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Uploading: Yes and No

People who discuss Uploading seem to often have firm views on whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, so this is a few reasons for and against that might be worth thinking about. This is not claimed to be an exhaustive list.

First the "Pros":

-- If you are going to be dead, anyway, then Uploading seems to offer a way of continuing to exist, in some form.

-- If you are planning to have your head frozen after death, then, unless you believe it will be possible to build a complete new body in some way from the head, Uploading may be the most likely way to be revived.

-- Even if you believe that an Upload will not be "you", then you may wish your knowledge and experience to survive in some form, and maybe be of service to others. You might consider this a child or offspring; a different individual of some sort.

-- Even if you are Uploaded, then it might reasonably be possible to be downloaded into a "cloned" living body at a later date. So, the possibility of gaining future experience in a human body is not cut off.

-- Even if you are Uploaded, then it should be possible to interact via a remote, tele-operated, robot body, which could be made very human-like, or could function in hostile environments which would instantly kill a human.

-- Once you have been Uploaded then it should be possible to distribute copies of the information that constitutes yourself, so that it would require major malicious action, or something like a collapse of civilisation, to damage or erase it, or make it impossible to be "run".

-- Uploading may mean that a much wider range of experiences are possible, allowing use of things like external processing resources as a mental prosthesis, new senses, or it may be possible for an Upload to self-modify, to increase things like intelligence, or instantly learn new skills. It might be desirable to create multiple copies of yourself, which run simultaneously, and re-converge all their experiences, later. It is likely that while all these might be possible for a mind in a living human body, it will be easier to work with a mind which is already in a computer.

Now the "Antis":

-- Uploading, at least initially, may be a destructive process, so that your brain and nervous system has to be destroyed to extract all the information from it. Arguably this is a form of suicide, if you are not dead already, such as only existing in the form of a frozen head.

-- Uploading, at least initially, may not be a completely reliable process, with no guarantee that all the information is consistent and reliable. If this is a non-destructive process, a "backup", then this may not be of too much concern, as surviving in some form may be better than nothing, but otherwise, not only is this suicide, but a possibly pointless one as well.

-- If you have any belief in the importance of phenomenon not currently explained by science, then an Upload, which only preserves the information understood to be significant by science at that point, could leave behind some critical parts of you, which, if it is a destructive Upload, will be permanently lost. This is not just an issue of things like parapsychology (which you might claim that there is some statistical basis for), but due to the fact that our scientific understanding continues to advance.

-- Even if Uploading is a reliable process, and such an Upload can be "run" to produce a mental experience comparable to a mind in a living body, then it is not clear that an emulated mind would be able to have as rich and varied a range of experiences as one in a living body. It is not clear if the mind would need a complex virtual environment, complete with a simulated body to act as a viewpoint, just to remain sane, or whether a restricted tele-operated robot, which allows interaction with the physical rather than a virtual world, would be required.

-- If you just exist as an Upload then your legal status might be very different to a non-Uploaded person. You might just be property, subject to erasure or restricted access to the resources needed to "run", belonging either to your heirs, who ever provided the resources to Upload and "run" you, or the government. You might be subject to malicious tampering to make you "more useful", or "loyal", or "less disobedient", and it is likely that if enough was known to do Uploading in the first place, then your memory could be interfered with. Multiple copies of you might be taken as convenient, and then erased when they were no longer needed or useful, so you loose any experience they gained.

And, now, some more 'spiritual' "Antis":

-- If you have any belief in "life after death", by other than technological means, with or without some form of judgement, then Uploading, whether at the point of death or before, presents some interesting questions. You might believe that whatever process occurs after death would continue normally, with the Uploaded self existing as a completely separate being, which may or may not have to "die" at some point in the future. You might believe that the Uploaded self is a continuation of life, and any post-death experience is put off while the Upload continues to exist.

-- Even if you have no belief in life after death as part of some religion then there have been reports which indicate in some cases information, in the form of knowledge and life experiences, passes from those that have died, through no clear means, to later born children. This does not mean that this always happens, and you may consider the evidence insufficient, but if you believe that there is room for doubt, then there might well be a risk that Uploading would interfere with this sort of process, whatever it is.

I would hope some of these points might be interesting to discuss

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Copyright © 2004 Rory McLean


Rory McLean