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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Robot Cultists Polled on Preferred Techno-Immortalist "Options"

Quite apart from quibbling about the use of the word "option" to describe a wish-fulfilment fantasy, it really is amazing how much this is like polling religious people about their preferred afterlives. Fluffy cloud with lyre? Front row seat to observe torture of bad people in Hell? Forty hot pliant sluts? Gold-plated McMansion with jewel-encrusted driveway? White-noise bliss out? Let's "crunch the numbers." Science!

Only twelve percent of those polled find "very appealing" the prospect of having their heads chopped off and frozen while awaiting getting scooped up and resurrected in a shiny robot body, but the numbers rise by ten percent when the whole body is hamburgerized instead. Hey, it's just plain horse sense.

Although it makes no sense for so-called "materialists" to pretend an organically materialized consciousness can be "migrated" without loss to a different material substrate and although any child of two can tell you that a picture of you isn't actually you, over half of the Robot Cultists polled expressed enthusiasm for something called "mindfiling," perhaps fancying that something exists once there is a word for it.

Alas, no.

I guess it is encouraging that fewer futurologists seem to be falling for the Cryonics scam, but the shift into outright New Age mystic crystal revelation of uploading techno-transcendence isn't exactly edifying to behold. Seriously, here is the "data."

1 comment:

jimf said...

"You look unwell," Mr. Million said.

"I was hoping to go to the park."

"I know." He rolled across the room toward me, and I
recalled that Dr. Marsch had called him an unbound simulator.
For the first time since I had satisfied myself about them
when I was quite small, I bent over (at some cost to my
head) and read the almost obliterated stampings on his
main cabinet. There was only the name of a cybernetics
company on Earth and, in French as I had always supposed,
his name: M. Million -- "Monsieur" or "Mister" Million.
Then, as startling as a blow from behind to a man musing
in a comfortable chair, I remembered that a dot was employed
in some algebras for multiplication. He saw my change
of expression at once. "A thousand-million-word core
capacity," he said. "An English billion or a French milliard,
the 'M' being the Roman numeral for one thousand, of course.
I thought you understood that some time ago."

"You are an unbound simulator. What is a bound simulator,
and whom are you simulating -- my father?"

"No." The face in the screen, Mr. Million's face as I had
always thought of it, shook its head. "Call me, call the
person simulated, at least, your great-grandfather.
He -- I -- am dead. In order to achieve simulation, it is
necessary to examine the cells of the brain, layer by
layer, with a beam of accelerated particles so that the
neural patterns can be reproduced, we say 'core imaged,'
in the computer. The process is fatal."

I asked after a moment, "And a bound simulator?"

"If the simulation is to have a body that looks human the
mechanical body must be linked -- 'bound' -- to a remote
core, since the smallest billion-word core cannot be made
even approximately as small as a human brain." He
paused again, and for an instant his face dissolved into
a myriad sparkling dots, swirling like dust motes in a
sunbeam. "I am sorry. For once you wish to listen, but
I do not wish to lecture. I was told, a very long time ago,
just before the operation, that my simulation -- this --
would be capable of emotion in certain circumstances.
Until today I had always thought they had lied." I would
have stopped him if I could, but he rolled out of the room
before I could recover from my surprise.

-- Gene Wolfe, _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_ (1972)

Wolfe is so poetic. But elegiac, not celebratory.
Technology is old hat in Wolfe's stories, and did not bring
about paradise in them.