December 18, 2014

"I believe that all of what we manifest — all of our brain activity, everything we experience — is due to the way the brain functions."

"This includes self-awareness. Being aware of what's going on around you and the way you are and what you are is an experience. An experience is a mechanism, a processing happening inside your brain. So if you make a copy of all of that processing, then I'm convinced that copy will include self-awareness.... If you have an exact copy of the entire brain and you aren't leaving out the parts that are involved with emotions, then why wouldn't you have humor, why wouldn't you have empathy? You would have the same sense of humor in your substrate independent mind as you do in reality. Having a sense of humor is just a certain way of processing activity that goes through your brain, just like the concert pianist who plays Beethoven in a certain way."

From "This Neuroscientist Is Trying to Upload His Entire Brain to a Computer."

But people don't have that much empathy and humor, so why would you think human brains uploaded into computers — severed from the remainder of the nervous system and from a fleshly body capable of interaction with other bodies — would generate nicely friendly emotions? We may love and hope to preserve empathy and humor, but why wouldn't the bodiless brain manifest unpleasant emotions, like rage and sadness? I don't think the neuroscientist really believes what he's saying. Notice the "if" clause and the question mark and the words "just like" in that Beethoven analogy.


Michael K said...

Read Broca's Brain a series of essays, including one theorizing that, if memories are chemical molecules, Broca's Brain might still be sitting in a jar of formalin with hazy memories circulating.

john said...

As any male knows, emotions neither begin nor end in the brain. For that matter, women have constantly reminded us we don't do much thinking with our brain either.

PB said...

Merely a sufficiently sophisticated computer simulation.

Nonapod said...

Completely replicating the wetware that is the human brain in software & hardware seems like it would be as difficult as trying to replicate an internal combustion engine using Jello and toothpicks as a medium.

traditionalguy said...

I wonder how you give post traumatic stress to a computer brain. Does the computer just freeze up and send error messages?

I bet it is easier than giving it to a human being.

Ralph Hyatt said...

What, exactly, makes you you. What is the essential part of your identity.

Your body is vastly different than it was when you were a newborn babe. The memories formed since then make you a different person, but you were that baby and you are also now you.

That said, physical states influence emotions to a huge degree. When I go too long between eating I become grumpy and somewhat irrational. Is that going to be simulated? How does a computer simulation get into a situation where it goes too long between meals?

For that matter, I enjoy cooking and playing guitar (good cook, execrable guitar player.) Those are physical acts. Will my disembodied brain have a simulated body in cyberspace?

And who will have admin privileges on these computers that host the disembodied minds? How can I know that after uploading my conciseness I won't find out that the computers are controlled by sadists that delight in torture and anguish?

kcom said...

I noticed you used "fleshly" instead of "fleshy". Fleshly is an interesting word. It almost seems like it shouldn't be a word.

Now that I've written them both out and thought about them directly, they're both starting to look fake. Flesh is actually kind of a weird word all by itself.

Rocketeer said...

The most important questions are: Will the computer perceive micro-aggressions? Will it be able to check its privilege?

tim in vermont said...

Aren't there likely to be events that happen in the invisible realm beyond the reach of observation, places where string theory is only now vaguely fumbling about in the dark? Nothing restrains biology from using every process available to it but the unknown and perhaps unknowable limits if DNA.

The guy is assuming a negative. He is assuming that there are no processes involved in thought that can't be measured in enough detail as to be accurately replicated. Did God give us some kind of guarantee of the knowability of the Universe? Or did the Universe give us one?

Peter said...

Consciousness. The "ghost in the machine."

Neuroscience would like to believe it can and has explained it (what it is and why it exists), but it has not.

An AI may fool an observer into thinking it is self-aware, although it is not. Although it does have one big advantage over a human brain: it can be turned off and its machine state saved, so that when it is turned on again it functions as though it had never been turned off. Whereas biological systems degrade and then die if/when you do that to them.

Saint Croix said...

I think we are babies to God.

Imagine a father and his newborn child. The baby does not understand your language. You have no language, no words, that the child will grasp. One day there might be a "da-da." Or a "ma-ma." (I think da-da is the one that's easier to say, right?) And we are very happy on this day, the day of the first word that is spoken.

But it would be insanity, and evil, for us to pass a Peter Singer rule and allow parents to kill their newborn before the day of the first word. Right?

Even though language is obviously important. The Bible talks about the Word a lot. Language is the basis of ideas, the basis of law. When we shifted from heart-and-lungs to brain activity in our definition of human death, that was a very big step in our law. (All 50 states shifted to brain activity from 1973 to 1992, from Roe to Casey, and yet the Supreme Court in Casey did not notice or mention the subject! They said there was "no change" in our law during this period. Remarkable!)

Anyway, I like our new laws. I think brain activity is the critical point for human life-or-death. I think conception should be thought of as the beginning of the human body, at the microscopic level.

But (and this is important) we should reflect on love. That is the connection that a father has to a newborn. The emotion of love is what connects them (not language). And this is similar to our relationship to God the father. We are babies to God. We do not understand what he is saying. We read 2000-year-old texts (which have been translated several times), and we are not sure what God is saying to us. Jesus often spoke in parables anyway! As if it is up to us to grow and figure this stuff out. But the key to humanity, to reproduction, to creating a new life, is not brain activity. It is love.

traditionalguy said...

Flesh or carne in Latin is meat.

People are persons with a meat bodies. The moment the spirit leaves a meat body, all that is left is meat. Dead meat.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

One problem with the idea that the essential "us" is fundamentally the sum of our self-awareness at any moment is the fact that as humans we sleep quite a bit. The brain is active during sleep but we're not self-aware--if we're literally not sentient during that time then according to a strict version of that view do we cease to exist, and if so who wakes up in the morning?!

I took a good class on AI & Cognitive Science a while back--the text was Mind Design II: Philosophy, Psychology, and Artificial Intelligence which is probably available on Amazon now.

Michael K said...

"People are persons with a meat bodies. The moment the spirit leaves a meat body, all that is left is meat. Dead meat."

If God did not want us to eat animals, why did she make them out of meat ?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The closer computers get to AI the closer to suicide they will become, so no worries. The Christ child is so perfect any cpu planning mass harm to humans would be stopped dead in its circuits by either A) Itself or B) other cpu's of similar capability reaching the only logical conclusion.

Also, "bodiless" could make me a Scrabble legend. It might take some time, but I can assure everyone I will know and forever focus on "bodiless" during competition as much as Jordan did in sticking his tongue out; conscious then consciously then braggadociously unconscious-as-art.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The way the brain doesn't function counts as much or more as the way the brain functions.

*%^* *^*%*^%*^%v *^*%^.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Macro/Micro in one theory must encompass the brain talk.

If you were made to think binary (sans digits), woe be unto you.

rhhardin said...

He only believes it because that's how his brain functions.

Ken Mitchell said...

The problem is that in order to virtualize anything, you have to understand how it works. We understand computers pretty well, so it's relatively straightforward to write a computer program (like VMware or VirtualBox) which pretends to be another PC - or two or several of them.

We are only beginning to have a clue about how the brain works. We won't be able to virtualize ourselves - put our brains into a computer - until we do.

Bob R said...

It was around 1978 that a neuroscience student told me that in 10 years we would completely understand the human brain. (Very talented guy. I think he works for an insurance company now.) One of the most tempting things in science is to convince yourself that you are just on the verge of a complete understanding of a very complex phenomenon. When that temptation hits, I advise you to go ask someone who knows about both quantum mechanics and continuum mechanics explain how little we know about water. (A little clue. In one of his later sequels to the Foundation series, Asimov has Hari Seldon tackle the problem of psychohistory because the problem of turbulence is too hard.)

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The artificial shits so toxic artificialness never survives (itself).

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Full Circle includes, but (heh) is not limited to:

1. Shit enabling humans to survive any and all foes, digital and not.

2. Shape from a certain view of said shit is circular.

3. The size of the Collider revealing God was where the God Particle wasn't.

4. Dance Floor.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

It is not empathy that matters.


They are us.

We are them.

As concerns concepts/\ideas/art/medium/message.

There is and never was or will be some static definition.

All definitions are subject to change or they would not be definitions, they would, indeed, be something else.

See William Frank Buckley Junior folks.

He saw the Catholic Church and I am eternally grateful for it.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

rhhardin said...
He only believes it because that's how his brain functions.

That's almost the old Emo Philips joke:

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized — well, look what's telling me this!

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"The artificial shits so toxic artificialness never survives (itself)." -Myself

Editors exist.


NotquiteunBuckley said...




Revenant said...

The problem is that in order to virtualize anything, you have to understand how it works.

At some level, sure. But if your modeling of low-level behaviors is sufficiently accurate, you'll produce real-life equivalent emergent behaviors even if you don't have the slightest idea why they emerge.

That's one reason why modelling is so important in things like civil engineering -- so you can discover those emergent behaviors in advance, instead of spending $10 million on a bridge that collapses when the weather is below freezing and windy.

Jon Burack said...

I know we can identify, often very precisely, brain function correlates for conscious states. I am sure consciousness and the brain (and the body) are linked. Still, consciousness is a total mystery. The experience of a sunset / the patterns of firing neurons. To say you've correlated those two things exactly is what AI types like to think means solving this mystery. It does not solve a thing.

Maybe the unification of these separate realms takes place on the quantum level, where one particle may seem to anticipate another over a distance (or so I am told). I don't know. I don't think anyone knows or even knows how they might get to where they know.

Richard Dolan said...

This is a fine example of the mereological fallacy, attributing to a part (in this case the brain) qualities or attributes of the whole (the person at issue). Brains do not feel happy or sad, do not decide to have vanilla today instead of chocolate, or get upset when the wrong guy wins the election. Only people do those things. How people do them involves the brain, as well as the rest of a person's being. To try to ignore the person, and reduce human experience to a set of electrochemical impulses, necessarily leaves out everything of significance in life.

Amazing how many smart people get transfixed by the power of reductive and mechanical theories for matters that are logically in commensurate with such categories. But it happens all the time, especially when people talk about the brain in that way.

n.n said...

The scientific domain limits our perception to correlation between cause and effect. We are incapable of distinguishing between origin and expression.

William said...

I wonder if this computer would favor Hume's empiricism over Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. But I don't think the computer is a disinterested witness, and I would not trust its answer.

CStanley said...

The premise that all that we are is seated in the brain is deeply flawed. Roughly half of our neurotransmitters are in our guts, forming a second nervous system that communicates with the first. Our emotional thinking is highly influenced by that communication.

In addition, of course, a brain detached from a body can't provide it's own energy source and has no locomotive ability, so it can't be truly sentient and autonomous.