The Shoddy Science Behind Mind Uploading How outdated views of the mind are driving the movement to digitize our minds.
Many are devoting part of their life insurance toward the prospect of outwitting their death. They are entrusting their bodies — or for some, just their heads — to Alcor, a company which specializes in cryonically preserving human bodies, suspending them from death, with the intention to revive them once we have the futuristic technology to restore their health and integrate them into society. Those who have opted to preserve only their heads seek a different fate — an opportunity for their minds to be scanned and uploaded to a machine much stronger and more capable than their human bodies were.Upgrading our bodies would also enhance our cognitive abilities. According to Ray Kurzweil, a strong proponent of mind uploading, “An emulation of the human brain running on an electronic system would run much faster than our biological brains.” As they envision, the procedure would involve scanning all contents of the brain with high-resolution microscopic receptors, constructing a three-dimensional map (or connectome) of the brain and translating it into the neural code that will run on a new machine.One question we have to ask is: would scanning the brain exclusively for its information construct a complete picture of our cognition? Before we get into questions of whether extracting this data would simulate our intelligence, or who would own this data, we need to tackle this question — why scan just the brain?Mind-uploaders are content to discard their bodies, but is that wise? Implicit in this vision of mind uploading is the view that our intelligence, our reason, is independent of the body and its limitations. This view of the disembodied mind dates back to antiquity. According to Plato, “the whole body [is] a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge” (from Phaedo, ca. 360 B.C.E.). Today, this view is echoed in the cultural imagination surrounding mind-uploading, as tech visionaries work to “extract” the mind from the body.This widely accepted view has persisted for centuries despite evidence in favor of it being absent. On the other hand, contemporary theories of the brain recognize the body as a prominent factor in shaping our mental lives. “The body,” cognitive scientist Daniel Casasanto writes, “is an ever-present part of the context in which we use our minds and, therefore, has pervasive influences on the neurocognitive activity that constitutes our thoughts.” In fact, many of the frameworks of our thinking derive from our bodies, such as how we come to understand abstract concepts — like numbers and magnitudes, time, and morality — which we cannot perceive with our senses. And considering how embodied experience influences thinking, we can expect different bodies to exercise different thinking. For instance, right- and left-handers performing the same tasks tend to make opposite judgments about the same objects and create systematically different mental images. On the basis of handedness, Casasanto found staggering cognitive differences. Imagine how acquiring new bodily attributes through technology would afford us a radically diverse array of thinking — the ultimate cognitive enhancement.Of course, the embodied aspects of our cognition complicate the roadmap for mind uploading — namely, the procedure, as scanning the brain alone would not construct a complete picture of our cognition. What’s most concerning, though, is how tech visionaries have justified overlooking contemporary neuroscience. A common criticism of mind uploading has been that we don’t understand the contents of the brain on a comprehensive level to begin simulating it. Instead of acknowledging this fact as a considerable setback, Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom have responded to this criticism by noting that creating a database of all raw data of individuals’ brains and making it readable to a computer would eliminate our need to understand the brain. “It is entirely possible,” they write, “that we could acquire full knowledge of the component parts and interactions of the brain without gaining an insight into how these produce (say) consciousness or intelligence.”Despite Sandberg and Bostrom’s indifference, it’s imperative that we acknowledge our biological realities if we are to transcend them through technology. We need to approach the possibility of simulating the brain by also considering its relationship to the body. Rational thought goes beyond the mind. As we work to create the conditions for artificial superintelligence, we have to make sure our visions to upgrade the mind are not being driven by outdated views of it.This story is published in The Startup,
Eric Verdin, a world-leading researcher on aging, recently shared what he has learned about the future of growing old. While Verdin views immortality as a fairy tale, he said that many promising methods for extending life are being studied.
THE FUTURE OF GETTING OLD
The Population Reference Bureau has projected that the percentage of the population over the age of 65 will rise from the current 15 percent to a staggering 24 percent by 2060. This means that research into aging has never been more important.
Eric Verdin is at the forefront of this research and has become the President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The institute is the world’s biggest independent research facility studying the causes of growing old — and how to combat them. Recently, he conducted an interview with Nautilus to discuss how aging is effecting our lives.
Verdin believes that the explosion in age-related research is due to researchers’ discovery in the 1990s that aging is not necessarily an inevitability. Instead, it is caused by mutations — and scientists could make changes to the genome of other species that led to a lifetimes of up to twice as long. Verdin stated in the interview this resulted in a belief that “there might be pathways to regulate aging, and if there are pathways that means there are proteins, and that means you can eventually develop drugs.”
Despite this, he says, “if you hear the word immortality, just run. There is no drug that can give you that.” While Verdin believes we can increase the average human lifetime significantly, the fountain of youth is still just a fairy tale. “It’s just nonsense from my perspective, and I think we should really resist the I-word.”
The best way to maximize your lifespan, he said in the interview, is to maintain your body well. Good nutrition and exercise are “incredible anti-aging medicine.” His general advice is to treat the cause rather than the symptom with a combination of lifestyle and pharmaceutical treatments — to fight aging itself rather than dealing with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or macular degeneration when they occur.
THE YOUTH OF THE OLD
The human attraction to immortality has been present in our cultural landscape since the beginning of time — the human mind seems to be unable to resist its lures. There are countless myths and stories based on it: the fountain of youth, the Wandering Jew, the philosophers stone, and the Bible’s Enoch are a few examples.
Recently, this mystical desire has birthed a myriad of promising methods for reversing the aging process which are currently under investigation: from transfusing young people’s blood into older people to give them more osteopontin, to digging into the role telemores play on the aging process, to developing anti-aging, bacteria-based pills.
However, when our increasing life expectancy is combined with the decrease in fertility that many nations are facing, the results are an aging population. In an interview with CNN, Elon Musk pointed out why this is undesirable, saying it causes a “very high dependency ratio, where the number of people who are retired is very high relative to the number of people who are net producers” — an economically detrimental state of affairs.
Due to technological and therapeutic advancements, aging is looking less like an ugly inevitability of our condition and more like a new and exciting epoch in our lives. However, we must ensure that longer lives for people do not come at the expense of the environment, economy, or wellbeing of others.
An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that eliminates the most baffling features of the subatomic universe.
Now.. I wasn’t sure if ..well read the top of the post. Anyways.. this is a little offbeat for this joint but.. yam spiritual, ya feel?!
I’d also mention the lesser chakras in palms of the hands and soles of the feet.. For instance, Reiki supposes the entry of energy through the crown chakra which then flows from the hands of the practitioner to the subject. One might experience this as heat or cool or tingling or as a feeling of magnetism either pushing apart or drawing together. One might experiment with this by tickling the center on the palns gently to bring notice to the spot then hold the hands 3inches apart and move them slowly towards and away from each other or in small circular motions while recalling the tickle feeling and imagining light or energy emanating from each palm.. One might also run a hand above the heart, solar plexus or above and below the belly button (or any other chakra). One might do this after meditation or while laying in bed before sleep. Pets also seem to appreciate good energy and don’t need to be asked if they will accept your ‘attention’.
Sorry if this answer is a bit choppy.. trying to write a short generic bit on chakras is difficult. Basic chakra work can be as easy as visualizing each, starting from the base, as their colours, vibrant and clear or as pure golden spinning disks. Best to have some guidance though, energy work is not to be taken lightly.:)
I’m going to write a whole bunch more on this topic, my experiences with reiki, energy, chakras, spi.. well u know.