George Dvorsky has written an article on “You’ll Probably Never Upload Your Mind Into A Computer” on io9. Ben Goertzel has replied with an article on “Goertzel Contra Dvorsky on Mind Uploading” on H+ Magazine. I agree with Ben, and posted the comments below on both articles.
George, this is an interesting and well-written article, but I think all your points are rather weak.
1: Every real physical phenomenon is the result of result of unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of components, but we can replicate many real physical phenomena in silicon well enough. The mind is more complex than the physical phenomena that we are able to replicate in silicon at this moment, but science will advance.
2 and 3: I am not really able to understand why these are considered as “problems,” it seems to me that they have an ontological status similar to the “aether” of 19th century’s physics (a non-problem caused by non-physical non-notions that were not really needed by science, and have faded out since). I guess all metaphysical “problems” like these will disappear like snow in the sun once uploading becomes a commonplace practice.
4 and 5: As you say, perhaps consciousness is not substrate-neutral, but rather depends on specific physical features that are only found in some substrates, and not in others. Fair enough, but I don’t see why this is a problem. You seem to assume that uploading means uploading to something similar to today’s computers, perhaps powered by Intel 20ium and Nvidia JupiterForce, and running Windows 30. But this is a restrictive and unnecessary assumption. If a conscious mind can run only on a substrate with certain specific properties, well, then we will just have to use substrates with the same specific properties to upload minds. For example, if consciousness depends critically on subtle quantum effects in our neural circuitry, we will have to develop alternative substrates that exhibit the same quantum properties.
6: I am a living, rights-bearing human being, and I would love having the chance of being the first human to be uploaded – please don’t protect me from things that I don’t want to be protected from.
7: Re David Pearce’s quote – If what I want to do is replicate the chess game, the textures of the pieces are irrelevant. The game is the same with any other textures, for all practical purposes (FAPP) related to my objective of replicating the gameplay. Of course, the moves are not sufficient if the objective is the artistic appreciation of a fine chessboard and its pieces. As far as identity preservation is concerned, my choice (it is basically an aesthetic choice, you cannot prove one position or another) is to consider the computational pattern good enough FAPP. The texture of my skin, I can do without if I have to. I don’t actually like it that much (more in this exchange with David).
8: The same has been said of the Internet and mobile phones, thousands of times. I am still using both, and so are you. Once mind uploading is developed, I am sure savvy users will develop mental crypto tools, the mental equivalents of PGP and disk encryption. Also, I prefer an interesting life with some risks to a dull and boring life without risk.