Charlie Jane Anders on io9 | What if the cost of uploading your brain is giving up your body? Forever? That’s just one of the thought-provoking questions raised by Erin Biba’s piece on the ethics of uploading yourself, over at Tested.
Biba’s piece defines the issue as: “Once you upload your consciousness there’s very likely no going back. You also have no idea what to expect from living inside a computer, which means you’ll have to accept the fact that your very idea of consciousness might change once you’ve become fully digital.”
In a comment, Anders Sandberg sidesteps “the whole continuity issue (people will never agree, there may not even be a truth to the matter). I think the body issue is a version of the more fundamental I/O rights issue: it is just an interface to a world.” He mentions his recent paper on the ethics of uploading, to appear in a peer reviewed philosophy journal. The paper, titled “Ethics of brain emulations,” defines uploading as:
The basic idea is to take a particular brain, scan its structure in detail at some resolution, construct a software model of the physiology that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will have an internal causal structure that is essentially the same as the original brain. All relevant functions on some level of description are present, and higher level functions supervene from these. While at present an unfeasibly ambitious challenge, the necessary computing power and various scanning methods are rapidly developing.
Considering the body as an I/O interface between mind and external world (including other persons), and once both mind and body are better understood, emulating body inputs and outputs in software won’t be a problem. So, uploads can still enjoy physical contact, including sex (this is my answer to a comment on io9 about uploads missing physical contact and sex).
Some posters on io9 refer to the never ending continuity issue: they concede the feasibility in-principle of uploading but think the upload would be “another person,” “just a digital copy,” “not really you, but just a copy that thinks it’s you.” As Anders says, and I agree, “people will never agree, there may not even be a truth to the matter.” In fact, I think the continuity “issue” stems from an inappropriate perspective, just like dismissing the idea that the Earth is round because people at the antipodes would fall off. I think once uploading becomes commonplace, metaphysical “problems” related to continuity will disappear like snowflakes in the sun.
There are more and more good science fiction novels about uploading — I am now reading the recent “3D Futures: The disembodied, the departed and the dispossessed,” by Rob Walters, which seems very good — so I guess there will be more and more uploading discussions at io9 and other science fiction sites.