Neuroscientist Works Toward Virtual Immortality ala Clarke
Dr. Randal Koene hopes to develop a means for replicating the human mind in code, making it possible to upload our minds to a computer. Previous efforts in this area can be seen in Will You Upload Your Mind Anytime Soon? and 'Mind Uploading' Issue Now Downloadable.
(Dr. Koene using current primitive body to gesture)
VICE: Hi, Randal. When did you first think: You know what? I'm going to try to upload my brain to a computer?
Randal Koene: When I was 13, I read Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars. Set in the far future, the citizens are immortal. There's a giant central computer that runs the city, which is able to construct and deconstruct people who are stored in memory banks. For me, this was a wonderful exploration of the idea that information is really what distinguishes us, our creations, and our thoughts from the gradual dissipation that is entropy in the universe.
The story was particularly relevant to me at the time because I was keenly interested in exploration and all manner of creative activity. The most frustrating thing was to run out of time. That was, of course, caused by my own limitations; the limited speed of thought and creation, and limited cognitive and physical abilities.
If we think of ourselves as processes interacting with information, this opens up the possibility to transcend those limitations. If you can improve yourself almost arbitrarily then you can push back all boundaries. It took quite a few years to work through those insights and desires enough times to lay bare the feasible approaches to achieving that goal. The thing that makes all of that possible is a "Substrate-Independent Mind."
A SIM is not merely an artificial intelligence, but a re-instantiation of a specific human mind—a human mind downloaded to a computer. Neuroscientists are 99.9% percent convinced that the brain is a mechanism. It is something that computes, something that carries out functions. If you can figure out how it works, you can build a replacement for it. The idea that you can take a small piece of the brain and build a replica for it is very mainstream and well understood. Why not do that with the whole brain? And then why not upload that to a computer so that we can process more data and store it better, the way a computer does, organizing thoughts into folders that we can access whenever we choose?
Here's the essential bit from Arthur C. Clarke's 1956 novel The City and the Stars :
In the end our ancestors learned how to analyze and store the information which would define any specific human being - and to use that information to recreate the original, as you have just recreated that couch.
"I know that such things interest you, Alvin, but I cannot tell you exactly how it was done. The way in which information is stored is of no importance; all that matters is the information itself. It may be in the form of written words on paper, of varying magnetic fields, or patterns of electric charge. Men have used all these methods of storage, and many others. Suffice it to say that long ago they were able to store themselves - or, to be more precise, the disembodied patters from which they could be called back into existence.
"So much you already know. This is the way our ancestors gave us virtual immortality, yet avoided the problems raised by the abolition of death. A thousand years in one body is long enough for any man; at the end of that time, his mind is clogged with memories, and he only asks for rest - or a new beginning.
"In a little while, Alvin, I shall prepare to leave this life. I shall go back through my memories, editing them and canceling those I do not wish to keep. Then I shall walk into the Hall of Creation, but through a door you have never seen. This old body will cease to exist, and so will consciousness itself. Nothing will be left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.
"I shall sleep, Alvin, and without dreams. Then one day, perhaps a hundred thousand years from now, I shall find myself in a new body, meeting those who have been chosen to be my guardians. They will look after me as Eriston and Etania have guided you, for at first I will know nothing of Diaspar and will have no memories of what I was before. Those memories will slowly return, at the end of my infancy, and I will build upon them as I move forward into my new cycle of existence.
"That is the pattern of our lives. We have all been here many, many times before... this present population will never repeat itself again...
...At any moment, Alvin, only a hundredth of the citizens of Diaspar live and walk in its streets. The vast majority sleep in the memory banks...
(Read about virtual immortality)
Read the rest of the interview at Vice.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/19/2014)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...' - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...' - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Google Perfects 'Blade Runner-style' Photo Details
'Pull back... stop... enhance 57-19...' - Blade Runner, 1982.
CloudFisher - Moroccan Fog Farmers Harvest Moisture From The Air
'That moisture trickles down...', Frank Herbert, 1965.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!
Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'
NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-
Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'
Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'
Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories