THE HUMAN CONNECTOME
No matter how much we enhance ourselves there’s something we need to keep in mind, our body is made of flesh and bones, its going to deteriorate and die. But what if the study of the brain could address our mortality? What if in the future we didn’t ave to die. There will come a moment when all of your neural activity will come to a halt and then the glorious experience of being conscious comes to an end. And it doesn’t matter who you know or what you do, it’s the fate all of us. The fate of all life but only humans are so unusually intelligent, that we suffer over this. When someone dies, those who are left, grieve, they mourn the lost relationship, for every death there’s another loss, every brain contains a life time of information, experiences, knowledge, and wisdom that humanity could use. At the moment of death, all that becomes lost. What a waste it is that we cremate or bury our dead, because even after a operson dies, the information in their brain is still storing all that information in the neurosynmaptic network. We’re at a point in neuroscience where there’s a possibility we can preserve a braina and read out the information then live with that person again. Brain Preservation is a new field, it’s controversial and promises still unproven. But Cry Onics companies like AlCor life extension foundation are exploring the possibility. However, there’s a chance that we might not develop the technology to bring them back for hundreds of years. So perhaps there are other ways to access the information stored in a brain. Not by bringing a deceased person back to life, but by finding a way to read out the data directly. THIS is both a promising idea and a monumental challenge. At the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, Sebastian Sung is among the first pioneers of that process. He’s attempting to map out the inumerable connections that underlie the brain’s fucnction. That unimaginably vast network of pathways and links is called “the connectome”. You connectome is unique, it’s one of the deepest theories in neuroscience that your memories are stored in your unique pattern of connections. I like to think of it as a theory of personal identity, what makes you you. The average human brain as 86 billion neurons and thousands of trillions of neurons and thousands of trillions of synaptic connections. When the connectome is fully worked out, it will be the most complex wiring diagram ever created. It’s very difficult to map out connetivity inside the brain, there’s only one tehcnology which promises to give us ALL the connections froma single piece of brain, and that’s called Serial electron microscopy. Sung is beginning by mapping a mouse brain. The process starts with taking a piece of brain tissu and slicing it. It’s a high tech deli slicer for cutting very thin slices of brain. To cut really thin you have to have a very shapr knife. This is the world’s sharpest knife, the nanodiamond knife, who’s blade is honed to atomic sharpness. You see a metal part moving up and down, piece of brain isn mounted on it and the brain is being moved back and forth against the blade. So slice after slice of brain are floating onto the surface of the water, each slice pushes the previous slice forward. In order to see this cutting process, a microscope is mounted on top of the ultramicrotome, and it projects an image onto this computer screen where we see the cutting happening. The conveyor belt produces a very long tape which is kind of like a movie, every frame of which is a slice of brain. Once the brain’s been arranged in these film-like strips, each sample is subdivided into tiny areas, which are then scanned by a powerful electron microscope. That process produces this, wa segment of brain magnified 100 thousand times. At this resolution its possible to see almost every feature. These small black dots are D N A inside an individual cell. the next step is to compile these images by stacking them in the thousands, one on top of each other and then tracking the neurons through each image. Its possible to reconstruct the exact way the neurons are connected. A 3 dimensional model of ther connectivity. It should be possible to do this with a whole human brain someday. The result would be a map of all the wiring that underpins a person’s thoughts, experiences, and beliefs. Tere’s just one issue, if you image an entire uman brain wit tis resolution, it would be a zetabyte of information. It’s a dirty word, it’s never spoken in polite company, because its the total digital content of the world right now. That’s how much information the human connectome would be. Its a daunting figure. But does it mean that the idea of reading out and sequencing the human brain will always remain beyond our reach? Well, experinece says that computing power alone shouldnt be a barrier for too much longer. There’s a common observation in computiong called moore’s law, which states that processing power doubles every two years. If that doesn’t sound like much tink of it tis wa. It means that computers today are a million tiems more powerful than they were in the 1970s. Just 20 years ago, the supercomputer behind me was equivalent to all the computing power on the planet, 20 years from now, it will probably be considered a modest force of the type you might shrink down and wear on youyr body. We’re in an era now where we’re developing technologies that can store unimaginable amounts of data and run gargantuan simulations and tis is where our biology is on a crash course with our technology. So let’s say the time will come when computer power isn’t an issue, that opens up a new realm of possibility. Suppose we could make a digital copy of the brain. Then not only could we read it out, we could make it run. This is the principle behind whole brain emulation and the blue brain project, but that’s a while away.
You’ve heard of the human genome, but please allow me to introduce you to the human connectome, the first ever not quite finished map of the human brain. Our brains, like the rest of our nervous system, are made up mostly of neurons. Neurons are basically like a normal cell with a body and a nucleus, but what makes them different is long brances coming off them called axons. These serve as pathways that allow signals to travel from neuron to neuron. The outer most layer of our brains called the gray matter, is responsible for all of our cognition and it mostly contains neuron cell bodies, but deeper beneath that is the white matter, which sends signals from one part of the brain to another and its mostly made up of axons that act like your brain’s wiring. Until recently neurologists thought that white matter was kinda just like a plate of spaghetti, just a binch of wires randomly connecting different parts of the brain, but in 2005, neurologists ewith the NIH and a number of other US universities set out to make a map of all our neural connections for the first time, they called that map “the human connectome”. Their research uses a one of a kind MRI scanner so sensitive that it could detect the movment of water inside individual neuron fibers to show hwere they are. Then it uses a high res technique called “Diffusion Spectrum Imaging” to see what directions those fibers are oriented. To get pictures like this a traditional mRI would have a test subject sitting in the machine for more than seven hours, now they can take these pictures in a matter of minutes. And what they’re finding is that instead of being a bunch of neurological spaghetti, these fibers are actually organized into an orderly 3 dimensional grib with fibers running up down, left, right, with non diagonals or tangles. Scientists describe it as a layout of a big city with streets in 2 directions and elevators in buldings going up and down. And in the flat areas of this grid the fibers overlap at precise 90 degree angles weaving together a lot like in a fabric. Simplicity is whats baffling. The brain is one of the most complicated and amazing structures in the universe. Its so mysterious and comlex that scientists are suprised to find so much order. Some researchers think that the grid might be adding some more complex structures and the scanner hasn’t penetrated the outer layers of the brain yet. Only the main roads at this point. But thos still might answer lots of questions in other branches of biology, like the evolution of the human brain. If animals brains are built around the same basic grid it becomes a lot more understandable how a fish’s brain could be related to a human brain. As organisms evolve, functions are simply added as they get more modified and more complex, but the basic layout remains similar. The project was announced in 2012 and was only suppose to take 5 years, but as of October 11, 2017, the project has yet to be officially declared complete. It tunrs out the human brain is a lot more complex than we thought.
BUILDING A BRAIN, SIMULATE A MIND: WBE
In the same way that computer software can run on different hardware, it may be that the software of the mind can run on other platforms. In other words, what if there’s nothing special about the biological neurons themselves and instead it’s only how they connect and interact that makes a person who they are. If that proved to be correct, it would follow that we can exist digitally by running ourselves as a simulation. And this is what’s known as te “computational hypothesis of the brain”. The idea is that the wet biological gooshy stuff isn’t the important part, what matters are the computations that are running on top. The idea is that the mind is not what the brain is, it’s wat te brain does. Mind and Brain are different. In theory, you can swap cells for circuits, oxygen for electricity, te medium doesn’t matter provided that all the pieces and parts are connecting and interacting in the same way. All your thoughts, emotions, memories, your whole personalit would still emerge. There’d be no biological brain but there’d still eba fully functioning version of you. This sounds like science fiction, but a team in switzerland has begun an exceptionally ambitious project hta takes the first steps down this path. They’re attempting to build a full working simulation of a brain. It’s called “The Blue Brain Project”. Sean Hill is one of the members of the team. The long term goal here is to deliver by 2023 a software and hardware infrastrcture capable of running a whole human brain emulation. If we want to emulate an entire human brain how do we know what are the important things to capture, the structure, the cells, all the way down to the proteins and molecules, how do we know? We’re working at subcellular, we’re working at cellular, we’re working at microcircuit, we’re working at brain reghions of mesa circuits, then we have whole brain but for very simplified neurons. So our goal is to get to whole brain but with the very detailed neurons. As a starting point they’re looking at rat brains, they take tiny slices of brain and subject them to minute jolts of electrical current, which mimics the activity of the living brain and prompts the cells to interact. Each interaction is recreated on the project supercomputer and then integrated into a larger model with data from hundreds of other labs around the world. The result is this electrical storm. This is the best approximation of what a very tiny fraction of your brain is doing when ou’re say just staring into space. The total activity in your brain is hundreds of millions more thanwhat you’re seeing here. And this typhoon of activity is roaring along every second of your life. We’re not building abstract models, we’re actually taking data from labs and extracting probabilities and distributions to build a much larger model that is based on biological data not the assumption of how biology works, but actually on data that comes out of a biology labroatory. The blue brain team hopes to achieve their goal by 2023, a full working emulation of a human brain. And that raises a question, what will the finished product be? Will it be a mind that thinks on its own, ill it have consciousness, will it be self aware? If the answer is yes, and we create a mind, a mind CAN live in a computer, then do we have to copy nature’s biological blueprints, OR might it be possible to program a different kind of intelligence, one of our own invention. The singulitarians believe that we should take the next step from posthumanism and design new kinds of brains altogether.
In a 2016 study conducted by the salk institute, researchers discovered that our memory storage capacity of our brain is 10 times more than previously thought, about a petabyte rather than 10 terabytes. A petabyte is a billion gigabytes.If you were to continuously play a petabyte of 4 minute songs it’d take 2000 years to listen to them all. Obviously this unit of measurement is used for computer memory not brain capacity. But neuroscientists can also use bytes as a useful comparison for our own brain storage capacity.
1) WBE = The brain is not a classical computer. Its not a turing machine, in a turin machine you have inputs, outputs, and a program that massages the inputs. However, the brain has no windows, no software, no programming, no CPU, no Pentium chip, and theres no subroutines. The brain doesn’t have any of the standard characteristics of a turing machine or a digital computer. The brain is a very sophisticated neural network, it is a learning machine. It rewires the resistance of all its connections upon learning any task. And that’s why for the last 50 years we were on a wild goose chase trying to create a digital computer that can mimic the human brain. The human brain is a learning machine, its quite different from a digital computer. And the next step there is brought by the research of dr. Norman Deutsche from the university of Toronto, in a book called the brain that changes itself, dr. Deutsche speaks about what he calls neuroplsticity and in his view, the brain is not a machine at all and has to be understood on its own terms, because if you accept the idea of a brain as a machine of anykind, that leads to what he calls neurological fatalism, which is not able to explain how the brain is actually able to grow and heal itself. And then he talks about the feedback loop between the thoughts that can actually change your brain, and also of course the brain changing your thoughts. I think the brain IS a machine, not a digital computer, but a very sphisticated biological machine and we have not yet been able to even mimic a fraction of the capabilities of the brain, but I think the brain is a machine, with neuroplasticity, it can rewire itself, neural networks change themselves all the time. The question is does it have a soul? Thats an ditional question, a biological nmachine may have a soul, b ut all theories have to be tested, reproducible and falsifiyable. So if people believe in the soul, then we have ti measure it, and people have tried. When people died, scientists have tried to measure how the weight of a body changes when you die and we find no visible change. At a certain point, the idea of a soul is untestable, not repoducible, not falsifiable. Not necessarily WRONG, it just means its outside the boundries of science. And so of course th brain is a biological machine, it’s a machine that rewires itself, its a machine that is not a turing machine. The brain is a machine that is its own programmer. The brain has no programming or upgrading system, there is none, because it does one thing better than any other turing machine, and thiat is that it learns by rewiring itself. So the brain IS a biological machine, the question is does it have a soul? I don’t know. I only work with things that are testable, falsifiable, and reproducible. Until someone gives me an experiment that allows me to test, reproduce, and falsify a theory of soul, I’ll say that the jury is out. You have all kinds of people Dr. Rando Kuna who said mind uploading is not sci fi anymore and he doesn’t think its impossible that we’d have this tech in a couple decades or so. Google recently made news by hiring Dr. Ray Kurzweil who wrote th book “how to build a mind”. Now dr. Henry Makram in Europe got a billion dolars from the EU so people are putting a lot of money, effort and good reputation, so if you back it up with moore’s law and our ability to store more and more data on a smaller and smaller devices. Wouldn’t that kind of speed things up? First of all, with Blue Jean, one of our most advanced computers located at the webmins laboratory in livermore california, we can simulate a mouse brain for about a minute or so. And a mouse brain is we can simulate a mouse brain is about 1%, 1% had neural activity of a human brain, so we have a long ways to go before we can model a human brain. That’s just modelling the frontal cortex and the other parts of the motor cotrex, not the complete brain at all. And we can only do that for about a minute or so. So we have a long ways to go before we can model the entire brain. And just because we have the human genome, does not mean we can create imaginary life forms out of nothing, like in the gods. We cannot create Pegasus, or flying pigs, even if we have the genome of pigs and horses. So having the conenctome is not enough, it may take many more decades to understand how the connectome is put together. Now the people who work with the Blue Gene computer in Lavore national laboratory, say that a blue gene compute rthan could mimic the brain would be the size of a city block, one city block. The energy bnecessary to power it would be a trillion watts, the output of a nuclear power plant, and it would take a river to cool it down. Now our brain operates at 20 watts. So when someone calls you a dim bulb, its a compliment because 20 watts can do more than one city block worth of blue gene computers and a nuclear power plant. So you see that we have a long ways to go before we can map the connectome fits together.
Have you ever tried to match wits with a computer? Perhaps you’ve tried playing it in a game of chess or raced to perform a calculation before your laptop could spit out the correct answer. You probably lost the chess game and the computer definitely beat you in the mathematics race. Given that, when you measure the ability of the human brain vs. a computer at face value, it seems like a computer would be faster and smarter, but there is actually far more to the story. If you had posed this same question a few decades ago, there would be no question… the human brain could run circles around computers, but is that still true? Has technology begun to catch up to the most remarkable and awe-inspiring organ in the human body? One of the common phrases that has stuck around for decades, and which encourages the idea of a brain vs. computer argument, is “brains are analogue, computers are digital”. This makes it seem like computers are superior, but in truth, the human brain is far more advanced and efficient, and possesses more raw computational power than the most impressive supercomputers that have ever been built.. You can’t really compare human brains and computers. They might beat us at chess but they are not “smarter than us” per say”. We can compare the outputs of brains and computers though. What are the differences? the Sunway TaihuLight, in China is the fastest supercomputer in the world, with a LINPACK benchmark score of 93 PetaFLOPS while the human brain can process 1 Exaflop. A petaflop is 1 quadrillion floating point calculations per second, meaning a computer can’t even achieve one tenth the processing power of the human brain. In 2014, some clever researchers in Japan tried to match the processing power in one second from one percent of the brain. That doesn’t sound like very much, and yet it took the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world (the K Computer) 40 minutes to crunch the calculations for a single second of brain activity!. Experts believe that exascale computing could be possible by 2020, but Intel, one of the largest technology companies in the world, boasted that they will have achieved that capability by 2018. By creating a legitimate artificial brain modeling, we will be able to explore real-time simulations of human brain activity – a major breakthrough. Therefore, now that we have a clear goal that is nearly in sight (a computer that operates at the exaFLOP level), we have begun to pay more attention (and spend more money) towards achieving it. For example, the Human Brain Project has the ultimate goal of reaching exascale computing (computing at the same processing power and speed as the human brain; an artificial brain, so to speak). Launched in 2013, the Human Brain Project has already sourced billions of euros for this project, which could have hugely important ramifications in many different industries. BUT even if it does catch up, we will still be superior. When the brain identifies a more efficient or effective way to compute and function, it can morph and alter its physical and neuronal structure, hence the term “plasticity“. Until we achieve true Artificial Intelligence (in which computers should theoretically be able to re-wire themselves), neuroplasticity will always keep the human brain at least one step ahead of “static” supercomputers. One of the things that truly sets brains apart, aside from their clear advantage in raw computing power, is the flexibility that it displays. Essentially, the human brain can rewire itself, a feat more formally known as neuroplasticity. Neurons are able to disconnect and reconnect with others, and even change in their basic features, something that a carefully constructed computer cannot do. Computers, by their very definition and fundamental design, have some parts for processing and others for memory; the brain doesn’t make that separation, which makes it hugely efficient. In contrast, our miraculous brains operate on the next order higher. Although it is impossible to precisely calculate, it is postulated that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is equivalent to a billion billion calculations per second. In 2014, some clever researchers in Japan tried to match the processing power in one second from one percent of the brain. That doesn’t sound like very much, and yet it took the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world (the K Computer) 40 minutes to crunch the calculations for a single second of brain activity! A supercomputer like Sunway TaihuLight takes 15MW to run (linpack), by contrast our brains are super efficient and only take about 20 watts to run. When someone calls you a dim bulb, that’s a compliment, a miracle of evolution. The supercomputer also cost 1.8 billion Chinese Yuan to build whereas the human brain costs literally nothing to create. The annual operating cost is millions, but te human brain runs on 5 dollars worth of doritos and mountain dew. Your brain is also the size of two of your fists held together, whereas the supercomputer uses hundreds of cabinets streched out to the size of a large airplane hangar. But its still difficult to compare brains and computers becaus thye work in completely different ways. A computer has a program or set of instructiosn that tells it what to do, in addition to a memory that contains all the data and a processor that goes and gets all the instruction and applies them to the data one at a time in a sequence. iTs very orderly. On the other hand a brain doesnt have seperate processes and memory programs. Each neuron in the brain can take in thousands upon thousands of inputs at a time and simultaneously independantly process them and spit out the answers. Plus it modifies its own functioning on the fly while all this is happening in its 100 billion or so neurons. Computers don’t even get anywhere close to getting as good, because they don’t have neuroplasticity.
Can a computer simulate consciousness? Can we build a mind? David Eagleman says The big picture in modern neuroscience is that you are the sum total of all the pieces of your brain, this vastly complicated network of neurons, almost 100 billion neurons, each which has 10,000 connections to its neighbors, so we’re talking a thousand trillion neurons, its a system of such complexity that it bankrupts our language, but fundamentally its only 3 pounds we’ve got it cornered and it’s right there, and it’s a physical system. The computational hypothesis of brain function suggests that the physical wetware and the stuff that matters, what are the algorithms running on top of the wetware, in other words, what is the brain actually doing, what’s it implementing software wise? Hypothetically we should be able to take the physical stuff of the brain and reproduce what it’s doing, reproduce its software on other substrates. So we could take your brain and reproduce it out of beer cans and tennis balls and it would sitll run ust fine and if we said “hey how’re you feeling in there” this beer can tennis ball machine would say “Hey, Im feeling fine, it’s a little cold but qhatever.” It’s also hypothetically a possibility that we could copy your brain and reproduce it in silica, which means on a computer, zeros and ones, run the simulation of your brain. The challenges of reproducing a brain can’t be underestimate, it would take something like a zetabyte of computational capacity to run a simulation of a human brain, and that is the entire computational capacity of our planet right now. There’s a lot of debate about whether we’ll get to a simulation of a human brain in 50 years or 500 years, but those are probably the bounds, it’s gonna happen somewhere in there. It opens up the whole universe for us because these meat puppets that we come to the table with aren’t any good for interstellar travel, but if we could put you on a flash drive a century from now and launch you into outer space and your consciousness could be there, THAT could get us to other solar systems and other galaxies that we precolonize with robots to build the colonies for us. We will really be entering an era of posthumanism at that point. Because it seems like a possibility that we could download and siomulate a brain, that has opened up a question for many people which is “how would we know if we’re already a simulation?”. Maybe we are the products of a civilization that came a billion years before us and we’re already living in the matrix. And this is a position that philosophers are taking seriously. In fact Renee Descartes had a version of this when he asked “how would I know if I’m just a brain in a vat and I’m being decieved by an evil person scientists or demon to make me THINK that i’m seeing and hearing and so on”, and the conclusion is that we can’t know and it would be almost impossible TO know because all this feels so real and so Descartes’ solution to this was that he might not really be able to know, but there’s somebody who’s asking the question and therefore I exist, there’s some I at the center of all this that’s thinking about this, and so that was a solution for him but it doesn’t solve the bigger question of how would we know if we’re already in the simulation.
Ems are not artificial intelligence, they are human intelligence. They will not be that great at chess, they will not be great mathematicians like AI superintelligences would, they would just be artificial digitally born humans. No womb, no parents, just a consciousness emulated inside a computer. A synthetic consciousness created with human brain patterns simulated on a computer. Another scaenario is to port the software from the human brain. To do this we’re gonna need 3 technologies to be good enough and none of them are there yet. First we’ll need lots of cheap fast paralell computers. Second we’re gonna need to scan indvidual human brains in fine spacial and chemical detail to see exactly what cells are where connected to what and what type, and third, we’re going to need computer models of how each kind of brain cell works, taking input signals, changing interval state, and sending output signals. If we have good enough models of all the kinds of brain cells. And a good enough model of a brain we can put it together and make a good enoug model of an entire brain, and that model would have the same input output behavior as the original. so If you talk to it it might talk back, if you ask it to do things it might do them, if we could do that everything qwould change. We’ve talked about this undert the name of emulations or “EMs”, they wonder if it’s even possible? If you made one would it be conscious or is it just an empty machine? If you made one of me is that “me” or someone else? These are all fascinating questions, but let’s focus on the tech. Because I see a neglected question: “what would actually happen?”. Robin Hanson worked on this quesiton for 4 years, trying to analyze using standard economic tools to guess what would happen. First, Ems spend most of their life in virtual reality, this is what you might see, it could be very vivid. An “Em”, a term coined by Robin Hanson, would just be comouter hardware sitting in a server rack somwehere, but still it could see and experience the same thing. But some things are different for Ems, While you’ll always notice that virtual reality isnt real, to an Em it could feel as real to them as your entire life has felt to you, its all it ever known. Ems also have more action possibilities. Your mind just always runs at the same speed, but an Em cann add more or less computer hardware to run faster or slower. If the world around them seems to be going too fastm they could just speed up their mind and the world around them will seem to slow down. In addition an Em can make a cop of itself, at that moment this copy will remember everything te same and start at the same speed, it might even be told “YOU are the copy. And an Em can make an archive copies. And with enough archives, an Em can be immortal. In principle. And an Em can move its brain, te computer that represents its brain from one physical location to another. Ems can actuall move around the world at the speed of light, and by moving to a location they can interact more quickly with Ems near that new location. So these are what Ems can do, but what will Ems CHOOSE to do. To understand this we’ll need to understand 3 key facts. First, Ems, by definition would do what the human they emulate would do in the same situation. So their lives and behavior is very human. They’re mainly different because they’re living in a different world. Second Ems need real ressources to survive. You need food and shelter or you’ll die. Also Ems need computer hardware and energy cooling or they can’t exist, for every subjective minute an Em experiences, someone, usually that Em, had to work too pay for it. Third, Ems are poor. The Em population could grow quicker than the economy so wages fall down to Em substistence levels, meaning Ems have to be working kmost of the time to pay for the immense computer power it take to simulate them. Now the Em world. First, The simulated terminals the Ems inhabit will grow hundreds of times faster than ours economically and in sze. So the same amount of change we’d experience in centuries, they’d experience in a year or so. Second, the typical emulation runs even faster, thousands of times faster than human speed, so for them they experience thousand spf years in this year or 2 and the world around them is actually changing more slowly than the world seems to change for you. Third, Ems dont take up much space. Ems are crammed together in a small number of very desne cities. Its not only how they will see themselves in virtual reality, its actually how they are physically crammed together. So at Em speeds physical travel of their real world brains is painfully slow. So most Em cities are self sufficient, most war is cyber war, and most of the rest of the world is left to the humans because the Ems with their infinite virtual worlds arent’ that interested in it. Speaking of humans, humans must retiure at once for good. They just cant compete. Now humans start out owning all the capital in te world, the economy grows fast their wealth grows fast, collectively. Most humans today dont own that much besides their ability to work. So between now and then they need to acquire sufficient insurance, assets, or sharing arrangements or they may starve. Now you might wonder why would Ems let humans exist, why not kill them and take their stuff. Well we have many retires around us today, we dont kill them and take their stuff, because it would disrupt the institutions we share with them, so plausibly Ems may let humans retire in peace during the age of Em. Ems are very much like humans, but they are not like the typical human. The typical Em is a copy of the few hundred most productive humans. So infact, they are as elite compared to the typical human, as the typical billionaire, nobel prize winner, olypic gold medalist, head of state. Ems look on humans perhaps with nostaligia and gratitude but not so much respect, which is how you think about your ancestors. We know much about how humans differ in terms of productivity, we could use those to predict futures of Ems, they’ll be smart conscientious, hardworking, married, patient, agreeable, focused, sleepless, cooprative, extroverted, non-neurotic, work oriented. The world also contains enourmous variety. Not only does it continue with the variety of industry and profession that humans have. They also have new kinds of variety, one of which is mind speed. Ems can plausibly go up to a million times faster than human speed and down to a billion times slower than humans sspeed. Faster Ems will tend to have markers of high status, they embody more wealth, they win arguments, they set up premium locaitons. SLower ems are mostly retirees rather than superhumans. They wont know much and they’re obsessed with the past, so not much room for imrpvoement. Ems also have more variety in the structure of their lives. For ems you don’t just “start and end”. Ems split off short to term cpis to do short term tasks and then evaporate. Make short term copies to make much more efficient and dont have to rest for next day. Other Ems will copy themselves whe more demand for theat. An Em designer that sees a large system and break recursively into copis who elaborate that. Some ems could make a thousand copies every day to work an hour and then diasapeer. SUbjectively they remember a life of leasure, but objectively they work and only one em goes on to live past them and will never have to work a day in its life. Ems can also foget death. If at the start of the party you took a drug that means you’d enevr remember the party after that day. Toward the end of the arty will you say to yourself “im about to die, this is terible, that person tomorrow isnt me because they wont remember what they do”. Or you could say “i will be alive toorrow, I just wont remember what I did. Would like this new world? Perhaps you ancestors would have thought your world just aas strange as you think this one is
Can we create a virtual consciousness with a virtual mind? If you want to create consciosness you’d have to have a baby, a sentient being of your very creation born of flesh and blood. But is this the only way to create a mind? If sentient life is made form carbon, nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus, why can’t it be made from silicon? Is the reproduction of consciousness exclusively a biological process, or can it be technological? Furthermore, mus consciousness always be linked to a physical entity? Or could we create a form of consciousness 100% completely virtual? 4) Our problem. Beforer mankind attempts to create a form of artificial consciousness, we must first accept that we have a problem. We ascribe consciousness solely to organic matter, refusing to believe that something can’t be consciouss unless its a biological entity created from another biological entity. But life itself was once formed from ordinary non-sentient matter. At one point there were planets, stars, and balls of hot gas with nothing of a personality to speak of, from which life somehow began. We do not know how life came to form, nor do we understand how consciousness exists at all. Therefore it makes sense that we have this mental block when it comes to non-biological entities possessing consciousness. This would change if we werre able to create consciousness oartificially. But first we must understand more about it. To model consciousness requires more than mimicking human ability to detect and analyze signals. Our mind prioritizes certain sensory experiences in ways we do not understand. Our brain guides us towards certain choices. To replicate artificial consciousness an artificially aware being must do all of this and have the potential for more. Another mental hurdel is that we see limitations in our own creations. If we were to make an sartificialy conscious being like ourselves, we’d question its authenticity no matter how complex it was. We’d assume we’ve missed the one crucial thing that makes us humans special. What some might call “a soul”. But what if we accept that we aren’t special. What if there are limitations on our own conscious experiences too? If we hold virtual consciousness to a higher standard than ourselves, it will never seem believable. So whats the solution? Stefan Sarcardi of Kings college london believes he has the answer. We level the playing field. Sarcadi thinks that believable and potentially authentic artificial consciousness can be created, so long as it inhabits an equally artificial world. Number 3) a virtual environment. In his paper “Artifiicial Consciousness in an Artificial World”, Stefan Sarkadi suggests that we must create and inhabit complex and immersive virutal environments if we wish to also create and engage with artificially conscious beings. And to give his idea some context, he cites a familiar example, Grand theft auto games. Sarkadi notes that GTA is an open world ganme with its low degree of limitation allowing you to perform a wide range of tasks, in contrast to a robot with a body made of physcial materials. Who’s design and hardware dictate its sensory and cognitive abilities. Put consciousness in a pre-programmed death robot and it might go on a killing spree, sure. But it will never feel loved. In a virtual world, anything is possible. In GTA, this so-called “open world” is limited by the length of its code and size of its pizels, as you increase the complexity of both. You could make it resemble the real world ever more. If you drop your pixel size to the level atoms and program them to act as theyu do in rality the framework of your virtual world is now much closer to the framework which exists in the real world, which gave birth to consciousness. Theoretically, from this viurual representation of our world, Consciousnness may form artificially, if it doesn’t we;’ve got some work to do. 2) Accidental creation. The creation of consciousness may not involve direct create, buyt rather the forming of the ingredients needed for consciousness to create itself. It’s like making a loaf of bread. Our vitrual world may have flour, salt, butter, and water. But its only when we add the yeast that consciosuness rises, The bread analogy makes the process of creating consciousness sound simple. But its not. The costs and ressources involved in building virtual worlds and minds are and awill always be tremendous. Not only must you analyze and recreate every aspect of our world, but you must also continuously monitor this environement to make sure its working as it should. Because of these limitations, the virtual environments and beings we create today are nowhere near conscious, and nor can they fool us either. Video games have draw distances and invisible walls. SIRI and Alexa only respond to our commands and show no sign of emotion. Our characters in the SIMS happily allow themselves to be guided into a doorless room of fire and corpeses, because they have goals or desire for self preservations, but virtual consciousenss must have this and more. It must engage in the same emotional processes we do and for the same reason as we do too. True virtual worlds must also seem limitless in many ways to achieve the same feeling, because if we can achieve this level of repsonsiveness, then interactions with conscious beings of our own creation, may finally become believable. 1) Interaction. Interaction is key, it’s how we know our fellow humans are aware. It is how we know we are alive. And it helps us form an idea of what our consciousness consists of. Earlier we mentioned the stimuli which make us aware of our surroundings, but Sarkadi expands on this by explaining how processes such as sweating crying and laughing are involuntary responses processed by our brain subconsciously. An artificial consciousness must therefore be equally unaware of how these responses come about, says Sarkadi, or we won’t believe they come from a real place. Sarkadi goes on to explain how it is the evolution of the brain’s cognitive framework which is responsible for this subconsciously driven behavior in humans. Our efficient brains do not watse processing power on letting you conteplate initiating menial tasks such as crying and laughing, it just gets on with it. Sarkadoi believes this is why we find it unnatural to assign the label of consciousness to robots, they havent evolved to act as we have, theyve been programmed to do it. This is why Sarkadi believes that to remove this mental barrier, we too must become virtual. If we are ever to create and engage with artificially conscious virtual beings, humans must first allow ourselves to inhabit an artificial avatar in a virtual world. But how would this work? And whaat are some of the potential pitfalls of creating a believable form of artificial consciousness?