Saturday, December 24, 2005

Choosing you

More on the subject of trans-humanism and the singularity.

The community interested in this subject talk about uploading one's mind, or personality, to a hardware 'silicon' substrate. There are two ways this could be imagined.

1. A scanning process which maps brain cells into a 'silicon analogue': analogous to photocopying or making a bitmap of something. This would have to be done carefully, as the brain is more than an electrical neural network. Each cell, neuron or glial, is a giant by nanotechnological standards, and has many hormonal/chemical responses as well as the standard synaptic inter-neuron communications. I think this was the basis of John Searle's critique of AI.

2. More interestingly, your brain could be parsed into its major functional components and settings. Now you have some choices. Want to be more extravert? Following the parsing stage, modify the descriptor file to increase extraversion and then burn to substrate. It is clear that we all live in personality space somewhere, so by this means you could turn into any other type of person at all - but would you still be you?

We are again venturing into Greg Egan territory - many of his books and stories explore these ideas. My question is as in the previous post: why bother?

I think given that we start as motivated beings (the recursive base case, if you like), we would choose personality models - if we could - which explored other drives, not 'no drives'. Choices which made for a richer social interaction would simply promise more fun: social isolation would be few people's choice.

If it were me, I would insist that after a prescribed period I would be restored to my base personality case, albeit with my new memories. This to ensure I was not captured by my 'trial personality'. Readers of Greg Egan's Quarantine will be familar with the argument.

I am grateful to Alex Alaniz for mentioning some of these issues to me in a note.