Ian McDonald on our digital doppelgangers

DSC_0024The BBC is running an essay by Ian McDonald, author of Brasyl and River of Gods (and many more sf novels). Despite being an deliberate laggard on social network and metaverse platforms himself, McDonald suggests that the science fictional trope of the uploaded human consciousness is already becoming true by degrees:

Our You2s will ever more closely resemble us, and become more and more intelligent as they make linkages between the information we placed there. They’ll take decisions without our interference -and they’ll increasingly talk to each other. It’s no coincidence that the net is shaped like a society.

Perhaps there will never be a single moment when computers become aware. Maybe it will be a slow waking and making sense of that blur of information, like a baby makes sense of the colour patches and patterned sounds into objects and words.

Why should artificial intelligences – our You2s – take any less time to grow up than us?

Artificial intelligences make regular appearances in McDonald’s fiction – and he’s a writer I recommend without hesitation to any science fiction reader – though here it’s almost as if he’s conceding that a kind of ‘soft takeoff’ Singularity is already in its early stages in the real world.

Being a good science fiction writer, though, he’s considering the implications of the future:

What we’ll have is a copy of a personality in a box. It’ll be you in every detail that makes the meat-you you. You2. Only it’s technically immortal as long as the hardware keeps running and is regularly updated. This sounds great, until you realise that the original you still goes down that dark valley from which there is no return…

Quite a synchronous topic, really, given the recent flare-up of Singularitary debates. [Hat tip to Ian Sales; image by your humble correspondent.]