Monday, November 30, 2009

Robocop: a love story

I've been mulling the Hanson/Caplan exchange about identity preservation in the case of brain uploads. As before, I'm worried about the legal implications of writing a living brain into a machine. In the case of major brain trauma, the development of neural disorders, or vegetative states, individuals retain the same legal rights as they had prior to the change. In the case of a perfectly faithful upload, the replica has no legal rights or responsibilities soever.

Also, since the thought experiments appear to be popular in this debate, consider a coma patient. Someone goes into a lingering vegetative state then awakes 20 years later, a whole new set of cells, with no cognitive continuity in the interim. Is this the same individual that fell into the coma? Does the ghost in the shell slumber next to the corpse?

Consider also the enhancement of the upload. Upgrades should be easily available, with vastly enhanced senses, improved memory, and vastly faster cognitive abilities. If you accept that identity can be transferred and you think that the individual is the sum of the parts (memory, feeling, sensation, emotion, etc), will the upload become something more than the original? Man plus? Could I still call my upgraded self me? Is there a fundamental difference between Lasik eye surgery and an enhancement that allows me to see into the x-ray spectrum?

From a practical standpoint, I'd be willing to upload myself for pure vanity. It's likely that my presence in the distant future is not going to be appreciated much by whatever Neo Sapiens is going to be around, but I'm happy being a wallflower in a fantastic future, even if it means being relegated to an old-uploads home, well away from the supercharged post-singularity world of perfect information and infinite wisdom.

Someone should write an AI bill of rights, if this hasn't already been done.

1 comment:

  1. There's a show on TV right now (recently cancelled) that I think addresses this sort of problem, kind of, Dollhouse. The 'Dolls' are people who have let their personalities be uploaded to a computer and then their bodies can be used to have composite personalities downloaded to their bodies for specific instances (to be hired out - sometimes they're assassins, sometimes teachers, usually lovers). After the engagement is over, the personality is again wiped. The body, when not hired out, is in a very submissive state with almost no personality.

    I really wasn't sure what to think of the show. In my mind, the owners and operators of the Dollhouse were quite evil, and the 'Dolls' themselves were, at best, hardly people, and at worst, humans reborn each episode to be murdered at the end of the episode. I gave up on it really because I couldn't find anyone in the show to like, as I thought anyone who would let themselves be uploaded into a hard drive and shelved as opposed to living deserved no sympathy... I think things were changing when I gave up on it, but apparently I've had things to do this past semester...