - and tomorrow morning, after waking up, each one of us will not be the same person anymore. However, this is an essential feature of self. Our identity can exist only as a dynamic entity, evolving and changing - as time goes by. We cannot freeze our mind, without also suspending its very existence. So, we are all very accustomed to have multiple variations of our mind, in a given time-frame. it is space that bothers me.

With mind uploading, my spacial identity would be destroyed. I could look straight in the eyes (or in the video cameras) the piece of hardware where my mind has been uploaded. Me and my copy would occupy two different places in space. This implies that the original me would not like much the idea of being terminated. My mind cannot migrate like a ghost, or a parasite, flowing inside a new host. It has to be copied. Which means - the original is still there, and it will still want to live.

That said, as I mentioned before, I still might give it a try. If the mind-copying procedure is not destructive. And if it really feels like reincarnating - I might just stick to the new hardware.

@Giulio
Yes, I stand corrected there. It is more accurate to say that the traditional assumption is that our mortal self is intimately bound to a specific human body, and that this mortal self ends when the body dies. Of course you are right in saying that most people through history have tended to believe that alongside this mortal self is an immortal self that survives physical death. Some have also believed that this immortal self will be reincarnated “by a benevolent power in a better place”; most often it is believed that this depends on what you do or believe in this life (karma, justification by works/faith etc).

Do modern intellectuals know better? Yes and no. In some ways yes, surely we do. We have the scientific method and all that. But I agree that of the result is a grim acceptance of death, similar to Merkel’s grim insistence that getting out of the eurocrisis will be a “long slog” (sigh), then we may have lost more than we have gained.

But that’s not the case for us h+ers, is it? smile

@Peter re “if the result is a grim acceptance of death, similar to Merkel’s grim insistence that getting out of the eurocrisis will be a “long slog” (sigh), then we may have lost more than we have gained.”

Exactly. A philosophy that makes you stay in bed all day waiting for the end is worthless. Give me naive optimism instead of scholarly defeatism anytime.

Now, of course we know why they want us to grimly accept death: because they have built their power, and ultimately their money, on their worthless philosophy. Similarly, Merkel, and other European politicians, have built their power, and ultimately their money, on their worthless policies.

@Andre’ re “If the mind-copying procedure is not destructive”

Well… Most of the plausible mind uploading procedures that have been proposed so far are destructive. Techniques like non-destructive brain scanning via (f)MRI are orders of magnitudes below the required resolution.

But some plausible non-destructive uploading procedures have also been proposed. One is Martine Rothblatt’s mindfile approach (much more in a forthcoming post). Randal proposes another in the video embedded in this post.

Uploading a brain into a computer is not a way to become immortal, but a way for a copy of yourself to become immortal. Instead, find a way to jack in your soul, or causal body into the internet (for ex. into software such as second life, skype, or a web browser). Then you can chat all you want with your loved ones long after your spirit has left the body. All you need is Spirit Hardware and a Spirit-API grin

In the meantime, before Spirit-Hardware is invented, it is possible in rare cases for a late spirit to contact a ‘Channeler’ internet user, with the help of an authentic mind-networking master, enabling the late spirit to:
1. Get out of and avoid hell
2. See what the ‘Channeling’ internet user sees onscreen
3. Interlocute to the internet user or have the mind-networking master interlocute to the internet user based upon mind reading the late spirit’s wishes.
www.falundafa.org was founded by a mind networking master who has these mind networking skills, in addition to some Freemasons. Good luck finding them if any of this is ever important to you. The issue with mind reading besides the price is that it comprimises password safety. However it might be possible for the mind-networking master to remotely show someone elses mind given their permission (for ex. if the internet user is a family member of the late spirit) and enough income.

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