Via R U Sirius at the recently-resuscitated H+ Magazine, SyFy*’s Dvice blog lists six reasons that the uploading of human minds in the classic sf-nal civilisational Singularity scenario is extremely unlikely to become a reality.
The sixth is the one most likely to make a good story in its own right, because it’s the one that deals with human nature more than biological or technological restraints:
6. Who Gets Uploaded?
And you thought the lines for iPhone 4 were bad… even if all the above problems were magically solved, there’s still human nature to contend with. War and conflict may not technically be hardwired into our species, but the past 10,000 years of human history are hard to argue with. Unless there’s a way to instantly “teleport” the entirety of humanity into the cloud simultaneously, you can bet your digitized ass that there’ll be fighting over who goes first (or doesn’t, or shouldn’t), how long it takes, what it costs, who pays, how long they get to stay there… you know, all the standard crap that humans have been busting each other’s chops about ever since we could stand upright. I’ll opt out, thanks.
Remember that store worker who was fatally squashed in a Black Friday sales scrum at WalMart back in 2008? Like that, only featuring the whole species. I consider myself something of a transhumanist fellow-traveller, but it’s this end of the problem spectrum (much more so than the technological hurdles) that nudges me ever closer to skepticism.
[ * Every time I read that “revamped” name, it looks more stupid than it did before. ]
The 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.]
Transhumanist thinker Michael Anissimov has decided to attempt answering the question that almost everybody asks about the the idea of universal mind uploading – namely, why the hell would we want to do it?
His seven reasons include economic growth (topical), greater subjective well-being and environmental recovery, but the one that will probably surprise most of all is his suggestion that mind uploading would forge closer connections with other humans:
Our interactions with other people today is limited by the very low bandwidth of human speech and facial expressions. By offering partial readouts of our cognitive state to others, we could engage in a deeper exchange of ideas and emotions. I predict that “talking” as communication will become passé — we’ll engage in much deeper forms of informational and emotional exchange that will make the talking and facial expressions of today seem downright empty and soulless.
It all sounds a bit like a Greg Egan novel, doesn’t it? Personally, I’m first in the queue for upload (assuming it becomes possible within my lifetime), as I find corporeal existence to be massively distracting – I could get so much more done if I didn’t have this bag of meat to worry about… [image by Alex // Berlin]