Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Significance of Consciousness

It’s a cliche to look up at the stars and comment on how small and insignificant we are. This bothers me because conscious beings like ourselves are arguably the only significant thing in the universe. Now, when I say “conscious beings,” I am including the possibility of aliens and machine sentience. And of course the mental lives of a multitude of animals are worthwhile as well. Everything else in the universe is only significant in that it creates and sustains life, gives us resources, gives us something to ponder and inspires us to reach heavenward.

Is the universe really “big”? In terms of a physical dimension, only conscious beings give it any coherent scale. It’s certainly got a lot going on, but so does the human body. Continue reading

Singularity Part 4: Uploading Minds

I have several times encountered an odd notion: won’t we have to to be able to “upload our minds” before the singularity can take place? “Uploading a mind” is frequently taken to mean transferring a person’s unique consciousness into a machine. Moving consciousness into a machine or from one person to another is a common trope of mainstream science fiction, which hasn’t helped the confusion.

More rational science fiction features a more realistic (and coherent) form of “uploading” a mind. Due to the unfortunate connotation of the term “uploading,” I think “copying” is a better term. “Copying” a mind (or brain) means storing detailed brain scans in a computer. Often, but not always, this is followed by running a simulation of the recorded brain state, possibly giving that simulation a virtual body in a simulated environment or in a robot, etc.

Obviously, such a simulation based on your brain would not be “you”. Continue reading