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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


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Luce Imaginary

"mind upload"?

Uh, the mind is not a computer program, and it is not data. It is a bunch of wet, squishy cells tickling each other with drug cocktails.

How do you "upload" that? It's equivalent to "uploading" play-doh.

Sophrosyne Stenvaag

I'm not easily rendered speechless - but this is just extraordinary, and not easily digested.

Congratulations to Soren for this very valuable work!

Patchouli Woollahra


Some theories abound in science fiction. one way might be to copy the way the neural function of a brain works right down to the cellular level, or recording electrical activity.

However, a lot of these methods tend to result in the destruction of the original brain. So if mind upload is possible, it would be pretty risky. you'd want to get it right first shot, for obvious reasons.

Harle Armistice

Oh gosh.

The idea of a 'mind upload' isn't that unbelievable, at least partly. It's far outside our technological reach at the moment, yes, but the 'mind' is not a bunch of squishy cells anymore than computer data is the disc it's stored on.

The whole point of 'data' is interpreting the state of the material the data is stored on, not literally inscribing it there like pencil to paper. That's why it's a relatively easy process to duplicate data without needing to use the same kind of storage device.

And since the mind works (roughly) through electrical impulses that fire through neurons, the potential for recording it is absolutely there. It is just not feasible given our current understanding of the brain(and our ability to fully interpret all of those impulses in a meaningful way).

Unfortunately for those of us who would like to be able to do this sort of thing, even if we did make some leap of science in our lifetimes that allowed us to keep a recording of your mind, that hardly means that you would be able to just swap over. No more than cloning yourself would allow you to arbitrarily swap into your clone's body.

All it would be is a 'fingerprint' of your mind. And if you really wanted to go crazy, maybe you could actually run it like an artificial intelligence. But it wouldn't be you. It'd be an artificial intelligence.

To be honest this whole concept is pretty trivial and more than a little silly to actually be discussing in relation to Second Life, but I also kind of like the subject as a whole, so I had to put in my two cents.


"And on the eight Day, God created virtual worlds" lol

Luce Imaginary

"Harle Armistice": I'm actually quite aware of what the "brain" is. Probably more aware than almost anyone else reading this, actually. However, the mind, as far as I'm concerned, is simply a word for describing what the brain does. One cannot "upload" a verb. One can "upload" (create a copy) of a program that mimics certain aspects of brain function. But if you can show that the concept mind is co-extensive with a simulation of brain function, there is a Nobel prize in it for you down the road.

Harle Armistice

Well Luce, with all due respect(is any due? Are you a neurologist just being modest? You don't sound like one), that is a pretty arrogant statement to make. Either you think you are pretty damn well educated on the subject, or you don't think that anyone who actually educates themselves on the subjects of psychology, neurology, etcetera, would be interested in Second Life. And the arrogance of making such a blanket statement with so much confidence without any credentials, well, it's not uncommon on the internet.

If you want to argue semantics, that's fine, but you don't seem to be saying anything different from what I said, despite some argumentative posturing.

Like I said, you can fingerprint what does what, what states exist that affect other states. The fundamental building blocks of the personality; learned behaviour, collected knowledge, predispositions in response to stimuli, various developed pathologies, etcetera. The list goes on and on. And while fingerprinting the mind does not give life to it(the interaction of these facets of personality is a function of chemical and electrical influence), they are the fundamental building blocks of what describes the human mind. And there is certainly no reason why you can not potentially artificially simulate the roles of chemicals(hormonal) and electrical interaction throughout this network.

Which is, in essence, repeating what I said earlier. I am not seeing where we disagree exactly, only that you seem fairly condescending in your rebuttal. I see a potential for interpreting the building blocks of the brain as a series of data, as well as a potential for simulating the interaction which produces the active mind as we know it. Just probably not in my lifetime.

But then, I for one am happy to admit that I am not yet a vetted neurosurgeon, or have a doctorate in psychology hanging on my wall, or what have you. But frankly I am tired of people on the internet claiming extensive expertise in everything they get the urge to argue about.


I wonder if you have both missed the point of the survey a little, although its been an interesting debate. Surely it matters little if we can or cant upload our brains, the survey was asking if we would.
If we would be willing to give up all of our RL world, feelings, experiences, sights, sounds etc.. in order to become one with our SL world. The survey was exploring how deeply connected people feel to SL , or how deeply unconnected we might feel to our RL. After all the questionnaire was about religion, which essentially is about how we 'feel' not how we think.
In the questions to do with brain download, people are even asked if they would consider SL as 'heaven'. My own feeling is that the author of the survey is less concerned with the science of the future, but rather the sociology and theology of the future.


you're correct, wren. although my phd is officially in religious studies i consider myself an anthropologist. i'm interested in the politics of religious culture, which are taking one amazing turn after another in virtual worlds. i am, of course, gratified that anyone cares enough about my ideas to have an argument, though! not that i can take proper credit for the concept of mind uploading, only its situation amongst other ideas in my survey. hopefully when my book comes out it'll give plenty of people something to shout about and i'll even get to take proper credit for some of the ideas. :)

thanks for the compliment, soph.


We can't be sure yet if we will be able to upload minds in the future but for an anthropologist POV it's pretty interesting, Thanks a lot to its author.

Luce, here is a short summary of the "Moravec Transfer" hypothesis, you may think it's pure science fiction, but I think you will at least aknowledge that this concept is also pretty interesting:

The Moravec Transfer gradually moves (rather than copies) a human mind into a computer. You need never lose consciousness.

1. A neuron-sized robot swims up to a neuron and scans it into memory.
2. An external computer, in continuous communication with the robot, starts simulating the neuron.
3. The robot waits until the computer simulation perfectly matches the neuron.
4. The robot replaces the neuron with itself as smoothly as possible, sending inputs to the computer and transmitting outputs from the simulation of a neuron inside the computer.

This entire procedure has had no effect on the flow of information in the brain, except that one neuron's worth of processing is now being done inside a computer instead of a neuron.

5. Repeat, neuron by neuron, until the entire brain is composed of robot neurons.

Despite this, the synapses (links) between robotic neurons are still physical; robots report the reception of neurotransmitters at artificial dendrites and release neurotransmitters at the end of artificial axons. In the next phase, we replace the physical synapses with software links.

6. For every axon-dendrite (transmitter-receiver) pair, the inputs are no longer reported by the robot; instead the computed axon output of the transmitting neuron is added as a simulated dendrite to the simulation of the receiving neuron.

At the end of this phase, the robots are all firing their axons, but none of them are receiving anything, none of them are affecting each other, and none of them are affecting the computer simulation.

7. The robots are disconnected.

You have now been placed entirely inside a computer, bit by bit, without losing consciousness. In Moravec's words, your metamorphosis is complete.


Giulio Prisco

Of course when mind uploading technology is perfected (I would say, minimum 2050 and it could be much much longer), Second Life will not be today's Second Life and probably will not be called Second Life. At that moment there will be fully immersive, 100% realistic interfaces based on direct neural stimulation and a sort of instant telepathy between different users and groups.

The concept of uploading to the metaverse is certainly interesting. Is what we are really doing in Second Life the preparation of a future home?

Giulio Prisco

Re: "In the questions to do with brain download, people are even asked if they would consider SL as 'heaven'. My own feeling is that the author of the survey is less concerned with the science of the future, but rather the sociology and theology of the future."

He probably is, given his specialization. The question is how accurately a future SL, able to receive and run a mind file, would match individual conceptions of Heaven. I answer "probably yes" because it would offer some of the most important features (imo) of Heaven: immortality (or more precisely indefinite lifespan), much more control over one's virtual body and environments, and a heavenly sociel network of friends and people who have also uploaded to SL.

To all those who are planning to upload to SL next week: unfortunately this technology is _very_ far in the future: some experts say to years, some experts say hundreds of years, some experts say never.


so every wednesday you need to be "reborn" as the rolling restarts hit?


Arcadian Vanalten

Heck, I'd settle for getting my friends list to load reliably and not lose half my inventory. Not in a big hurry to risk my soul/mind/whatever until the platform gets a LOT more stable, LOL
"Ooops, so sorry. Half of your personality has poofed. Please file a Jira report, clear cache and check Lost & found to see if you coalesce."
Seriously, though, I AM a psychologist w/ a background in neuroscience, and I can tell you we're nowhere close to neurology-based cloning of the psyche. But again, the point isn't a fantasy (based on spurious assumptions, sorry) of how it would be done, but rather WOULD you do it? Interesting question. Theoretically, if you're trying to reproduce the mind, you'd actually do better to approach it from a battery of personality inventories than neurological replication, and even if the margin of error produced a close approximation of you, (heck, let's dream big--identical), it still wouldn't be a "transfer" of you, but just a replica. You're still you, same as taking a Polaroid doesn't actually transfer your face to a sheet of photo paper, but rather produces a replica image of your face on the paper. You'd still be you; albeit a you with a (most likely imperfect) copy of you that likely would continue to diverge from your actual original self as your life experiences influenced different development. I'd be a LOT more prone to risk-taking in RL if I knew I was essentially immortal (failing massive asset server crashes). Worst that can happen is Crash, Relog (eventually).
Now, here's a fun bit of sophistry--perhaps SL is an unconscious approximation of a real metaphor for us? What if we're avatars of a higher being as is, separate characters being played by one higher being at the same time, unable to understand our interconnections b/c of our relatively limited cognitive capacity as compared to said hypothetical being? God as one Uber-soul simultaneously reincarnating itself in variations across the entirety of the space/time continuum...an entertaining, and equally unprovable hypothesis. But lotsa fun to argue about :D


I would like to say that i love your blog nwn.blogs.com a lot
now.. back to business hehe
I cant say that im 100% with what you typed up... care to elaberate?

legitimate survey

Wow nice post! I'm happy that I've found an article like this. Just keep on doing


belstaff chaquetas

It's great to hear from you and see what you've been up to. In your blog I feel your enthusiasm for life. thank you.

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