Carl Zimmer on mind uploading

post by Dr_Manhattan · 2010-12-23T03:13:42.360Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 6 comments

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=e-zimmer-can-you-live-forever

I realize he Zimmer is "just a popular author" (a pretty good one IMO), so filing this under "cultural penetration of singularity memes"

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comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-27T01:00:04.745Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good article to have, generally speaking. Two problems leapt out at me, though: one rational, and one ethical. On the rationality end, he clearly sounds like he wants the whole thing to be bull. For instance:

Good, I thought. Maybe Marcus would demolish the Singularity and leave nothing behind but smoking wreckage.

So I imagined Marcus would declare the human brain unimprovable. He came out onto the stage and began to explain the shortfalls of human memory. So far, so good. But then he proceeded to explain why memory's failings meant that it was a good place to start improving the human brain. I had lost another skeptic.

From the ethics perspective:

Koene offered some reasons for why anyone would want to work so hard to make a whole-brain emulation in the first place. Even if it just behaved like a generic human brain rather than my brain or yours in particular, scientists could still use it to run marvelous new kinds of experiments. They might test drugs for depression, Parkinson's and other disorders.

I realize this is not currently happening, but the way this was worded sounds like "let's create someone as a brain in a jar and do experiments on her without thinking of her as a person at all."

comment by gwern · 2010-12-27T15:07:17.833Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's a rather strange thought.

Even if it just behaved like a generic human brain rather than my brain or yours in particular, scientists could still use it to run marvelous new kinds of experiments.

What on earth is a 'generic human brain'? It would seem that if it really is an uploaded mind, then it must be a particular mind, which wouldn't be generic at all.

The examples given sound like they could probably be done with simulating only regions, and so be akin to Blue Brain; it might be sensible to speak of regions as being generic (perhaps averages of lots of specific regions?).

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2010-12-28T18:38:14.155Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It sounded in the article like it would be a really lo-fi upload, such that it wouldn't resemble the person uploaded much more than anyone else. But this is a valid point.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-27T16:43:08.177Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What really matters, Farah said, is for scientists to figure out how much enhancement these drugs can actually bring. "The effectiveness of Adderall depends crucially on the individual," she said. "The literature suggests that people who are average or below get the biggest benefit. The high performers may get no benefit or may actually be impaired by it." Farah is now measuring the performance of students on Adderall and placebos to see if that's actually the case.

Always a concern with nootropics; are the people who use them the ones who actually need them?

comment by DanArmak · 2010-12-23T12:58:56.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When the SciAm writer says Chalmers seriously thought about whether uploading is physically possible, he adds this disclaimer: "He was not, in fact, insane."

Optimistically though, this is the 2nd stage of cultural penetration: "then they laugh at us..."

comment by [deleted] · 2010-12-23T15:29:46.612Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Pessimistically, I don't think I have ever seen any evidence that "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" is a particularly good model for memetic penetration of the mainstream.