|Immortality is eternal life, the
ability to live forever.
One idea that has been advanced involves uploading an individual's habits and memories via direct mind-computer interface. The individual's memory may be loaded to a computer or to a new organic body. Extropian futurists like Moravec and Kurzweil have proposed that, thanks to exponentially growing computing power, it will someday be possible to upload human consciousness onto a computer system, and exist indefinitely in a virtual environment. This could be accomplished via advanced cybernetics, where computer hardware would initially be installed in the brain to help sort memory or accelerate thought processes. Components would be added gradually until the person's entire brain functions were handled by artificial devices, avoiding sharp transitions that would lead to issues of identity, thus running the risk of the person to be declared dead and thus not be a legitimate owner of his or her property. After this point, the human body could be treated as an optional accessory and the program implementing the person could be transferred to any sufficiently powerful computer. Another possible mechanism for mind upload is to perform a detailed scan of an individual's original, organic brain and simulate the entire structure in a computer. What level of detail such scans and simulations would need to achieve to emulate awareness, and whether the scanning process would destroy the brain, is still to be determined. Whatever the route to mind upload, persons in this state could then be considered essentially immortal, short of loss or traumatic destruction of the machines that maintained them.
brain emulation (WBE), mind upload or brain upload (sometimes called
"mind copying" or "mind transfer") is the hypothetical process of
scanning mental state (including long-term memory and "self") of a
particular brain substrate and copying it to a computer. The computer
could then run a simulation model of the brain's information
processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the
original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant
purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.
Mind uploading may potentially be accomplished by either of two methods: Copy-and-Transfer or gradual replacement of neurons. In the case of the former method, mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by copying, transferring, and storing that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The simulated mind could be within a virtual reality or simulated world, supported by an anatomic 3D body simulation model. Alternatively, the simulated mind could reside in a computer that is inside (or connected to) a (not necessarily humanoid) robot or a biological body in real life.
Among some futurists and within the transhumanist movement, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. Some believe mind uploading is humanity's current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. Another aim of mind uploading is to provide a permanent backup to our "mind-file", and a means for functional copies of human minds to survive a global disaster or interstellar space travels. Whole brain emulation is discussed by some futurists as a "logical endpoint" of the topical computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics fields, both about brain simulation for medical research purposes. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI. Computer-based intelligence such as an upload could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. A large-scale society of uploads might, according to futurists, give rise to a technological singularity, meaning a sudden time constant decrease in the exponential development of technology. Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels and films.
Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in animal brain mapping and simulation, development of faster super computers, virtual reality, brain–computer interfaces, connectomics and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains. According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility. Neuroscientist Randal Koene has formed a nonprofit organization called Carbon Copies to promote mind uploading research.
The problem of immortality
Though, in theory, an uploaded, or copied version of an individual's brain would have the same memory and personality, the use of this process for eternal life (see Immortality) is in theory impossible for the simple reason that one would not be prolonging one's life, but simply creating another with the same experience. The creator, or original would feel no difference, and would still die of natural cause. In fact, the idea of mind uploading is likeable to cloning, and in the same way as a clone, the "copied" mind would not be the same as the origin, just a copy.
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, claims to know and foresee that people will be able to "upload" their entire brains to computers and become "digitally immortal" by 2045. Kurzweil made this claim for many years, e.g. during his speech in 2013 at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York, which claims to subscribe to a similar set of beliefs. Mind uploading is also advocated by a number of researchers in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, such as Marvin Minsky while he was still alive. In 1993, Joe Strout created a small web site called the Mind Uploading Home Page, and began advocating the idea in cryonics circles and elsewhere on the net. That site has not been actively updated in recent years, but it has spawned other sites including MindUploading.org, run by Randal A. Koene, who also moderates a mailing list on the topic. These advocates see mind uploading as a medical procedure which could eventually save countless lives.
Many transhumanists look forward to the development and deployment of mind uploading technology, with transhumanists such as Nick Bostrom predicting that it will become possible within the 21st century due to technological trends such as Moore's law.
Michio Kaku, in collaboration with Science, hosted a documentary, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, based on his book Physics of the Impossible. Episode four, titled "How to Teleport", mentions that mind uploading via techniques such as quantum entanglement and whole brain emulation using an advanced MRI machine may enable people to be transported to vast distances at near light-speed.
The book Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds by Gregory S. Paul & Earl D. Cox, is about the eventual (and, to the authors, almost inevitable) evolution of computers into sentient beings, but also deals with human mind transfer. Richard Doyle's Wetwares: Experiments in PostVital Living deals extensively with uploading from the perspective of distributed embodiment, arguing for example that humans are currently part of the "artificial life phenotype". Doyle's vision reverses the polarity on uploading, with artificial life forms such as uploads actively seeking out biological embodiment as part of their reproductive strategy.
Kenneth D. Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia and a co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, raised doubts about the practicality of mind uploading. His major argument is that reconstructing neurons and their connections is in itself is a formidable task, but it is far from being sufficient. Operation of brain depends on the dynamics of electrical and biochemical signal exchange between neurons. Therefore capturing them in a single "frozen" state may prove insufficient. In addition, the nature of these signals may require modeling down to molecular level and beyond. Therefore, while not rejecting the idea in principle, Miller believes that the complexity of the "absolute" duplication of an individual mind is insurmountable for the nearest hundreds of years.
exocortex is a hypothetical artificial external information processing
system that would augment a brain's biological high-level cognitive
An individual's exocortex would be composed of external memory modules, processors, IO devices and software systems that would interact with, and augment, a person's biological brain. Typically this interaction is described as being conducted through a direct brain–computer interface, making these extensions functionally part of the individual's mind.
Individuals with significant exocortices could be classified as cyborgs or posthumans.
The noun exocortex is composed of the Greek-derived prefix exo-, meaning external or outside, and the Latin noun cortex, which originally meant bark but is used in neuroscience for the outer bark-like layer of the brain that is the site of most sophisticated cognitive information processing. It was coined in allusion to the neocortex (literally 'new bark'), the newest part of the mammalian brain (in evolutionary history), believed to be responsible for the highest human cognitive abilities including conscious thought, spatial reasoning, and sensory perception. Thus the terminology suggests a progression from reptilian thought (the older parts of the brain) through human (neocortex) to high-level human or even supra-human cognitive processing capabilities (exocortex).
The concept of an exocortex has intellectual roots both in the fields of computer science and evolutionary psychology.
Computer science roots
Within computer science, the seeds were planted by the DARPA associated researcher J.C.R. Licklider. Within his speculative 1960 paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, Licklider outlined his vision that humans and the new technology of computers, if tightly-coupled together, would prove to complement each other's strengths to such a degree that many of the pure artificial intelligence systems envisioned at the time by optimistic researchers would prove unnecessary:
Man-computer symbiosis is a subclass of man-machine systems. There are many man-machine systems. At present, however, there are no man-computer symbioses. The purposes of this paper are to present the concept and, hopefully, to foster the development of man-computer symbiosis by analyzing some problems of interaction between men and computing machines, calling attention to applicable principles of man-machine engineering, and pointing out a few questions to which research answers are needed. The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.
— Man-Computer Symbiosis, J.C.R. Licklider, March 1960.
From this basis, the concept of an exocortex, the direct coupling of the human mind with computers to leverage their respective complementary strengths, can be viewed as a result of the ever increasing symbiotic coupling between human and computers.
The exocortex concept also has roots in evolutionary psychology as a result of Merlin Donald of Queen's University. Donald, in the 1990 book Origins of the Modern Mind as well as later papers, proposed an evolutionary model of the mind, from a functionary perspective, from its origins in prehistoric apes to the modern human being. Donald focuses significant attention on the use that modern humans make of external symbolic storage and manipulation systems—the range of technologies from cuneiforms, hieroglyphics, and ideograms to alphabetic languages, mathematics and now computers. From Donald's perspective, these external symbolic systems have allowed for the functional reorganization of the human mind in how it deals with the world.
The externalization of memory [via the use of external symbolic storage systems] has altered the actual memory architecture within which humans think, which is changing the role of biological memory, the way in which the human brain deploys its resources, and the form of modern culture.
— Precis of Origins of the Modern Mind, Merlin Donald, 1996.
Cognitive science origin
In November 1998 the specific term exocortex was coined by researcher Ben Houston. Houston coined the term to refer concisely to tightly-coupled cognition-level brain-computer interface technologies in the spirit of J. C. R. Licklider's original vision.
exocortex (eks'o kor'teks) n. Latin -- an organ that resides outside of the brain that aids in high level thinking. .... This will not be a prominent term until prefrontal cortex neural implants become widespread. (emphasis in original)
— early exocortex definition, Ben Houston, May 2000
Use in science fiction
Speculative devices which fit the definition of exocortices were described in hard science fiction long before the term was coined; examples appear in Neuromancer by William Gibson and in The Peace War by Vernor Vinge, both published in 1984. More recently Vinge, in A Fire Upon the Deep and several short stories, described the functional effects of what are essentially several kinds of exocortices – both those composed of computational elements, and those enabled by high-bandwidth communication between groups of beings. Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy also describes in detail similar technological beings.
Charles Stross, the Hugo Award-nominated hard science fiction writer, has led the adoption of the term exocortex within science fiction circles. Beginning in 2004, Stross made use of the term in Elector, a short story published in the September issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. Stross made more extensive uses of the term exocortex and its derivatives in Accelerando, his 2005 novel. While Stross himself does not provide an explicit definition of the term, a few passages indicate his meaning:
About ten billion humans are alive in the solar system, each mind surrounded by an exocortex of distributed agents, threads of personality spun right out of their heads to run on the clouds of utility fog – infinitely flexible computing resources as thin as aerogel – in which they live. (emphasis added)
— Accelerando, Charles Stross, 2005.
Sometimes he isn't certain he's still human; too many threads of his consciousness seem to live outside his head, reporting back whenever they find something interesting. .... And it's too early for anyone out there to be trying to hack exocortices... isn't it? Right now, the external threads of his consciousness are telling him that they like Annette.... (emphasis added)
— Accelerando, Charles Stross, 2005.
The Wikibooks Accelerando Technical Companion provides this explanation:
An EXOcortex can best be described as the portion of a trans- or posthuman entity's brain (or cortex) which exists outside of that entity's primary computing structure, usually the brain inhabiting a person's 'meatbody.' For example, a person's exocortex could very well be composed of all the external memory modules, processor, and devices that the person's biological brain interacts with on a realtime basis, thereby in effect making those external devices a functional part of the individual's 'mind.' (emphasis in original)
— Accelerando Technical Companion, Wikibooks.
While initial recognition of the exocortex concept was nonexistent, this has changed as a result of Charles Stross's recent publications and the growing awareness of brain-computer interfacing. The term and concept of an exocortex has both been applied and noted as a novel interesting word by various writers. James Hughen wrote in an essay titled "What comes after Homo sapiens?" that appeared in New Scientist:
To remain the web’s weavers and not its ensnared victims, we must merge with our electronic exocortex, wiring greater memory, thought processing and communication abilities directly into our brains.
|The Extended Mind
The paper The Extended Mind by Andy Clark and David Chalmers (1998) is a seminal work in the field of extended cognition. In this paper, Clark and Chalmers present the idea of active externalism (similar to semantic or "content" externalism), in which objects within the environment function as a part of the mind. They argue that it is arbitrary to say that the mind is contained only within the boundaries of the skull. The separation between the mind, the body, and the environment is seen as an unprincipled distinction. Because external objects play a significant role in aiding cognitive processes, the mind and the environment act as a "coupled system". This coupled system can be seen as a complete cognitive system of its own. In this manner, the mind is extended into the external world. The main criterion that Clark and Chalmers list for classifying the use of external objects during cognitive tasks as a part of an extended cognitive system is that the external objects must function with the same purpose as the internal processes.
In The Extended Mind, a thought experiment is presented to further illustrate the environment's role in connection to the mind. The fictional characters Otto and Inga are both travelling to a museum simultaneously. Otto has Alzheimer's Disease, and has written all of his directions down in a notebook to serve the function of his memory. Inga is able to recall the internal directions within her memory. In a traditional sense, Inga can be thought to have had a belief as to the location of the museum before consulting her memory. In the same manner, Otto can be said to have held a belief of the location of the museum before consulting his notebook. The argument is that the only difference existing in these two cases is that Inga's memory is being internally processed by the brain, while Otto's memory is being served by the notebook. In other words, Otto's mind has been extended to include the notebook as the source of his memory. The notebook qualifies as such because it is constantly and immediately accessible to Otto, and it is automatically endorsed by him.
Going further, the authors ask and answer their own question about the role of enculturation:
"And what about socially-extended cognition? Could my mental states be partly constituted by the states of other thinkers? We see no reason why not, in principle."
They bring up the recurrent theme of the role of language:
"The major burden of the coupling between agents is carried by language...Indeed, it is not implausible that the explosion of intellectual development in recent evolutionary time is due as much to this linguistically-enabled extension of cognition as to any independent development in our inner cognitive resources."
The "extended mind" is an idea in the field of philosophy of mind, often called extended cognition, which holds that the reach of the mind need not end at the boundaries of skin and skull. Tools, instrument and other environmental props can under certain conditions also count as proper parts of our minds. Closely related topics often conjoined with the idea of "extended mind" are situated cognition, distributed cognition, and embodied cognition.
Jump up ^ Andy Clark, David J Chalmers (January 1998). "The extended mind". Analysis. 58 (1): 7–19. doi:10.1093/analys/58.1.7.; reprinted as: Andy Clark, David J Chalmers (2010). "Chapter 2: The extended mind". In Richard Menary, ed. The Extended Mind. MIT Press. pp. 27–42. ISBN 9780262014038.; and available on line as: Andy Clark, David J Chalmers. "The extended mind". Cogprints.
|Computational theory of mind
In philosophy, a computational theory of mind names a view that the human mind or the human brain (or both) is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing. The theory was proposed in its modern form by Hilary Putnam in 1961, and developed by the MIT philosopher and cognitive scientist Jerry Fodor (who was Putnam's PhD student) in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Despite being vigorously disputed in analytic philosophy in the 1990s (due to work by Putnam himself, John Searle, and others), the view is common in modern cognitive psychology and is presumed by many theorists of evolutionary psychology; in the 2000s and 2010s the view has resurfaced in analytic philosophy (Scheutz 2003, Edelman 2008).
The computational theory of mind holds that the mind is a computation that arises from the brain acting as a computing machine. The theory can be elaborated in many ways, the most popular of which is that the brain is a computer and the mind is the result of the program that the brain runs. A program is the finite description of an algorithm or effective procedure, which prescribes a sequence of discrete actions that produces outputs based only on inputs and the internal states (memory) of the computing machine. For any admissible input, algorithms terminate in a finite number of steps. So the computational theory of mind is the claim that the mind is a computation of a machine (the brain) that derives output representations of the world from input representations and internal memory in a way that is consistent with the theory of computation.
|Ray Kurzweil - How are Brains
Length: 12 minutes