Thursday, June 06, 2013

Eternal Avatar Identity?

Mechanical Head of Dmitry Itskov?
Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux
The New York Times

In an unexpected article by by David Segal -- "This Man Is Not a Cyborg. Yet." -- for the New York Times (June 1, 2013), we learn that a Russian millionaire named Dmitry Itskov wants to pursue an odd project funded by his plentiful money (apparently associated with the so-called "technological singularity"):
His project, called the 2045 Initiative, for the year he hopes it is completed, envisions the mass production of lifelike, low-cost avatars that can be uploaded with the contents of a human brain, complete with all the particulars of consciousness and personality.
Why? Just for the hell of it? No:
This would be a digital copy of your mind in a nonbiological carrier, a version of a fully sentient person that could live for hundreds or thousands of years. Or longer. Mr. Itskov unabashedly drops the word "immortality" into conversation.
Okay, but why create this digital, possibly 'immortal' copy? In Itskov's words:
"I realized that I wouldn't be happy, just working and spending money. I would just age and then die. I thought there should be something deeper."
A digital copy is something deeper? Whatever the reply to that question, I still don't quite see the point. So what if my avatar can live 'forever'? It's not me, no more than a clone of me is me. A clone would be my twin, and a digital copy is not even that close. When I die, I die, and whatever happens happens.

Perhaps Itskov believes that consciousness is distinct and separable from the brain -- i.e., the mind as soul or spirit -- and carries one's true identity. If so, does he hope to transfer it from human brain to computer hardware? But why transfer it at all in that case? What if it doesn't want to be transferred? Why not let it go wherever it goes at death?

But if Itskov doesn't believe that consciousness is distinct from the brain, then it can't be transferred, merely copied, and the copy's not my consciousness, but rather the consciousness of my silicon-based 'clone,' what good does it do me?

Or am I simply confused about this stuff?

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At 6:13 AM, Blogger dhr said...

. . . and the copy's not my consciousness, but rather the consciousness of my silicon-based 'clone,' what good does it do me?

That's exactly the shock experienced by the protagonist of Robert J. Sawyer's novel "Mindscan," dealing with exactly this issue

[ATTENTION: SPOILER] . . . until he, the "biological I," goes insane because of this, and, well, he is killed by his "cybernetic I" with the help of the multinational society creating the artificial copies.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks! That's one fewer book to read! I need more spoilers . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched a segment on 60 Minutes last Sunday featuring an experimental surgery on the brain of a woman suffering some sort (can't recall her diagnosis) of short circuit leaving her unable to move except for "some" of her neck muscles and head.

(What made her a good candidate was a very "nimble mind" - a few years prior to onset she'd done "excellent" on The Wheel of Fortune.)

Although both the VA and DARPA were involved (spoiler of a sort I suppose) the surgery was conducted [I think] at Johns-Hopkins.

Following implants onto sites for movement directly onto her brain's surface, she was thus able to move a very sophisticated robotic arm merely by thought. For now "wires" are required between her brain and the machines - but they're working on wireless.

I was "science fiction" amazed at the possibilities!

A physical brain can be maintained using life support - I'll not be making the stretch whether "sense of self" remains - but IF ... well instead of that Russian fellow making a copy, he might want to get in touch with Johns-Hopkins.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That would make more sense to me, though I wonder how long a carbon-based brain could last. My own seems to be deteriorating . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:41 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Btw, if one of us underwent su(pe)rgery and turned into a cyborg, he could mock the Blogger request "Please prove you're not a robot" :-)

In this case, one of the words is "profane": I couldn't help writing a comment just in order to use it.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sacre bleu!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny bit of observation there dhr, gave me a giggle.

My word's 'language' - felt I needed to go ahead and comment too.


At 3:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The captcha testing if I'm a robot is "electric sheep" -- I wonder where Blogger software dreamed that up.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't initially "wish to" place what my first word was - but "electric sheep" was maybe picked up from something I typed with my initial comment yesterday but deleted.

It was on the "science fiction amazed" - I'd typed referencing an older book (Heinlein/Bradbury?) Do Robots Dream Electric Dreams but it proved too cumbersome working it into the simple description.

The word preceding "language" happened to be "ciallis" which - if one of the "Ls" was left out names a certain American pharmaceutical.

Whatever/wherever Blogger comes up with it's stuff, I'm not too sure I'm liking it.

Presently its osymandys salary which when spoken ...


At 6:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think we're both thinking of Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the inspiration for Blade Runner.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well. I've not my glasses near at hand so I'm unable to discern what I thought was "Robots" dreaming whatever Robots dream of, or might was anything worthy of much thinking.

Were you though Professor Jeffery, a member of Salem's FFA by any chance?

Which ribbon did you normally receive at the fare?

(Oh how I wish Mrs. DeShazo were here, she was good at proofing my "to be copied" text.)


Baylor Graduate uhm? My proof for not being a robot words are "texanym standards."

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I was in the FFA, and on the Dairy Products Team -- we went to the State Competition my 11th-grade year!

Jeffery Hodges

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