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Monday, March 24, 2008

They Laughed at the Wright Brothers, Too!

Giulio Prisco fulminates in the Moot about my "non-arguments about the impossibility of uploading, radical life extension etc."

One wonders, do transhumanists think arguments become non-arguments just because they say they are?

Do the real True Believers among them really think inconvenient truths vanish if you just pout and stamp at them long enough?

Ah, transhumanists! You crazy kids!

Your consciousness is incarnated, it is an embodied process. It is neither an immaterial spirit resonating to angelic harmonies nor a robotic calculator endlessly crunching pure numbers. It doesn't matter that you don't want to think about this. It's still true.

Your life is a vulnerable and finite metabolic process taking place in a threatening and complex but also finite environment. It is not a perpetual motion machine. It doesn't matter that you don't want to think about this. It's still true.

Here we go again, Thou Shalt Not Fly and of course people will never walk on the moon.

Giulio, dear, Giulio, you are not being the Wright Brothers right now.

You are being the man in the pee-stained overcoat holding a crinkled stained manuscript that contains The True Name of God you deciphered from the Phone Book because the kind wise little men whispered how to do it in your ear last night while everybody else was sleeping, you are being the garage inventor with long tangled unwashed hair at his cracked dusty chalkboard covered with equations that square the circle.

Really, I think your arguments would be much stronger if you could be less fundamentalist and more open to possibilities. You may say that you don't like something, and of course nobody can question your right to like or not like things.

Projection, much?

8 comments:

Nick Tarleton said...

So, how would uploading fail if it were attempted?

Anonymous said...

The nature of consciousness, and the extent to which its embodiment defines its nature (and even whether consciousness is a coherent concept) is not agreed upon even amongst the adacemia-accredited establishment philosophers who spend their careers thinking about these things. That does not mean that transhumanist claims about things like consciousness "transfer" are possible, of course, but it warms the heart of an onlooker to see you making such confident claims about speculative topics. Now you're getting into the spirit of things!

De Thezier said...

Dale Carrico said:

Giulio, dear, Giulio, you are not being the Wright Brothers right now.

I actually posted a quote on my blog about this very subject a few months ago:

"Heresy Does Not Equal Correctness"

De Thezier said...

anonymous said:

The nature of consciousness, and the extent to which its embodiment defines its nature (and even whether consciousness is a coherent concept) is not agreed upon even amongst the adacemia-accredited establishment philosophers who spend their careers thinking about these things. That does not mean that transhumanist claims about things like consciousness "transfer" are possible, of course, but it warms the heart of an onlooker to see you making such confident claims about speculative topics. Now you're getting into the spirit of things!

I actually agree with you. That's why I've always preferred to avoid making absolute statements regarding the nature of consciousness when critiquing techno-utopian claims about things like consciousness "transfer".

peco said...

I agree with most of the post, but not its tone.

Things I didn't agree with:

Your consciousness is incarnated, it is an embodied process. It is neither an immaterial spirit resonating to angelic harmonies nor a robotic calculator endlessly crunching pure numbers. It doesn't matter that you don't want to think about this. It's still true.

I mostly agree, but can a person's consciousness become a "robotic calculator" without losing much?

You are being the man in the pee-stained overcoat holding a crinkled stained manuscript that contains The True Name of God you deciphered from the Phone Book because the kind wise little men whispered how to do it in your ear last night while everybody else was sleeping, you are being the garage inventor with long tangled unwashed hair at his cracked dusty chalkboard covered with equations that square the circle.

(...)

giulio said...

Re: "One wonders, do transhumanists think arguments become non-arguments just because they say they are? "

I wonder, do you think non-arguments become arguments just because you say they are?

You always evade challenges related to the actual engineering feasibility of objectives that you don't like, and try to keep the debate in vague and nebulous terms that cannot be falsified. But believe me, not all your readers are stupid or blind.

You are the computational activity of your brain, which is a physical object that works according to scientific laws, some already well known, others not yet. When the science of the brain will be better understood, transferring this computation to another support may be feasible.

It doesn't matter that you don't want to think about this. It's still true.

jfehlinger said...

> You are the computational activity of your brain, which is a physical
> object that works according to scientific laws. . .

Whether or not "work[ing] according to scientific
laws" is equivalent to "computational activity", even in theory,
is a matter still very much being worked out by specialists.

For non-specialists (especially those who read too much SF ;-> ),
the overreliance on what is after all merely a modern figure of speech
threatens, at best, to overstretch the metaphor to the point where it
bites back by misleading; or, at worst, to harden into an article
of faith.

In practice: well, hey, I have nothing against the Blue Brain project --
if running that computational simulation (now see, what that computer
program is doing **is** "computational", because IBM Blue
Gene/Ls **are** digital computers) can shed any light on the workings
of a real brain, I have no beef with the way that knowledge
was extracted from the world.

However, believing fiercely that Blue Brain **must** lead -- in pretty
short order! -- straight to _Permutation City_ is **not**, as Giulo
Prisco seems to think, the antithesis of "stupid or blind".

> It doesn't matter that you don't want to think about this. It's still true.

Quite.

giulio said...

Re: "believing fiercely that Blue Brain **must** lead -- in pretty
short order! -- straight to _Permutation City_ is **not**, as Giulo Prisco seems to think, the antithesis of "stupid or blind"."

Agreed. But "considering the possibility that Blue Brain, and other similar or related developments, **may** lead -- someday -- to something similar to _Permutation City_" **is** the antithesis of "stupid or blind".

Your formulation is **not* what Giul**i**o Prisco thinks.