Though I’m usually pretty mindless, once in a blue mun (waay too much Kerbal Space Program) my brain produces something resembling a thought and I share them in these meditation posts, always punctuated with “om”.
This is the first time I’ve written one for a forum, and I’m not sure if I will even be able to complete it without my browser crashing, as it is want to do these days, it typically takes between several hours and a week and a half to produce one of these. My computer is busy recompiling itself due to a compiler upgrade and I have a programming challenge for my dream job I need to get cracking on (and there are a number of technical issues, beginning with the fact that Libre Office is not working well enough right now to open the text of the challenge!!!)
Anyway, the topic I want to get into is one that is at the root core of transhumanism but one that people don’t seem to grasp or is so repulsive that they turn tail as soon as they catch a glimpse of it. What I am talking about is the engineering mindset and the ontological framework that science and technology demands one adopt and how it has no room for the modern pseudo-religions seen in medicine, law, and how we think about ourselves and each other.
For one of my clients, I was tasked with producing working devices from a pile of broken ones. These devices were twenty years old and parts are scarce. So what I would do was disassemble three of them, put the serviceable parts in a pile, and find enough parts to build one and then get a second to 95% completion. At that point I would contact the manufacturer and ask for information about the missing piece so that I might order a new one. They would then ask me the unit’s serial number so they could look it up. Sure I could read the number off the chassis I was assembling with random parts but, on a deeper level, the question was quite meaningless.
By proposing that we use technology to change the human condition, we must necessarily bring humanness into the realm of things that can be discussed in engineering terms. Instead of people, we are talking about physical systems which possess certain capacities, some of these are simple physical properties, others are more complex such as the ability to fulfill a social role, or even a specific social role.
When considering transhumanism crossed with social roles, one must contemplate the range of social adaptability of the individual that is to be created. (we can also contemplate post-individualism but I may return to that below). If we assert that the transhuman must have greater capacity than the human then we, implicitly, specify that the transhuman being have a capacity to fill a greater variety of social roles than a human can, and therefore enable a broader diversity of viable societal organizations.
Transhumanism, by definition, is a process of becoming what you want to be next. Over protracted time, it will, probably inevitably, become iterative. Indeed, it is almost a sure bet that a personal-scale singularity will take place where your next transformation will be incomprehensible to what you were before your previous.
So the two essential issues are what you want to become (and the answer could very well not be a mind upload!!!)
and how it is you propose to get there (and the answer could very well not be destructive brain scanning!!!)
While I want both of these questions to be as open ended as possible, there are specific engineering constraints. The answers must fit within the strict constraints of engineering. Engineering talks only of physical systems and processes involving physical systems. Everything else is meaningless fantasy.
So when you apply engineering principles (as you must) to the problem of upgrading (or simply changing) the body must be translated into scientifically measurable terms. There is no language for speaking about feelings, or religious notions of transcendence, or even abstract notions such as identity. The only things that exist are qualities, such as capabilities or characteristics, and physical processes which affect those characteristics. The act of engineering is to design physical processes and physical systems that have a desirable result.
So we can talk about uploading in this paradigm and it’s absurdity becomes blatant. The proposal to take a functioning human brain, kill it, then distill from it some holy essence called information that, alone, has no capabilities, no practical purpose, and is barely even an artifact. It has no purpose, it cannot exist independently of the system that is said to “run” it. The upload is therefore entirely uninteresting from an engineering standpoint, but rather the system which runs the upload is. Now the system that runs it may or may not have interesting properties which may or may not be desirable as a transformation-target. But in that case, one is contemplating a transformation into a computer-based system rather than being emulated by one, the former being infinitely preferable in comparison. It is difficult to comment on the feasibility of such a transformation, only that brain emulation is an exceptionally poor way to go about it. =|
I might as well throw in a paragraph about post-individualism. First, I want to address the form of computer mediated telepathy. People seem to want a form of computer mediated telepathy that involves a high degree of sharing that still retains individuality. I think this MIGHT be possible but will require extensive research. I point out that the natural state of the several parts of the brain is to produce a unified consciousness. Simply building bridges between more parts of more brains will tend to produce a unified consciousness… (which could have some very useful practical applications, intelligence augmentation being one, when considering an artificial substrate on the other end, among others.) It is an interesting open question as to what will happen on a societal level when any of the several ways that one might imagine merging happening becomes possible.
Anyway, u have your thinking laid out for you…