12 May 2012

Eagleman on the downloading question

Found this entry on David Eagleman's blog (associated with his book Incognito): Silicon Immortality: Downloading Consciousness into Computers.  He writes:

We are on a crash-course, however, with technologies that let us store unthinkable amounts of data and run gargantuan simulations. Therefore, well before we understand how brains work, we will find ourselves able to digitally copy the brain's structure and able to download the conscious mind into a computer. 
If the computational hypothesis of brain function is correct, it suggests that an exact replica of your brain will hold your memories, will act and think and feel the way you do, and will experience your consciousness — irrespective of whether it's built out of biological cells, Tinkertoys, or zeros and ones.
I've got a few quibbles with this.

1.  It sounds to me like the project is about recreating brain structures in computers.  Whether this computer, when operating, has what any of us think of as consciousness, is pretty tough to confirm (given that we can't really confirm it with other people today).
2. He claims 'immortality' - but this digital simulation is not the same as current embodied self.  Even if we assume it is a 'conscious being' with all of our memories (as of some point of download, I guess), it is now on a separate path, and it is a separate being.  Perhaps other people might think of it as being very much like the original person, but its conscious experience is now on a new path.
3.  The usual equivalence of "brain structure" and "conscious mind" erases all the distinctions I'm interested in!

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