Mind uploading is the process by which an entity can have an exact copy of mind put into a digital state and still function as a sentient being. Aside from the debate over the realism of the technology required to perform this transfer of consciousness, there is a debate over the question of “are you still the same person you were before the upload?”

Arguments for say: Your mind goes to make up you as a person and as such, a copy should contain the same memories, the same way of thinking and the same emotions that were present in your mind before and up to the point of upload.

Arguments against say: That after the upload your state of mind will change from that of what it was, due to the change in the factors that affect how you behave and how you think.

So, effectively, you are becoming a different person.

This also poses serious security risks, if such an upload were to be hacked. For instance, consider that a hacker gains access to your uploaded mind. He would be able to get any information he wished from it (by reading it, perhaps, alternatively through torture), without your mind being able to defend itself. Also, think about the implications of a copy being made; if the copies were to meet each other, what would happen? Insanity?


response to Bathail: You have a point there; Being that the mind has been digitalized, it is now possible to revert to a backup and thus delete all the memories that have been aqcuired in the meantime. This is actually what is done in (Spoiler warning!) rotcetorP, a levon yb neviN yrraL.

Audited October 6, 2001

This topic is briefly touched upon in the book Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds.

In the future various 'simulations' of the human mind exist, each different in their complexity. Each is basically a computer program, the simulation is visualised by the use of entoptics.

The highest quality upload in the book was called an alpha-level, this was an exact copy of the human mind using complex scanning techniques. The downside to this technology in the early stages was that it completely destroyed the physical brain (obviously some people would prefer digital immortality). The alpha-level programs were heavily copy protected, as they were the only simulations considered to possess a soul.

The next simulation is known as a beta-level. This is not really a copy of the human mind, instead it is a true simulation. These vary in complexity, the Calvin simulation in the book was compiled from over a decade's worth of 24-hour non-stop surveilance. The idea of a beta-level simulation is to accurately mimic someone, the more data available, the more accurate the simulation. The beta-levels are not copies, just a computers doing their best to replicate an indivdual's mannerisms and thought processes.

The lower simulations such as gamma-level are all turing-capable, but have a limited function.

Some of the possible benefits to mind uploading would be: the ability to completely modify your surroundings (thus experiencing things essentially first-hand that would be utterly impossible otherwise); the ability to escape the dangers of biological life (there could easily be tremendous safeguards against 'hacking' or any such); the ability to effectively compress time by modifying your own clock speed (thus making minutes seem like days if you had the computing power/speed); and access to assorted other amazing ways in which you could alter or improve your experiences.

However, a problem I've found with the idea of mind uploading, or of most other forms of ego transfer (such as Other Memory and gholas from the Dune series), is the lack of continuity.

That is to say, it's hypothetically very possible to emulate the functions of the human brain so perfectly that some exact copy of a person's thought processes (memories, emotions, etcetera) could be created perfectly. And that copy would, in effect, be the person who it was modelled on. But the person would not be the copy--she would still feel exactly the same, except she'd be aware of (and able to interact with) a digital version of herself.

Which is really an interesting idea, and all, but it doesn't effectively provide anything more than a very abstract form of immortality. The biological human would still grow old and die; would not have access to all the amazing capabilities of her digital self; would effectively gain very little concrete benefit from it aside from the simple knowledge that someone exactly like her was being given an amazing experience.

Of course, this isn't an insurmountable obstacle. Given the level of technology necessarily involved, for instance, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine simply implementing some form of MMI (or BMI, pick your acronym), and then moving the still-active thought processes from the brain to the computer, such that continuity is maintained and the digital version of the person is, in reality, the same consciousness as the biological person. Or a subject could gradually have her entire brain replaced with cybernetic implants that maintained the exact function and state of their biological counterparts (to avoid memory or identity loss) and then once her brain was entirely digital, transfer her consciousness into a computer system that way. Of course, whether or not a consciousness could remain the same during such a transfer is rather unclear.

But then, this is all hypothetical anyway.

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