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It is a widely held belief of transhumanists and extropians that at some point in the future mankind will develop the technology to transfer human consciousness from our existing biological structures into man-made computational devices or networks.
Some speculations as to how this will be accomplished include:
1.) Scanning and Simulation - Imaging devices would capture a record of the brain and nervous system at the sub-atomic level. Biological life would then be simulated within the computer on which this high resolution model was stored.
2.) Brain replacement by nanobots - Specialized, self-replicating robots would be implanted in the brain. The robots would study the firing patterns of individual neurons until they could predict them with near perfect accuracy. After sufficient level of accuracy is achieved, the robot would destroy the neuron and take its place. This process would continue until all neurons had been replaced with robots.
See a brief introductory write up on the feasibility of uploading at UpLoad page of Futures wiki.
Books that have discussed the topic of Uploading: Shadows by John Saul
Movies that have discussed the topic of Uploading: The Lawnmower Man
- Mind Uploading Home Page
- How Mind Uploading Works
- Hacking The Brain
- Nanobots replacing Neurons
- Politics of Uploading, Simulations, and Singularities
History of discussion
This has been discussed some hundred times on the mailing lists (every month or two since 1991), so one can search there if the databases are up (the extropy list is moving to a new mail server presently). I know that by 1992, people were already getting tired of the subject.
Extropy #9, vol.4 no.1 (Summer 1992) Persons, Programs, and Uploading Consciousness [David Ross]
Works by Hans Moravec : Mind Children There was a transcript posted in the early 90s to alt.cyberpunk for a speech that he gave to the American Library Association. Perhaps it is still floating around the net. Moravec also participated in a thread called: "Continuity of Consciousness" on the extropians list in April 1992 which was the first place I saw the topic completely hashed out.
Robin Hanson probably has some papers/text. David Friedman might have some papers/text. Nick Szabo might have some papers/text. Perry Metzger might have some papers/text. Charlie Stross probably has some text (his books?) Marvin Minsky's works (they participated in detailed discussions on the early mailing list)
I saw references to (and pieces of) an "Uploading FAQ", but I don't know if it was an official draft document.
- Ed Regis wrote a little in his chapter: Postbiological Man in Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (giving many references to people thinking along the same lines)
In fiction.. many!
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge is a good one
- True Names by Vernor Vinge is another good one
- The World of Null-A by van Vogt
- Learning to be me by Greg Egan (short story)
Links with abstracts
1) For Robin Hanson's papers regarding mind uploading, please see If Uploads Come First: The Crack of a Future Dawn
- Abstract: "What if we someday learn how to model small brain units, and so can "upload" ourselves into new computer brains? What if this happens before we learn how to make human-level artificial intelligences? The result could be a sharp transition to an upload-dominated world, with many dramatic consequences. In particular, fast and cheap replication may once again make Darwinian evolution of human values a powerful force in human history. With evolved values, most uploads would value life even when life is hard or short, uploads would reproduce quickly, and wages would fall. But total wealth should rise, so we could all do better by accepting uploads, or at worse taxing them, rather than trying to delay or segregate them."
b) Journal of Evolution and Technology, Sept 2001, "How to Live in a Simulation" (PDF Version)
2) For general information about the concept of uploading, please see Mind Uploading Home Page:
- "The Mind Uploading home page is dedicated to the putative future process of copying one's mind from the natural substrate of the brain into an artificial one, manufactured by humans. This technology will radically alter society in many ways, as science fiction authors have begun to illustrate. Through this server, explore the science behind the science fiction! "
3) An actual project to develop techniques for mind uploading (which is still in its very earliest stages) please see The Society of Neural Prosthetics and Whole Brain Emulation Science
"Mind Uploading / Whole Brain Emulation Resources" "Resources for the whole brain emulation (WBE) project and the mind uploading research group (MURG): Introductions and discussions of whole brain emulation / mind uploading and its various subtopics, links to related and MURG member sites, organizational information, research papers, and news."