Sunday, May 29, 2005

Singularity I

Charles Stross, who writes some very spiffy stuff, has put together a fascinatiing hypertext guide to the latest SF hotbutton. You can check out his:

Singularity: A Tough Guide to the Rapture of the Nerds

and speak knowledgeably about such things at your next rockin' science fiction/jello shots party.


Michael Alan Nelson said...

I certainly don't mean to send the comments on a drift with the very first entry, but following the links discussing Singularity have put a bee in my bonnet.

I have a problem with the idea of Uploading oneself to a computer system and thereby obtaining immortality. Unless I'm mistaken, the concept is quite simple: devise a way to input all of a person's memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions into a computer system that can be maintained indefinitely. Well, we are already doing that. I'm doing it right now as I type this. My thoughts are being uploaded onto this blog where they will be preserved indefinitely, unless, of course, Sensei Monkey doesn't exercise his god-like ability to delete this post.

So it seems to me that the idea of Uploading oneself is not simply a matter of transcribing the product of one's mind, but rather the mind itself. We're talking about taking one's consciousness and removing/copying it to a medium with a considerably longer lifespan than the average human body.

This leads to the question "What is consciousness?" Can it be copied? Transfered?

One of the methods discussed in the links is the idea of creating an exact copy of the nueral pathways of a person's brain into a comparable computer system. This seems faulty to me. It would create a computer with the same exact processing power as said brain, but
this does not address the issue of consciousness.

Once the new brain is populated with the exact information that exists in the original, does that person's consciousness transfer? Is a new consciousness created? Is there even a consciousness in the new system? Or are the two systems sharing the same consciousness where the consciousness is just inhabiting seperate systems yet are still connected? The latter scenario opens several interesting avenues. What would happen if a person's mind could be spread into multiple entities? An army of robots operating a ground offensive with single, hive-mind efficiency eliminating the complications of inadequate communications, removing the fear or tactical concerns of that person "dying" (the 303rd batallion launches it's offensive while the real, human person lounges on a sofa munching on pork rinds while his extended consciousness wages a war thousands of miles away), a developed sex trade where a person can inhabit the body of a beautiful person who has sex with the body of another beautiful person (usually paired together or within a tight clique of sex-workers, greatly reducing the spread of disease).

It seems to me that the idea of putting a salad bowl on your head and being able to automatically download every thought into a computer may not be terribly far away, but until we answer the question "What is consciousness?" the concept of actually Uploading ourselves is more fantasy than science fiction.

Sorry about the drift.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and pesonally think if you upload your brain, "you" will remain behind and die eventually, but you will see someone very similar to you (the uploaded version) keep living.

Rogers said...

there you go -- that's the entire thrust of the school of fiction based around uploading and singularity

JOhn Donald Carlucci said...

Reminds me of the old transporter argument.

There is one school of thought that the transporter destroys the original subject to produce an exact copy aboard the Enterprise. I feel the same about any uploaded brain copies.

1031 said...

Isn't brain activity, your thoughts and your consciousness, all of it, nothing more than electrical impulses zipping through your head?

And computers work because of electricity running through and activating the hardware, right?

It's certainly an interesting concept, to say the least. Stross's book, Singularity Sky, is fascinating. I'm not saying this technology is right around the corner. Hell, I still have trouble with my Wi-Fi connection. But in the distant-ish future, hey, who knows, right?

Bill Cunningham said...

Thanks for the link as I'm doing background for a horror script I'm writing. The nanotech stuff will come in handy.

Also saw your article on Transformers in LOOK magazine. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

A Q: Great blog but why don't you feature a "white button" like Olympia in (see upper left side)?

Most people find white text on black background really awful.

Rogers said...

I know, but every time I switch, I get complaints. I'll try the alt. button.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but " but every time I switch, I get complaints"?

You mean your regular readers actually prefer to read white text on black background? If that's the case I should hold my mouth :-)

- Anna

Rogers said...

Yeah, I know, it's weird. I've switched twice and it's never worked out. I may have to vary the fonts, perhaps.

Anonymous said...


Bottom line: the contents of the body are and always will be vastly more mathematically complicated to reconstruct accurately than will be the contents of our electrochemical brains (yes, even John's ginormous cerebra). Enjoy your quaint, fragile, expendible little 21st century flesh-shell while you can; ultimately, once teleportation exists, it will exist to transmit only data and not matter across the gulfs because the former is far more economically feasible. Our physical forms will be transitory, and our minds will be uploaded like a fuckin' Cylon's every time we want to 'port to Mars (which we'll have to, because that's where all entertainment-industry filming will eventually take place once Hollywood figures out that it's cheaper than Vancouver).

Don't dwell on the sociological effect all this is going to have on lessening the already-negilible value we put on corporeal life.

Especially don't dwell on it at three in the morning while staring at the ceiling of your dark bedroom.

--M Waid

Riyan Cilacap said...

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