Monday, July 30, 2007

Back-Door Uploading: The Free Alternative to Cryonics

These two sites, CyberRev and LifeNaut, are earily similar to an SF story I was working on, involving an upload constructed from a bog-standard human simulation architecture overlaid with all the recorded experiences of the original (of course, the upload is separated from the original, and the original - charged with species treason for playing video games and thus helping to train AIs up to the Turing level - has his brain very precisely wiped of the personality traits and memories that made him a rebellious youth in the first place ... thus making the upload choose between life in virtual heaven and a perilous journey in the world of atoms to reunite his original with his original memories.)

The basic idea at the two sites is to harness expected future computing power to do a kind of poor man's back door mind uploading. This amounts to throwing as much personal data as possible into a secure place (I'd hope impregnable would better describe the facilities, given the privacy implications of this.) Pictures, video, diary entries, personality tests, favorites lists, purchase histories (okay, I made that one up, but you have to admit that would probably be a useful check on other data): any data that is in any way specific to you, gather it in one place and then keep on feeding it.

Imagine if this kind of thing really took off: people wearing portable always-on cams and recording and instantly backing up everything they see and hear. If this uber-archiving became widespread it would create enough information to utterly confound present day historians; they'd rejoice at the abundance and curse their inability to make good use of it.

But really, what would be the point of recording so much? You're sure as hell not going to sit there and re-watch any but the slightest fraction of it; you don't particularly want anyone getting their hands on it, not without your permission anyway, because they'd use it to self stuff to you or incriminate you or in some other way use to do something to or against you. Whatever isn't dangerous or interesting (and that'll be most of it) is just useless. Dead data, archived away forever to no good purpose.

The bet is that future historians will be not be drawn from a population of standard humans, but AI orders of magnitude more intelligent, beings for which humans are as easy to understand as bacilli are to us. They'll take a basic (by which I mean exhaustive and cross-disciplinary) knowledge of what makes humans tic, likely a standardized model of some kind, and then use the archives to do some mixture of setting various universal but variable parameters and training the model up (in some sense it would be as though it lived your life through from the beginning all over again, at least from when you started recording.) Whatever comes out on the other side won't be you, exactly ... but if done well enough, you yourself might by hard-pressed to tell the difference (that is, if you put enough data in: two pictures of your family and a video of you joking around with your buddies at the bar is not likely to produce a faithful rendition.)

This idea is loopier than cryonics, in the sense of being so diagonal to the various views of the world people hold that it simply baffles them, so I don't see it ever really catching on. The same logic applies as in cryonics: by the time people might start to catch on to the feasibility of the idea (freezing yourself in case of death to be revived in case of more advanced technology), the technology will be so advanced that it will simply be able to prevent death from anything, rendering the practice moot. I very much doubt that cam-wearing people recording every mundane thing they see and do will ever become a common sight, at least for reasons of psychic longevity; by the time enough people really clue into the idea, direct uploading - simply doing a brain scan and using that to set a model running - will be both doable and likely relatively common.

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