Fwd: Uploading, was: Analysis of Phil Osborn's Posts on Rights

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Date: Fri Mar 08 2002 - 11:51:34 MST

I don't often forward posts from the Extropians list, but this one is so
good that I just had to do it.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://intelligence.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

attached mail follows:

Richard Steven Hack writes:

> Uploading by definition means that you are confined to a system which is
> less than the physical universe and subject to the effects of the physical
> universe, i.e., you do not have the freedom to move around in space-time or
> access the physical resources of the universe. Even if you assume that the
> system you are in has widely-spread nodes across star systems or whatever,
> and can access physical resources via telepresence or robotic agents, you
> are still metaphysically limited. This is not the situation a Transhuman
> wants to be in.

You may be thinking of a specific scenario for uploading that is more
restrictive than necessary. Broadly speaking we use uploading to refer
to transferring our minds from their current biological brains to some
kind of artificial system like a computer.

Our minds are already confined to a system which is less than the
universe, namely our brains. Transferring them to a computer does
not have to limit our options to move around or access the universe.
Of course if the computer is gigantic and needs massive power feeds
then moving it will be difficult, but in principle one could have
a small computer and move it around easily.

Even without that, I don't see what the problem is with telepresence. In
a way, all of our perceptions are mediated already by sensory modalities.
Our brains live in a dark, quiet, wet place. That is the reality.
It is only by means of our senses that we get the illusion of being out
there in the world. In a way, our bodies are a form of telepresence,
operated by our brains, huddling safe in their little caves of bone.

Uploading also does not necessarily mean operating in virtual reality
independent of the physical universe. Of course if the new system is
super-fast, it may not be desirable to spend too much time waiting
for things to happen in the physical universe, so naturally we would
turn to some form of VR which can operate at a more convenient speed.
But manipulating the physical universe will still be a necessary and
important activity. Even if you spend most of your time in a VR there
needs to be construction, maintenance and defense of the physical
substrate which runs the VR.

> I suspect that a lot of people like the notion because it is the
> "scientific" equivalent of "Heaven"...

Now I think you are getting even more specific and picturing a very
special kind of VR, where you have fantasy wish-fulfillment. I
suspect that this will be a popular form of recreation but will not
be the only mode in which people interact in the future.


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