Re: [sl4] 'Ethical' uploading

From: Johnicholas Hines (
Date: Wed Feb 11 2009 - 12:13:00 MST

As far as I can tell, Dr. Mahoney never seems to come right out and
say "I think we should strive to avoid developing upload technology."
but that's the general gist of his posts on this topic. He has
fatalistic predictions that striving to avoid this technology will
fail. However, we can set those (positive) claims aside while we
discuss what we humans SHOULD do (normative).

On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:07 AM, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
> your carbon version becomes a zombie and is led off to the recycling vats, screaming in protest as they always do.

You imply that people who advocate uploading technologies would put a
perfectly viable human into a "recycling vat" (presumed fatal). This
is a red herring and a straw man. Some people are advocating
destructive uploading technologies. However, the people who advocate
uploading technologies would agree; a non-destructive scan followed by
murder of the person scanned is reprehensible.

The actual scenario looks more like this: Due to illness and/or old
age, someone is destructively uploaded. They are frozen and then
sliced thinly in order for the scanning process to take place. There
isn't a non-destructive technology available, nor does this process,
in course of operation, produce any viable physical human who is then

On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:07 AM, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
>We sincerely want to believe that our consciousness transfers to the machine that imitates us.

Let me propose a couple of thought experiments for the mailing list to consider.

1. A group of scientists, the "Consortium for Continuous
Consciousness" campaigns for the legalization of amphetamines and
rapid research of permanent anti-sleep drugs. Because of their
research into the underlying biology of sleep, they believe that
consciousness does not in any real, physical, sense "transfer" from
one episode of wakefulness through sleep to the next episode of
wakefulness. A CCC rep tells you "Science has discovered that people
just go out like a candle at a specific point in the sleep process.
Claims that you will be magically teleported forward in time to the
entity that wakes up is merely your fear of death talking." My
question is: Could a discovery in the biology of sleep cause you to
consider sleep to be morally equivalent to death?

2. Cellphone use is discovered to cause a mutation. Children who are
born of parents who used cellphones will have the mutation, and they
will be mutually infertile with children born of parents who did not
use cellphones. This is a human speciation event. Should we write
special laws allowing the humans to kill, modify, enslave and torture
the mutated humans? Does your opinion change if, due to widespread
cellphone use, humans are endangered and may eventually become
extinct, replaced entirely by mutated humans?

My point for thought experiment 1 is that we do have a model for
'uploading'. Every day, we take all our goals, knowledge, and
memories, and entrust them to a future proxy, a different
consciousness. As far as science understands the process, no
additional, nonphysical entity, besides the brain connections and
chemical gradients moves from "yesterday's self" to "today's self".
And yet we go to sleep every day. Taking one's goals, knowledge and
memories and entrusting them to a FAITHFUL proxy is a reasonable
action to take, even if you are fully aware that there will be no
additional "consciousness transfer".

My point for throught experiment 2 is that condoning murder and
torture of beings very structurally similar to humans, based only on a
narrow technical definition of "species" is an incredibly radical
position. I invite Dr. Mahoney to state explicitly: "It is wrong to
murder, enslave, or torture humans. It is also wrong to murder,
enslave, or torture entities which are very structurally similar to
humans, even if they are technically mutually infertile and therefore
a different species."


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