Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal” (technologyreview.com)
247 points by sethbannon 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 428 comments

If folks really want to make sure they come back from the dead, they might also think about setting up proper incentives for performing the potentially highly laborious process that resurrection might entail even 100+ years from now. It might be helpful to place a sort of back-to-life bounty on yourself, to be held in escrow, and only to be paid out upon successful resurrection. The bigger the bounty, the higher your de-facto priority in the queue. Let it collect interest and fund the ongoing administration of your bounty in the meantime.

If you really want to make it stringent, make the bounty require a password that only that (deceased) person knows. Best case scenario they do such a good job resurrecting you that you still remember the password, or at worst there's an incentive to picking the fact out of your brain, which might be only slightly less difficult than doing the full resurrection.

If they can bring your mind to life inside a computer, then you're essentially a simulation of yourself. In that case, how can you ever know that the person you're giving the password to is real? And that you haven't just been revived in a sandbox for the express purpose of getting your password, which they can then pass on themselves. Shades of Rick and Morty ...

How do you know that’s not the case right now?

This would be difficult with the current legal system in most of the United States because of the rule against perpetuities[0]. Of course, jurisdiction shopping makes this easier in certain locales.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_against_perpetuities

According to Larry Niven (Rammer), the courts will find the dead cannot own property.

I observe there's a certain prejudice, in that law is written by the living.

The other ideas of cryptocurrency/escrow/private keys would escape the law... until you tried to spend it legally. You might as well bury gold in a chest.

According to Douglas Adams, Hotblack Desiato once spent a year dead for tax reasons.


DNA is strangely relevant here (as he often is):

[...] I don't know what this great think I'm meant to be doing is, and it looks to me as if I was supposed not to know. And I resent that, right?

"The old me knew. The old me cared. Fine, so far so hoopy. Except that the old me cared so much that he actually got inside his own brain - my own brain - and locked off the bits that knew and cared, because if I knew and cared I wouldn't be able to do it. I wouldn't be able to go and be President, and I wouldn't be able to steal this ship, which must be the important thing.

"But this former self of mine killed himself off, didn't he, by changing my brain? OK, that was his choice. This new me has its own choices to make, and by a strange coincidence those choices involve not knowing and not caring about this big number, whatever it is. That's what he wanted, that's what he got.

"Except this old self of mine tried to leave himself in control, leaving orders for me in the bit of my brain he locked off. Well, I don't want to know, and I don't want to hear them. That's my choice. I'm not going to be anybody's puppet, particularly not my own."

Zaphod banged the console in fury, oblivious to the dumbfolded looks he was attracting.

"The old me is dead!" he raved, "Killed himself! The dead shouldn't hang about trying to interfere with the living!"

I wonder if you could use a trust corporation to do this... I don't know anything about law though.

Corporations have more personhood - certainly more legal agency - than many people do.

Uploads aren’t even the biggest worry. If it turned out to be possible to upload analyse and upload personalities, it would also become possible to synthesize new personalities on demand to a required spec.

How much value does organic personality actually have?

I observe there's a certain prejudice, in that law is written by the living.

Until the "dead" uploads outnumber the living, at which point they vote in a bloc to expropriate and enslave the meat-humans, as in the novel The Uploaded.

We have a saying up here, life is wasted on the living.

A. thanks for the suggestion, great, terrific, wonderful (was flux good?) but B. The dead shouldn't hang about trying to interfere with the living!

So I memorized my private key. Revive me and I will tell you and you will get all my coins.

Presumably if they can revive you as you are now, there's a fair chance they'll be able to just directly dump your memories and search for hex strings without ever actually running you.

Couldn't you just put it in your will? EG that I leave $X to whoever supplies the right password? You would also need to leave money to your new self I suppose.

The law against perpetuity means you can’t have an open ended bequest like that. Someone living has to get it, and in bounded time. You can mess around a bit, like leaving money in trust to your youngest living descendent, to pay out on their 65th birthday, unless someone revives you. Which also starts to sound like a movie plot.

perhaps we need to classify people as not dead but "heisen" :)

Memorize a private key to a Crypto wallet and transfer all of your assets to it in the days leading up to uploading?

And of course let everyone know that's the case beforehand!

What if it's cheaper to extract the key from your brain and dump the rest?

It's unclear that that's possible, though.

We're considering the funding implications of uploading a consciousness to storage and retrieving it later. None of it is possible.

Why would people 200 years into the future believe your assertion?

If the crypto network is still around then the balances can be publicly verified.

What if you claim to reveal the password once you're alive, but don't? Or can claim you don't know it even if you do? What will people do then - kill you off again?

This assumes that the crypto network will still be worth anything by then. Who says any of the coins in existence right now will be worth anything even if cryptocurrency takes over?

"Highly laborious process": I guess if the technology was available to preform this process, then automating it would be relatively easy. The materials that make up a human are cheap enough.

Edit: I read the article. So they are assuming in the future that they won't bother making a new human, but just load the brain state into a computer simulation, which would be even cheaper.

Computers have yet to match many of the capabilities of the brain. Heck I have better image recognition when I’m drunk than all of Google’s image recognition nodes combined.

Could a computer host a human mind to its full capacity?

Did you forget that any technology publicly known and available is about 20 years old? Im sure they are systems that can recognize image faster and more accurate than humans but its sort of a “product” you wont find by googling.

I did not know this. I assumed certain technology is more advanced in private industry or classified governmental programs, but I was unaware that my iPhone X is effectively a 1997 device.

You can find research projects that haven't (yet) been commercialised. They exist only in prototype form that either isn't ready for mass production or isn't economically feasible. You see it all the time with things like memristors or the latest potential cure for cancer.

Sure, but integration of technologies is a technology itself. And, that too must then be 20 years old.

Sounds unlikely. Is there any evidence of this?

Then enslave the mind to do work, to pay the hosting bills.

They'd presumably already have any number of superior minds, able to be spun up in whatever quantity required.

Hmm, interesting. Assuming resurrecting you was easier than picking your brain, there would be the problem of you lying, both when you died and after you were brought back to life. How would they deal with that?

I guess they could just kill you again. But would the threat of that happening in the future deter you from lying at time of death, when you have nothing else to lose?

It seems like there would need to be system of proving possession of a password that would have to last 100 years. I have not thought through this kind of scenario (sorry!). Perhaps this has been considered before by those studying the problem in detail (e.g. science fiction authors)? What are the solutions?

Or the conjugate problem: people bringing you back before they really have the capability to do it well, and having you be some sort of invalid/derelict version of yourself. That's terrifying to me.

You're describing public-key cryptography. Sign a message to prove you know a private key that also authorizes the release of funds. This happens to be exactly the functionality of Bitcoin.

It is debatable whether known public-key cryptography systems will survive attack for the amount of time under discussion here.

I suspect the hack will be to extract the secret from the brain being resurrected, recover the funds, and toss the brain in the trash.

A future in which adequately restoring the running processes of the 100 billion neurons of a partly-deteriorated human brain shorn of its body is less difficult than cracking early 2000s public key cryptography sounds like a future sufficiently unlikely to discount when making future plans...

The comment you're replying to made the same point.

It's pretty unlikely that any particular system like Bitcoin will still be around in 100 years. It would be difficult to think of any investment that will still be worth something in 100 years. Buried gold perhaps?

Being able to upload a mind is effectively the same as immortality. I doubt wealth matters at all to immortal beings.

This comment pairs great with the other top level comment that you could be subjected to inhuman amounts of torture.

Why bother resurrecting you fully?

You have to bet on being among the first to be revived, i.e. to have one of the highest taking bounties but not the highest.

You don't want to be the first but you want to be the tenth or so. Once the process takes off all the bounties will drastically lose their worth because such technology will likely disrupt a lot of what humans place value on.

This sounds like it could be the premise for another book in Daniel Saurez's series Daemon and Freedom.

Any sufficiently advanced technology that is capable of resurrecting your brain/consciousness, is also capable of subjecting your digital consciousness to eternal torture worse than anything experienced by Man thus far. If you haven't already, check out Black Mirror's last episode: Black Museum. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, even if there's only an infinitesimal chance of it happening.



This is a main element of DeLillo's latest book Zero K. A state-of-the-art secret facility is built in a middle of nowhere former Soviet bloc country. It's financed by ultra wealthy people whose bodies are disassembled and frozen with the hopes they will be reanimated in the future.

There is a short chapter that is narrated by the detached consciousness of one of the patrons. She has lost all sense of self and is trapped in a dim loop of pure thought, constantly questioning what she is. Probably one of the most quietly terrifying things I have ever read.

I had something similar happen to me once and didn't know how long it was going to last and it really was that terrifying, except instead of questioning what I was, I could remember everything I normally could. I just couldn't sense anything but my own thoughts and memories. Luckily I came out of it, but it would be an awful hell.

That is intense. I hope that's the only time you have to experience that. Speaking of hell, it's actually similar to what my Catholic school taught us hell would be like. No physical pain or brimstone... Just your mind, alone and separated from all for eternity.

Really? Interesting. People are social to an extent that they think isolation is hell?

Well it goes a bit deeper than socializing. I said separated from all, but that's including "grace", which if I remember correctly is a connection to god that is available to humans during life.

Yes, that's why solitary confinement is considered torture.

You're isolated from both other people and from the cool things you can do without other people.

This happened to me once in high school. I had fallen asleep on the couch in the basement (it was fully finished, and my siblings and I spent most of our days down there when we weren't outside, playing, watching TV, and playing video games) in the early evening. When my sister wanted to watch TV, she tried to wake me up, leaning over the back of the couch. For a solid 5 minutes my memory just did not work at all. My inner monologue was something like "What? What is all of this? What am I? What is that (my sister)? Where am i?" etc, repeatedly for a number of minutes.

Nothing like it has happened since.

Did you take any dissociatives or psychedelics?

I'm not sure why that would be terrifying. If we are able to upload and run brains on a computer, then we understand consciousness which is a mystery subject.

Be aware that running code on a computer is just the computation of numbers. So if computing a number makes a consciousness, then all possible states of your consciousness are happening. All the numbers are there.

I'm not sure why that would be terrifying

Because humans have now become overloards of your very conscience.

Imagine that I am a communist revolutionary and I take control of the governmental system and I don't like rich people, but I decide well all these virtual brains and their wealth they should be put to work for the state, to pay back their misdeeds and robbing of the earth of resources in their past life.

Maybe I am a Mengele and decide I have a wealth of experimental subjects. Difference is now I can bend and break you mind but you cant die, unless I delete you.

I see all kinds of ways this can go wrong and given time all possibilities will happen.

No thats not true. Running any numbers doesn't make a consiousiness. Specific numbers do that.

There's also a similar scene in Altered Carbon

Iain M Banks' Culture novel, Surface Detail, also deals with the idea of eternal digital heavens and hells.

Many of them are run by corporations. Some civilizations even send young sinners on day trips to hell to keep them on the 'right' path.

Scary stuff.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_Detail

Back in 1965, Stanislaw Lem wrote in his Cyberiad about a sadistic king who was given a virtual world to rule over. The king gleefully proceeded to torture its virtual inhabitants. Lem has a lot to say on the ethics of this.

You can read this remarkable story and Douglas Hofstadter's and Daniel Dennett's commentary on it here:


"What do I care for your suffering? Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it. Take control of the input and you shall become master of the output."

Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, "Essays on Mind and Matter"

It's rather a key theme of the Kovach trilogy. Envoys get reconstructed to resist digital torture. "Get to the next screen."

Edit: The novels are much better than the Netflix videos. They are, in my opinion, crude hacks. Randomized and simplified. The virtual torture sequence in Altered Carbon is vastly more horrible than the one in the video. Even if I didn't care about spoilers, I'd hesitate to describe it here.

And if you like Kovach, check out Stover's Caine novels. He also wrote the Star Wars novels, but don't hold that against him.

I watched the Netflix series and I really liked the premise but found the story and acting lacking in some areas.

However I really liked the noir protagonist and the scene you described was my favorite episode in the show. I am interested how the story continues.

Are the books much better than the show? How would you rate the trilogy among your favorite cyberpunk novels? Thanks.

I'd rate the second book (broken angels) as one of my favourite sci-fi books (which might include tiger,Tiger/the stars my destination, neuromancer, fire upon the deep, holy Fire... There are many great ones).

I started with that one though, and then read the other two.

I'd say overall as a triology, it rates alongside neuromancer /the sprawl triology. A little more pulp - but a similar serious take on technological evolution.

[ed: the netflix series is to ac, a little like the Johnny Mnemonic film is to the short story. Although the series is a bit closer to the books]

Broken Angels is also my favorite. Kovacs is an extremely complex character. He's been tweaked so much, in becoming an Envoy, that he's fundamentally an AI. He's somewhat like the vampires in Peter Watts' novels.

Also, I'm very impressed by Morgan's skill in writing action. Maybe that's what you mean by "pulp".

I also loved the "A Land Fit For Heroes" trilogy. I hadn't read fantasy for years. And from that, I discovered Joe Abercrombie and Matthew Woodring Stover.

Are the books much better than the show?

Significantly. I have read the trilogy several times, and the Netflix series, whilst cool, doesn't come close to the depth and pacing of the books.

By the way, Bruce Sterling's "Holy Fire" offers some thoughts on extended life, in a more near-future, no jumping bodies/sleeves setting.

In Hannu Rajaniemi's "Flower Prince" trilogy, the vast majority of digital consciousnesses become coding slaves.

It's a bit pretentious to think that any being would bother to spend precious free energy to torture a bunch of lowly humans don't you think. Hence not worried.

Reminds me a bit of Neuromancer, too.


From the HN Guidelines:

"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."


"Please don't complain that a submission is inappropriate. If a story is spam or off-topic, flag it. Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead. If you flag something, please don't also comment that you did."


Yea, I get the mod rules, but this is bad.

The purpose of YCombinator was to start new companies, not to argue about brain slices.

If you want to argue about brain slices, that's cool, I'm just saying. Not what this discussion board was meant for.

“Burdening future generations with our brain banks is just comically arrogant. Aren’t we leaving them with enough problems?” Hendricks told me this week after reviewing Nectome’s website. “I hope future people are appalled that in the 21st century, the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever on the backs of their descendants. I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys.”

Best part of the article for sure

Anyone who is cryopreserved, but is viewed as a villian in the zeitgeist of the future, could end up being booted up into a personal hell for the amusement/vindictiveness of future people.

If a 'Hitler' VM was publicly available online, how many people would torture it? What are the ethics around torturing virtual consciousnesses of evil people?

A heads up for anyone interested in such matters, but an episode in the latest season of Black Mirror is specifically about this :-) (Indeed, most of the season is about the ethics of simulated consciousness in various ways.)

Great show. Loved season 3. White Christmas in season 2 also touches on this.

As an alternative here's a outline of a resonable way someone might opensource their mind (credit to DataPacRat): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nRSRWbAqtC48rPv5NG6kzggL...

That reminds me of a story, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" by Ted Chiang, in which people keep AIs as pets. But they don't dare let them on the internet because when they did, trolls would torture them. So the AIs could only live in walled garden type virtual worlds.

Iain Banks' novel "Surface Detail" describes virtual hells where people can be tortured for eternity.

Because it’s fine and dandy to torture or dehumanize people you disagree with like evil Nazis, left/right wingers, people who eat pizza on tuesdays - so long as the powers that be sanction and approve it. I look forward to our future “torture Hitler” VR amusement parks.

Altered Carbon explores virtual torture pretty extensively in its first season. Acting is sub-par, but concepts are intriguing as all hell.

I imagine archaeologists of the future will talk condescendingly about us the same way we talk about the ancient Egyptians and their quaint belief that things they did to the body would have some kind of effect in the afterlife.

Nonetheless, here in our time, it brilliantly crosses/combines...

funeral services, a highly lucrative field

scifi, including all its expansiveness

the desperate compensatory technological hubris of people who know deep down that the world is quietly going down the shitter

and/or narcissism (on which nobody ever went broke)

We don't say the same thing about egyptian pharohs and embalming. We consider it a very interesting treasure of history. I'm sure if embalming was a process that let us revive ancient people, we'd do so because we'd really want to learn from them.

Guy needs to not be so pessimistic.

I'm sure most of us spend more than $10000 each year on prolonging our lives (food and rent). It doesn't seem very selfish to do it just once more.

Is $10k the full price of getting this done? I thought it was just the deposit to get on the waiting list.

Good question. I'm not sure exactly, but it seems the right order of magnitude. Alcor's website says that they cost $80k, and this should be cheaper since they don't need to keep the liquid nitrogen topped up.

Food and rent actually work.

My favourite:

> Altman tells MIT Technology Review he’s pretty sure minds will be digitized in his lifetime. “I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” he says.

It's like the cloud is _still_ just a pseudo-magical place [0] we just need to get access to, then all our dreams can come true.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digimon

> It's like the cloud is _still_ just a pseudo-magical place

Like Tahiti. It's a magical place.

That part of the article was frankly outright disgusting. Laughing and mocking people for trying to save people's lives is cartoon bad guy. Making deluded strawman argument in order to discourage life-saving measures is horrifically unethical.

Dying is not something to be paraded around as a virtue. I only hope people figure it out sooner rather than later.

I don't feel too bad about it. If economic growth stays even slightly positive it won't take too many generations for our descendants to be unimaginably more wealthy than we are. They can put up with our brain banks and dry their tears with their one dollar notes that are worth $1,000 in 2018 dollars.

That's not how inflation works - in the future, the value of the dollar will be less, not more.

Not universally: The value of $1 (nominal) worth of computing resources and information storage in 2018 is surely thousands of times the value of $1 (nominal) worth of the same in 1958.

EDIT: Some quick math on deflation in storage costs. The IBM 305 RAMAC[1] was introduced in 1956, provided 5MB of magnetic storage and cost $3,200/month in 1956 dollars. To pick a random modern storage provider with a similar pricing model, in 2018 Dropbox offers 1TB for $10/month. Putting aside all the other advantages Dropbox gives you over a 305, the pure storage value of $1 (nominal) has gone from 1.6KB/month to 100GB/month, a multiple of over 50 million.

[1] https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/650/650_pr2.html

Focusing on the exceptions doesn't help the rule. You could get an average US house for $20k and a brand new car for $2k in 1956, and a $4k annual income was a comfortable middle class living. Commercial flight wasn't just prohibitively expensive by modern standards in 1856, it was impossible, but you could live on $100 a year at the time.

If you want to pay 2118 people to resuscitate you (in the unlikely event the technology is feasible and people are willing and able and developed) you're going to need to invest that money well.

It is how investments and productivity gains work, however.

We are incredibly more wealthy than people of a hundred years ago, in almost every respect.

Yeah, one way I like to think about is if you could trade your current life for being a billionaire 100, 200, etc years ago, would you?

>their one dollar notes that are worth $1,000 in 2018 dollars.

The fed would never allow this to happen. That would be deflation.

What we should pray for is $0.25 loaves of bread, $10 rent, and a $1000 minimum wage.

We want a future where human time is valued and basic resources are plentiful enough to be cheap for everyone.

That is still deflation. Deflation is any decrease in the general price level of goods and services. It does not matter if it is due to increased production by advanced AI robots, etc. After all, if you knew you can get something cheaper tomorrow, why spend at all? Like you said, the Fed will run against this.

I wasn't trying to be pedantic, but if you want to go there, feel free to consult the chart[1]. There's plenty that's become more expensive in real dollars, and there exists a strange cohort of people that believe real wage gains are a form of inflation. My worry is that these same people frequently sit at the helm of our monetary system.

My point remains:

> We want a future where human time is valued and basic resources are plentiful enough to be cheap for everyone.

1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-chart-shows-the-moder...

because you need food to live. no amount of tightness on spending can delay the necessity of food.

it always boggles me why people scoff at deflationary economics with this line of reasoning - i see little evidence that the average person is so wise with spending money today.

It always boggles me that people scoff at the notion of people deferring many purchases and not investing at all in a deflationary economy because the relatively small fraction of spending which is necessary for survival is likely to be unaffected.

Seems like a big bet on the concept that the physical structure of the brain preserves enough information to resurrect a consciousness. If electrical transmissions are at all required, then this would render a brain nothing more than an amusing curio.

Although, given that their target market is already those planning to be euthanized, I suppose the tradeoff of one's brain being an amusing curio vs. one's brain being worm food is not a reason to avoid this service.

If they are correct, it brings up an interesting question: given that the technology requires a slow, planned process to preserve the brain, at what point should a uniquely brilliant person be euthanized, in order to preserve them, rather than allowing them to die by sudden misadventure, e.g. not paying attention and getting hit by a car crossing the street.

Given that the output of so many brilliant people is skewed to when they are young, do we just start proactively euthanizing the top 0.05% of the population when they reach 50, to preserve our best for the future?

Clearly, morality and the greater good of humanity requires that we proactively euthanize any genius who hits 60. Even against their will. All assets should go to the euthanasia team to cover costs.

Do you refer to a certain Star Trek episode? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_a_Life_(Star_Trek:_The_...

(Ritual suicide at age 60 embedded in culture)

I had forgotten about this. I bet I subsciously used it.

I was actually thinking of Logan’s Run when writing my comment.

Or Logan's Run.

(Ritual suicide embedded in culture, age 21 in the novel and 30 in the film)

RIP David Ogden Stiers [1]. That episode of Trek might be the only thing I ever saw him other than MASH but I found him quite good in both.


Also found in Asimov's Pebble in the Sky.

Or, you know, you could just clone them, like Riker. Or make a copy without invasive means.

And anyway, if people have cybernetic implants, I wonder what being human will mean.

People talk about how cybernetics will change what it means to be human, however I really believe we are already past that point.

My cell phone and computer augment my ability to do things to such a degree that I feel I'm not myself without those abilities. I rely on note apps to remember things, calendars to schedule, internet searches to re-discover information or lookup specifics. My social life, my professional life, and my personal life are all significantly changed by computers.

I honestly feel taking your eyes and hands out of the equation and putting stuff directly into your brain is going to be more evolutionary than revolutionary.

>If electrical transmissions are at all required, then this would render a brain nothing more than an amusing curio.

That fact that people sometimes survive lightning strikes and epileptic fits suggests that normal brain activity can be restarted after a disruption.

The current research in Neuro is that a memory a synaptic condition, in that some synapse is structured in some way in relation to other neurons. There are W-many GABA receptors and X-many vesicles, Y-many AMPA receptors and Z-many neurotransmitters. Each receptor is in some state of flux in terms of it's age and other chemical modifiers on the protein. The synapse itself is tethered in some way and has structural proteins in it (not all of which are known these days). The astrocytes and glia that surround each synapse are also modifying the region, including some uptake/downtake of receptors and neurotransmitter vesicles (cool, very recent stuff). Additionally, the cells themselves are regulating the synapses in relation to the other synapses in the cell and the extra-cellular environment. Note: not all neurons 'fire' via synapses, some are just directly attached to a cell's soma (main cell body where the nucleus is). It's Bio, everything is crazy.

Still, that synapse is thought to be the main modification area of neuronal firing, in that it acts like a classical memristor. So, though electrical activity is not required and lightning/shocks can be sustained (by some miracle), the 'self'/mind is the network of the synapses (GIANT caveats apply here). Also, even under heavy anesthesia, the neurons are firing and active, jsut not coherently.

If you can preserve the synaptic weights, their dynamics, and their network, you should be able to reconstruct the 'mind' of another person. However, that is one instant in time and space. You'd need to know where pretty much every ion was and it's momentum, and I'm pretty sure that's impossible (Heisenberg and all that jazz).

> You'd need to know where pretty much every ion was and it's momentum, and I'm pretty sure that's impossible.

As parent said, people do stuff like trans-cranial electric stimulation which surely changes where some ions are, yet they do not lose their personality afterwards.

I'm pretty sure our brain is more robust than the exact position of every ion. Biology is very messy, and stochastic.

Also note how artificial neural networks are very noise resistant, which allows people to run them on low-precission numbers.

I should have been more clear and said something like the 'current consciousness.' Thanks for the pointer!

Probably more like an estimation of your consciousness. ie: Your consciousness is currently running at ∂0.665 precision. To increase precision, please purchase our turbo max package at $15/day cost.

Another example is people undergoing deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, where they can only start surgery after an EEG showing no neural activity (electrocerebral silence).

Also, survivors of drowning in icy water. I linked to a review paper in another thread a while back.

> Given that the output of so many brilliant people is skewed to when they are young...

[citation needed]

Is this really the case? If so why do salaries increase with age? What do you mean by "young"? The bottom half of living people by age? How do you explain the years our children spend in school generating no value at all?

Are you sure that children do not generate value?

That’s a very unfavorable and disingenuous reading of my comment.

The portion of kaizendad’s comment that I replied to specifically mentioned “output”. I interpret this to mean economic benefit or “value”.

The time students spend in school is time they are not working. Children generate almost zero economic benefit until they are out of school and the type of person kaizendad references is likely to spend a lot of time in school. Their economic contributions probably do not start until their late 20s.

I think a persons maximum economic output is probability closer to middle age than their early adult years. Perhaps kaizendad and I simply misalign on the definition of “young”.

Your position on this is a little disturbing, and ignores every child/young adult who either grew up poor and had to work, or worked part time because their parents didnt buy them a car or every other thing they wanted as a teen. Or, they just actually wanted a job. I mean, in the US you can go anywhere and there's 15 and 16 year olds working as clerks, restaurant employees, etc. I got my first legally taxed job in Indiana as a 'root beer boy' at a diner when I was 14!



From link, "As of October 2015, 49 percent of all youth ages 16-24 were employed in any work, either full- or part-time. Youth enrolled in high school had an employment rate of 18 percent, while the rate for those in college, either full- or part-time, was 45 percent."

My position on this is not disturbing at all. My position on this is that education improves the future productivity of our youth. We trade economic productivity today for increases in future production.

You have cited a problem. The fact that we make children work to support their families holds them back from being the ones who kaizendad refers to.

Children who have the benefit of education early on are more likely to be productive later in life.

I also had my first paying job at a young age. My economic benefit today is much larger in comparison and continues to increase year over year. My maximum economic contribution has yet to occur even though my youthful employment was decades in the past.

I dunno, if this guy won't even look both ways maybe he doesn't actually deserve a slot in the cryo cooler.

This is going to sound a bit out there, but what if your brain is simply an antenna for your consciousness to come through from wherever. Has anyone actually tried to boot up an artificial brain derived from a real organism? I'd like to see a proof of concept that your brain IS indeed the seat of your consciousness, and not just a fancy quantum antenna.

If you've ever suffered from Depersonalization/Derealization disorder, it will become very clear that your mind and your consciousness are not the same thing at all.

DP/DR is quite possibly the worst mental disorder you can ever fall into. It is the feeling where you are convinced everything around you is not real, you see people you know, you know they are significant, but they just feel like actors in a show and you don't care. You look in the mirror, and you don't recognize yourself as you, you just see a body. Worse, your body just moves around the world and accomplish things on autopilot, while you watch everything unfold on what feels like a screen, completely detached. If you died, you wouldn't care much, because you wouldn't feel it's you dying, in fact you want to die, because you are trapped in a hell from which there is no escape.

I've never suffered from this disorder, but I investigated it for some time and am convinced it reveals something we do not yet understand about our existence in this world. The source of our existence may not be where we think it is.

Eh, easily attributed to brain chemistry and not necessarily anything woo.

please oblige and expand on this “easy attribution”. To be clear, it bothers me when we wave away the really hard problems - while we become too enchanted with solutions that barely build on current technology. This company injects chemicals near your brain stem and lets your heart pump it into all minuscule parts of your brain. The apparent allure comes from the potential development of a technology some time in the future that will allow a reanimation of the person seated in that saved brain.

the money they’ve raised so far is due to the possible improvements this proposed technology will bring to neuro research.

There is no known cause. Or cure for that matter.

That's not really a rebuttal of my point.

I have a serious medical condition. I frequently suffer somatopsychic side effects. It's incredible what chemistry can make you feel.

I happen to also believe in a lot of woo stuff. But the reality is that no known cause is not proof that there is a spiritual explanation or cause.


Sorry you aren't satisfied. There's plenty of information out there about somatopsychic side effects and we know drugs alter mental states all the time. That's so well established, I find it laughable that anyone would even question it.

I'm not very interested in seeking the Nobel Prize in this area. I am busy doing other things that I fantasize will lead to a Nobel Prize.


I am sorry that I was not satisfied.

Mind alterations are induced by drugs. Chemical imbalances influence the same. I just am not convinced that these evidences are enough.

Thank you.

If you are sincerely interested in the topic, starting by being dismissive and disrespectful of the individual you are addressing is not an effective means to start a good discussion.

I did a research paper in high school on Functional Hypoglycemia. Chronic low blood sugar is known to promote anxiety and paranoia. I've blogged about managing various somatopsychic side effects with diet, such as eating oranges for the vitamin c while enduring random fits of rage to get that under control and eating beef with potatoes to mediate the salt lithium connection and calm bipolar-like mood swings.

But I am not interested in fighting some uphill battle to convince a skeptic who is just pissing all over me with every reply. So I had no reason to stick my neck out and share any of that. I get enough flak from the world for managing my medical condition with diet and lifestyle.

Edit: There's also lots of interesting stuff about nutrition and state of mind in this discussion about nutrition and the prison population: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16140867#16141719

all right. thank you for sharing the resources and information.

I am not invested in this topic, although I should be. In fact, some of the information you shared is valuable to my personal life.

I have a problem with oversimplification of hard problems, then claiming that they are currently understood. Then proceeding to build more extravagant and potentially dangerous solutions on the said platform.

The point you are debating - that of the influence of salts/neurotransmitters/more on brain chemistry, and hence on one’s mental state, can be so profound as to create a world where one experiences a vastly different emotional response to everyday events than what most others anticipate - is understood.

I contested that this is not enough to encourage experimentation with consciousness itself.

edit: the impact of chemistry can render itself in ways where the idea of one’s personality becomes fluid. chemistry can control my reaction to simple things, and render my ability to live my life debilitated. I understand that chemistry can shake at the very sense of having control over my self. I also understand that the external world barely acknowledges the role of chemistry in this, and likes to blame it wholly on the individual.

I contested that this is not enough to encourage experimentation with consciousness itself.

You are reading in something I never said or addressed in any way.

AFAIK, it's frequently linked to anxiety, and SSRIs do a good job of treating it.

I suffered this for... A month? I honestly can't remember. That whole time is unfortunately a blur. What triggered it for me was intense anxiety - I've read theories that DP/DR is your brains way of coping with extremely traumatic experiences, and retreats into itself. Fortunately for me, nothing of that sort happened to trigger my anxiety :) I've essentially fixed the anxiety with a lot of walking and meditation. I wouldn't wish the hell on my worst enemy. It can make depression seem desirable.

From Reddit:

"DPDR is just your brain's ways to help you survive a situation you're unable to escape/fight. It tries to make you unaware of what's going on so you can endure it until it's over. It isn't supposed to be permanent. DPDR itself isn't anything to fear."[0]


I've experienced this as well. Incredibly disorienting, and yet honestly it is the most relaxed I have been in my entire life. It was nice, nothing mattering; nobody mattering; nothing. Freedom from the weight of my own mind, for just awhile.

I've tried for years to recreate the effect with no success.

Interesting topic to ponder! Sadly will be written off in our age of pseudoscientism. If you want to explore further there are definitely ways to temporarily induce this state!

Any links to interesting sources about this?

Read the subreddit for DP/DR victims. Many tortured souls there.

How then do you explain how physical injuries and external stimulation to the brain affect the brain's operation in ways that we increasingly understand? Not saying we're anywhere close to having it all figured out. But this is the sort of question you have to address to accept dualism. I'd certainly like to believe there's something more to my conscious existence than this perishable gray matter.

I prefer to believe instead that I'm a character in an MMORPG. But if that's true, my consciousness still resides within the simulation. At best, the entity controlling me has some superset of my consciousness. At worst, my consciousness is still totally disposable, and my player is just interested in a fun ride.

Well of course you start getting worse reception if the antenna breaks.

How do you explain being normal and having almost no brain at all:


This looks like a good example of the 80/20 rule: 80% of our brain matter is dedicated to the hardest last 20% of IQ points. (Only being slightly tongue-in-cheek here.)

Also, there's probably usually a lot of brain matter dedicated to redundancy, memories, and enabling connections between ideas to foster creativity, and this person may be lacking in these areas in hard-to-measure ways. If most of our brain truly had no purpose, evolution would have selected against it forever ago. (Instead, evolution went through large lengths to keep our heads so big.)

I agree this could be the other side of the coin. I'm not totally one sided on this. Its possible that consciousness and sentience arises from sheer complexity, I'm just not totally convinced, and there appear to be outliers and unaccounted for anomalies. In this case, 10% = IQ of 80 and totally functional within society. Pretty astonishing still.

This argument works just as well (or badly) against the brain is just an antenna hypothesis..

I agree. I point this out purely as an outlier that doesn't fit well with the "you are a product of the complexity of your brain matter, period." In this case, only 10% of your brain! Pretty astonishing. The man was totally functional in society, even though he had an IQ in the 80s. A broken antenna still gets most of the signal maybe, just not the high definition stuff.

> At worst,

You're just an NPC

That's pretty much what Descartes proposed! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactionism_(philosophy_of_....

My favourite argument against this idea is that it would violate the law of conservation of energy. In any case it looks to me that all these dualist theories of mind are non-falsifiable

It's irrelevant anyways, I would argue that what makes you you is not the emergent/transferred via antenna/magic consciousness - a.k.a. sensation of being a aware of your brain's processes.

Rather, the brain's processes themselves are probably what makes you you. Regardless of whether they generate consciousness, the biochemical sensory-processing, storage-and-modelling, and decision-making algorithms (which we can detect by looking at synapses) are where you lie.

If your brain was somehow modified to take completely different decisions and make different statements ('dumb' magic-less rewiring), with the magic/antenna/emergent/quantum/whatever consciousness part kept intact, I am pretty sure that I would not consider the resulting being 'me'.

Of course everyone is free to believe otherwise.

Your "me" is going to disappear. How do you convince your "me" that it is necessary to disappear? One possible explanation is that you will get another "me".

We know all the matter that the brain is made out of, and we know what interactions are possible with that matter, because we've done extensive experiments with particle accelerators. If there were something that affected baryonic matter besides the four fundamental forces, we would know about it.

In other words, we know with certainty that there is no physical mechanism by which some "external consciousness" could influence the brain. So the answer to that hypothesis is a definitive "nope, that's not how it works."

CalTech quantum physicist Sean Carrol explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x26a-ztpQs8&t=836

Maybe you don't need to make as grand a leap outside of mainstream physics as you think:


This idea has zero basis. It's a mind-brain version of Russell's Teapot: I claim there is a teapot floating between Earth and Mars, and I challenge you to prove otherwise!


It's what the majority of the world believes, and science has no idea what consciousness is. So, there is zero basis parent is wrong.

Plus, there are all kinds of problems and contradictions if the mind reduces to matter.

>It's what the majority of the world believes

This has never been a good proxy for truth. It is also completely irrelevant given that the majority of the world has never studied neuroscience.

>science has no idea what consciousness is

Not true. Neuroscience has discovered a lot about consciousness. I recommend Principles of Neural Science if you're interested: https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Neural-Science-Fifth-Kande...

>Plus, there are all kinds of problems and contradictions if the mind reduces to matter.

Such as?

Most of our life is lived off of beliefs the majority of the world believes. It is only an extremely small subset that we've reduced to science and technology.

Perhaps you can explain what science has discovered about consciousness. As far as I know, the closest is a network analysis metric used to signify whether something is conscious. But that does not tell us what consciousness is, only some of the necessary conditions, if that.

Here is a list of problems off the top of my head regarding material minds:

- Math is inherently immaterial. I cannot destroy the number 1. Infinity cannot physically exist. Negative numbers, zero, imaginary numbers, the real number line do not correspond to physical objects.

- If our mind is material, there is no way we can know any kind of truth. Truth doesn't really have meaning. Yet we do know some degree of truth.

- If consciousness is a particular configuration, then the same configuration is the same consciousness, which would imply instantaneous awareness of two completely distinct parts of the universe by the same consciousness with two copies of the configuration.

- Free will and qualia have no meaning in a materialistic worldview, yet are essential to just about everything we do everyday.

If only reality conformed to democratic norms...

It usually does, hence why they are democratic.

Matter + electricity.

What problems and contradictions?

How can matter + electricity access immaterial mathematical objects?

What do you mean by "access"?

We do math. Math is immaterial. How then can we do math if we are only material? Matter has no insight into the immaterial world.

> Has anyone actually tried to boot up an artificial brain derived from a real organism?


I've heard of this and have been eagerly anticipating some results. I'd like to see it trained to do something unique, uploaded, and that some behavior arise in the uploaded version. I'm not totally against consciousness arising from sufficient complexity, but I've yet to see it proven.

And then there are the normal people walking around with almost NO brain...


OpenWorm isn't a process for uploading a specific biological worm. It's a connectome for a generic C. elegans worm. Apparently they're all (more or less) the same.

Thanks for sharing this. Funny thing is, I've been thinking more and more that this seems like at least as plausible an explanation of consciousness as any, but hesitated to share the thought since, if it's not falsifiable, it's not really science (and we can't use the tools of science to verify it).

Still, I find it at least as likely as the "consciousness just sort of happens when information processing gets complex enough" explanation.

You might find this interesting https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-spin-on-the-quantum-bra...

Thanks. I have exact same thought.

Don't get me wrong, I think consciousness arising from sufficient complexity is also very much a possible answer, and I don't discount it. I'm just not totally convinced that there isn't more too it. Until a general AI arises, I don't think I will be convinced, and even if it did, who's to say it inst still just an approximation? Multiple AI intelligence domains slapped together with some approximation of a pre-frontal cortex. Even then, biology may still be something entirely different.

Sure, you start venturing into the supernatural realm talking about this, but who's to say that given sufficient time and study of this phenomena, the supposed "consciousness is everywhere" becomes the new natural science, and gives rise to new technologies we couldn't even conceive. It would be like discovering Electromagnetism all over again.

What if there's less to it? What if consciousness is just an illusion, "you" only really exist in the moment, and the feeling of a connection to the "you" of a moment ago and the "you" to come in the next moment doesn't reflect an actual continuing independent existence?

Yeah, this seems likely to be true, and also arguably really sad, since it means your consciousness essentially is "dying" every second. Fun times!

Well, on the other hand, we are able to create joy and the rich array of emotions we feel through those moments, and against the scale of an eternal(well.... ish..) universe, creating joy for a future being is about all we have, whether that's an iteration of ourselves or someone else.

Then again, the last time I checked we don't actually know if time is quantized or not, or if that's even a meaningful question.

A slightly modified version of this idea is explored in https://existentialcomics.com/comic/1

> I'd like to see a proof of concept that your brain IS indeed the seat of your consciousness.

The concept of "multiple realizability" says that a brain/consciousness/mental state can arise from non-biological matter, like digital computers.

Modern proponents of this view do not view the brain as a seat of consciousness. To them, the view of a singular consciousness that houses in the brain like a theatre, is like a Descartesian illusion. Consciousness is distributed and all parts of "you" and your environment contribute.

As for "out there": I am always a bit worried when archeologists unearth some treasures with our current state of technology. Likely, in a 100 years they will have much better methods to research and preserve unearthed treasure, and so we may be spoiling their more effective methods by digging it up and putting it on display. What if, after the 8th great AI hype, another YC company claims it has found successful methods to upload your consciousness, which is 100% fatal to your preserved brain in the process? You'll be stuck in the MVP FORTRAN digital world of uploaded consciousnesses.

Or maybe they take our current infatuation with AGI to mean permission to create a huge ensemble of preserved brains, filling an entire room like did our 1960s computers, because it turned out that consciousness is only transferable to biological "organisms", and the only way to superhuman intelligence is to combine 20 human intelligences. The AI hype bubble will become a literal fulfilling prophecy.

I personally would either jail these consciousnesses (honor their will, but put them in a boring digital world with Archive.org access to the internet) or put them on display, much like we do with preserved Egyptian Pharaoh's. I'd call it Earth, and make Trump a president.

This was quite hilarious to envision. Thank you.

I myself worry that even if somehow we combine all these domain specific AI's with some approximation of a neo-cortex, and then every AI researcher says "See, there it is! Behold the AGI, told you there was nothing to it!", all we're REALLY going to get is an approximation of the real thing. Then we'll be too busy playing with our new AGI's to realize we missed the mark long ago. The new treasure preservation technology never even arises because victory was declared prematurely. We hit another mark instead of the real thing. Constant refinement of the bizarro superman version of real consciousness.

I hypothesize the REAL mark being that somewhere in the brain, quantum effects, maybe in microtubules, couple with some yet to be conceived discoveries or epithanies, act as a conduit to your real consciousness software existing somewhere "out there" in the simulation ether lets suppose. Extrapolate the AI hype and one day the super intelligent Matrioshka planet size brain emerges (YC backed of course), pours over ancient abandoned research and points out "Hey, you dumb monkeys missed something Yuge here eons ago..."

Even as a Christian, I think the idea of a human being more than the dust they're made of is only wishful thinking. If consciousness is not sourced from the brain, then why is memory so dependent on the brain?

Maybe memory is overrated in the great scheme of things.

sure, remove memory. and decision making, that's biochemical too. And personality? probably. Remove some impulses and reflexes and primordial pathways. Now that's the real you! What's left, though?

My comment was related to the OP comment. When you were born, you didn't have any reminiscent memory, because memory is intrinsically related to your physical brain. If you damage your brain, you could lose memory or change completely what you call "self". If you are a Christian and believe in after-life, a good way to reconcile this is downplaying the importance of memory itself (overrated). But this is related the OP's point of view (Christians believe in after-life). I, personally, don't believe in after-life, so everything you are is in your brain and memory is crucial.

FYI, I still believe in an afterlife. The bible talks about a resurrection where all will be raised from the dead for judgement. It's common misconception to think we float off to heaven or hell as disembodied souls. The difference is we will again have physical bodies, and thus have the capacity for consciousness and memory again.

Oh boy, I think I asked for that.

As a Christian, I tend to agree. I suspect the "soul" is simply the mathematical description of a particular consciousness (or class of consciousnesses).

The range of different effects that a brain injury can have on your mind is too great, IMO, for this to be true. Consider cases where people forget very specific classes of things, or gain or lose specific faculties, in response to neural trauma. Damage to the brain affects the functionality of the mind itself, not just how clearly the mind can see its inputs and convey its outputs.

Especially when you think about the studies on split-brain patients. That's hard to square away with the idea of our mind being somewhere else transmitting to us ... unless you hypothesize that for every person, there's two minds out there, each transmitting to half of your brain, and then your brain meshes their thoughts together ... but if your brain is capable of integrating the thoughts together, then the argument is weakening as clearly the brain has some thinking ability.

Yeah, for every experiment / example / specimen we know of that changes some function F of the mind, it rules out the possibility of F being performed 'elsewhere' and the results simply being received.

We're at the point now where your 'receiver' is doing basically all the work and, if it's connected to anything else, that thing just supplies formless 'mojo' that has no identifiable effect on the working of the mind.

See also: When you are drunk, it is not like you are fully lucid but unable to control your body or your mouth. Your mind/personality itself actually changes.

And of course you cannot will yourself to become drunk.

It is pretty trivial that the matter affects the mind, not vice versa.

I'm not sure what that person's version of the antenna idea is, but mine generally implies the brain is still in charge of the actual effects themselves, but needs somewhere to send it all to. The "somewhere" isn't chemical, and is just a receiver, and can't do anything if the sender (the brain) is damaged.

The "somewhere" is distinguished due to the fact that a given person is a specific person and not another person (if you deny this, this makes ethics and emphatic transfer unworkable, which doesn't seem right).

The trivial dismissal of most of these problems is to realize that whatever features we have must have evolved, and it would be a statistical miracle for the substrate that evolution discovered to just happen to be uniquely capable of dualism.

Also, does every animal with a brain have a dualist mind out there too? What's the limit? Does a worm with a few hundred neurons have a non-physical mind connection? Does your digestive system with its millions of neurons have its own non-physical mind out there too?

Even assuming that it is an antenna, then if your antenna is the only one receiving your consciousness then it is the seat of your consciousness or equivalent, i.e. its reasonable to assume that if you restore the antenna you will restore the consciousness in place (I am leveraging the fact that you called it a seat). On the other side of the coin, with embodied consciousness you could raise other potential issues with preservation of the brain alone. Connection between gut bacteria and mental conditions are being researched with some results confirming hypotheses there.

I completely agree that leaving out the gut-brain connection may be a huge error in our quest for General AI simulation. I'm not sure that I agree that simulating neurons in silicon form is equivalent to restoring the antenna though. There may be a quantum link that only neurons have functionally.

They are already finding quantum effects in plants:


And that our brain contains micro-tubules that exhibit quantum effects:


Maybe they ARE the antenna.

Well, maybe if that theory is true, then if the connection is "severed," so to speak, there's no way to restore it?

The burden of proof is on you to prove that there is a "quantum antenna".

This is like the guys who says "prove to me god doesn't exist". Well, it doesn't work that way. You came to me with the "god exists" or "there is an antenna that connects my brain to some magic world". You prove that it is there and show me how it works.

And this antenna does not necessarily reside in your brain. Fascinating TED lecture: E.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBGt5OeAQFk

Yes, this is an idea one discussed and heard discussed before.

Of course, everything we perceive the material world to be is merely a concept we are holding in our mind.

DNA is an idea.

What a fascinating idea. Did you take it from somewhere or did you conceive it by yourself? I would love to read about it.

This idea's been passed around the psychedelic community, even so far as to suggest a drug like LSD or DMT changes your brain chemistry enough that you receive a different form of consciousness, endowing one with everything from the ability to commune with "machine elves" to providing a priori insight into the unitary nature of existence. Unfortunately these ideas get weaved within New Age-type thinking and I tend to lend them no credence. [1]

Similarly, if consciousness is a fundamental component of the Universe/reality, it may not supervene (a technical term in philosophy) on the physical structures of the brain. [2]

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1340425/

[2] See the arguments of the philosopher David Chalmers.

I got interested in the notion of plant intelligence lately; my conjecture is: mushrooms produce psilocybin for themselves, to improve their own creativity and/or life experience :)

The brain has a fascination with itself.

It's "substance dualism" or "Cartesian dualism", if you're assuming that the "elsewhere" is somewhere non-physical. If you're assuming the elsewhere is somewhere in the material world, I don't know if there's a word for that, but its been discussed a couple times -- most memorably in Anathem, the Neal Stephenson book where I stole my username from :)

In my fantasy world, I personally always thought of it as a gateway to a higher realm where our consciousness exists.

It’s called dualism, and you’re basically proposing a soul in 21st century language. Like a soul, it’s not testable, and lacks any evidence in favor of it, while requiring a new set of assumptions which cannot be tested. You’re also proposing some kind of new physics, which again, is somehow complementary to and yet hidden from current current theories.


There’s zero evidence of quantum mechanical effects playing a role in any aspect of cognition. Worse, the classical model suffices. Far worse, the review you cited has been thoroughly trashed.



The “quantum mind” is just another case of quantum mechanics being used as the new woo of choice where “because God said so” wouldn’t be well received. Believe me, I’d love to discover that we’re not just meat hurtling towards our own extinction, but the evidence doesn’t bear out a rosier hypothesis. Even with the surprising duration of coherent state in “hot” systems, the human brain is a poor candidate for a quantum mechanical system, and the math strongly supports that. Where quantum mechanics is concerned, math is God.

It is not hidden, we don't have a complete physical theory - quantum mechanics and general relativity are not compatible.

As an additional fun fact - we don't know how general anesthesia works.

Gaps in knowledge don’t imply gods in them, and especially really tight gaps imply nothing more than a gap in knowledge. The precise mechanism of GA isn’t certain, but it is known that disruption of hippocampal function is key, and no one is seriously suggesting thst it’s disconnection from “the soul” that does it. A theory of quantum gravity would be complementary to QM and GR, and that leaves no room for remote soul control either.

It’s just not scientific or rational to point at some things we don’t understand with the assumption that it must mean God did it. That’s mysticism and religion, not science, and if it uses the language of science, but not the substance it’s called pseudoscience.

If you want to postulate a soul within the rubric of QM/GR complementary theories, it’s very much on you to hypothesize and test. What field is carrying the signal? What machinery is receiving it? What’s sending it? Why is there no lag? Why is it all totally undetectable? Why are we trying to add a whole new set of assumptions on top of existing ones? Occam’s Razor really applies here, especially when it’s science vs. “devoutly to be wished.”

Just because we want reality to conform to ancient beliefs and present desires doesn’t make it so.

Nobody saying there is a god or soul, but explanation can be in unknown parts of physics and surprisingly we have that unknown parts.

We have unexplained phenomenon - consciousness, everyone (well, at least me) experience it. We don't have the mechanism for it, so we reject that phenomenon exists. I don't think it's a good idea to outright reject hypothesis, that have evidences behind it, but don't have a mechanism. Remember what happened to theory of washing hands for surgeons or to continental drift (it took half a century for it to be taken seriously!)

You haven't proven that it's not testable.

It's non-falsifiable, which is the actual standard of science, because we don't have a test for it yet. We'd have to have something to observe and measure, something to test. As some quick examples for this specific case:

* There are mental disorders, drugs, experiences that seem to imply dualism; those are entirely inside those people's mind with no way to prove those experiences are true, or simply products of the brain.

* Damage to a brain seems to change consciousness (this is falsifiable, and proven) which seems to suggest that it is where our consciousness is; damaging the receiver damages the connection, it's obvious that something must bind the consciousness.

This is a well thought about topic. If you have some sort of falsifiable test, please suggest it, otherwise, far wiser people have tried and failed to think of one (and as a note, it's up to you to prove that your hypothesis can be falsified, it's your claim).

> It's non-falsifiable

You just made an assertion. Now you have to prove it.

If the idea that the spirit is another fundamental force of nature is true, then it can be tested and be falsifiable.

I can't think of a test, many people haven't been able to, and neither can you apparently, until someone has a test it is effectively non-falsifiable.

Science isn't about proof, if observations change (primarily improve) then we change what we think we know. Which is why the above is all the "proof" I need. you can falsify it very simply. Provide a test. I have met my burden.

So, if you can't back up the assertion that it's not testable, you have "effectively" lost the argument.

Go back 90 years. How do you know there isn't a 4th fundamental force of nature?

Science isn't about making assertions and not being able to back it up.

> So, if you can't back up the assertion that it's not testable, you have "effectively" lost the argument.

I have backed up the assertion. I have pointed to the existing literature, and the many people who have tried and failed to write a test. I have a very basic hypothesis, one that could be broken by a very simple piece of evidence: a test.

But here is the real problem. You are treating this as an argument. And I am not. This isn't about winning or loosing to me, I am just trying to understand the universe better (as are the people above saying this isn't falsifiable), and you want to win. Besides if this were a proper argument, you'd have a clearly stated position I could argue against, and you don't seem to have one (outside of 'dualism can be proven', which is a ridiculous assertion, easily refuted).

> Go back 90 years. How do you know there isn't a 4th fundamental force of nature?

How do you know there isn't a fifth now? We have no clue how we would test for it, but there are unexplained phenomena which might involve a fifth force (dark matter and the perplexing way that gravity works for example). Saying something is non-falsifiable doesn't mean it's "proven" to be wrong. Just that science can't say anything about it yet. With more knowledge and more time we learn that our previous understanding was wrong, and that we can test for new things we couldn't even imagine before (and some that we could).

> Science isn't about making assertions and not being able to back it up.

You're right, it's not. Which is why I have been able to back it up, by pointing out that many very smart people (scientists among them) have tried to think of a way to test this and failed. My assertion stands with the caveat all science has: given what we know now. Science is wrong all the time - I don't mind being wrong about this - but for the time being it appears true. And that is what is useful.

If you think it's testable, then you should write up a test and, hopefully, carry it out.

That's kind of missing his point. "Russell's Teapot" is a mental exercise that states the person making the claim that is nonstandard of current thought needs to provide proof. He's suggesting that there IS some way to provide proof perhaps, one way or the other.

Doesn't work here, since Erlangolem made the statement that it's not testable.

Erlangolem made that explicit assertion, and now has to back up that statement up.

I don’t, because this is nothing new and all of the ground has been covered. The argument over an ability to test, or not, spiritual matters is older than us, and I doubt that this site wants theological arguments. In short, I replied to someone restating an ancient concept, and I replied with a very old rejoinder. Souls and gods are not rational, and the argument inevitably is just a matter of one side finding gaps in knowledge to shoehorn beliefs, and the other tightening the screws. It literally never ends, and it’s the opposite of intellectual stimulation.

If you really want that argument, life and the internet are overloaded with opportunities to have it until all parties are dead. Very little ever moves or happens, but occasionally someone gets a book deal.

This is what I've always thought. I think the structure of DNA or proteins themselves is that antenna that interacts with a fifth fundamental force of nature - which is that life spirit.

It seems interesting from the perspective of the customer, but the really interesting thing is that if this succeeds, they will have access to brain imaging data that no one else has. You can't normally get such detailed scans of a human brain, because it requires the human to die. It's a business model that allows them to accelerate the pace of research without the human rights violations that come from human experimentation. The real value in this company is in what research arises from the data they gather, while being funded by people paying to donate their brains to research. It's a diabolical everybody wins situation.

They aren't scanning the brains. They are just plasticizing them. The electron microscope scan was just to demo that the plasticizing actually worked, but it required cutting up the brain into slices. That isn't part of the procedure as far as I can tell.

My mistake then. That's unfortunate, and less interesting then.

It's unclear to me how the euthanized brain donors "win" in the absence of proof that memories can be recovered.

They're going to die anyway and get to contribute to scientific progress and get the best chance possible today for immortality.

They could contribute to scientific progress by donating the money to a research university. Depending on your concept of immortality donating sperm or eggs seems to have a higher chance of success.

It's not a guaranteed win, no. However, if they are at the point where they wish to be euthanized then their outlook is grim. However, even a minuscule chance is better than zero chance, correct? In addition, by donating their brain structure they're directly fueling the research needed to improve that chance.

They certainly don't lose. They are all to be patients who are going soon anyways, who opt for the process.

“What if we told you we can backup your mind?” ...and never restore it.

As someone who has lived through many backup formats that stop being supported, don’t work, or decay with time this seems monumentally stupid as anything other than basic research.

I applaud their goal, digital sentience, but sorry for any of their customers. They need a pitch that works on the recently dead (eg, current cryo companies) as I don’t think there are any countries that allow euthenasia for life extension purposes.

Backup is a misnomer here--it's a fixation of the biological tissues. So the format for preservation matches the structure of the original neural tissue down do the nanometer scale, which is a format nature has deemed appropriate to stabilize on the time scales we care about.

I agree that there's research to be done, which is why we're not offering a product at this time, and may not for years.

I would say that even more research needs to be done for any hope of a protocol that preserves synaptic details in postmortem cases hours after death (as many cryonics companies seem to be peddling). If you're saying "recently" to mean <20 minutes after death, that complicates the distribution enormously, but it's not outside the realm of what Nectome may develop later.

> Backup is a misnomer here

From their site:

"What if we told you we could back up your mind?"

Then why even say it requires euthanasia. If they are still researching it, would you want a non-destructive scan as the end functionality.

Honestly? Because we are new at press, and were pressed for how we might offer it in the near term.

What probability of restoration would be high enough to consider it? The future timelines in which restoration does happen are probably extremely interesting to be part of, given how far tech would have progressed. (There are lots of sucky future timelines too, say with nuclear holocausts, where you'd be unlikely to be restored.)

No: 100% chance of death.

Yes: 100-X% chance of death, X% chance of getting to see a super-interesting future.

For me, X wouldn't have to be very high to make it worth trying.

There's no chance of you getting to see a "super-interesting future". This comment is as weird to me as confusing a book on Relativity with Einstein. If you had a terminal disease, and a twin, would you expect to wake up in the body of your twin after death?

A twin does not have a shared memory history with yourself, though. I don't think its a stretch to say that two brains with the same memories are in fact, the same person identity-wise. It is why we are considered the same person after having a seizure, or falling asleep, or waking from a coma (or any other consciousness-halting event).

We're even more liberal with the concept of identity in society -- consider that I share nearly nothing (physical or memory) with 1-day old me, yet we are considered the same person.

If I had a terminal illness, and I had the option of having a healthy twin come into existence with all of my memories, goals, and creativity, I'd spend anything on that option. It's a shame if there's some sense it's not "really me", but what I care about is that my friends don't get a me-shaped hole in their lives, that my responsibilities continue to be taken care of, and my goals keep getting met in the way I hoped I could do.

Well, people raise children, mentor others, create art, build real and abstract things that outlive them. I'm not sure why a twin with your memories and abilities would necessarily be the best possible creation. To me, someone who can only be satisfied by that appears to be somewhat lacking in identification with the rest of humanity.

As someone relatively young still, if I found myself on an early deathbed, it wouldn't do much to comfort me to imagine that perhaps most others are content with what they've created by the time they reach their deathbed. The best thing for me would be more time to create things/impact myself, and the next best thing would be an agent that I'm confident that would finish up (or continue) those things the very same way I would've done. Maybe those aren't entirely different outcomes depending on the fidelity of the agent and my interpretation of identity.

The weird part is why you think you existed 10 minutes and why you think you will exist in 10minutes.

Logically, there is no reason I can give why in 10 minutes, my consciousness and yours will not switch places. If it happened in the past, neither of us would know. Yet I still experience being me right now, just "because".

Really, what we have here is a quasi-religio-philosophical argument for reincarnation. I'm somewhat sympathetic to the idea of reincarnation after death, in fact, but I think people who believe in uploading minds are implicitly pretending to have knowledge about the process that nobody has.

Any rules for where your consciousness ends up in the next instant in the event of a discontinuity are made up based on your preferences and prejudices. One may wish to believe that a computer that stores the patterns of your living brain captures your mind after you die, but it's no more or less valid (i.e. probable, provable) that the cliche that you are reincarnated into some particular living entity as reward or punishment for how you lived your life.

Reincarnation is, in my opinion, outside the realm of science, so I don't disbelieve in it, I merely doubt it is possible to know anything about it due to the impossibility of investigating scientifically.

...and "mind-uploading" is merely a subset of human invented systems of reincarnation.

Alternate formulation:

Trade 99% chance of seeing tomorrow even if terminally ill for a 100% chance of not seeing tomorrow and a chance of resurrection which probability-wise is on a par with $insertreligionhere being broadly correct about the afterlife.

Assuming there is a cost, the trade off is reduced money to your heirs or charity.

So while it is non-zero, that doesn’t mean it’s worth the cost. That’s why I brought up backups.

Remember Zip drives for backup? Imagine if there was no reader at time of launch. And how likely it was to build the reader without any changes to spec that the existing Zip disk could be used to restore without any problems. Even with read and write available, those things didn’t work well. You could say “0% chance of restore if you don’t buy, but non-zero if you do buy; therefore buy.” But that only works if the cost is zero.

Would you pay 5% of your net worth for a 10% chance of recovery?

10% chance of recovery when? You can't talk about probability of a continuous unbounded time process without specifying a timeframe. Otherwise you end up with 100% or 0% as only possible answers.

That's true of a stationary Poisson process. But this is more like a race between two processes: developing the restoration tech vs. society collapsing or a fire in the storage facility. It's perfectly valid to talk about the probability of one continuous unbounded time process happening before another.

Certainly. But I wouldn’t pay 5% of my net worth for a 0.0000000001% chance of recovery. As it is now, the chance of recovery is approaching 1 ininfinity.

You’re just as likely to be “recovered” from a photograph. Or from your Facebook profile. Or by tracing neutrinos that passed through you during your lifetime. Or a rock with your name written on it with a sharpie.

All of these things have the same evidenced probability of assisting with your recovery.

"I hope future people are appalled that in the 21st century, the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever"

I hope nobody tells this guy about chemotherapy, he's gonna flip.

> I hope nobody tells this guy about chemotherapy, he's gonna flip.

Or about vaccines. Or about antibiotics. Or about sterile surgery procedures. Or about running water and electricity. Or about....

Just about everything that makes up our modern quality of life was only available to a privileged class when it first came on the scene.

My bet is that future people won't be appalled in the slightest.

Something tells me that Professor Hendricks isn't living a Neanderthal lifestyle (or even a modern Third World lifestyle).

these are all significantly different from living forever

Underneath it all, this is a manifestation of an important split in the cryonics community.

One group is (I think overly) critical of present vitrification approaches and the planned future of those approaches. They believe that these approaches are broken, and nothing of value is preserved. I think this is just as ridiculous as saying there is no room for improvement - it is clearly the case that, e.g. nematodes vitrified using the present technologies can be restored and show preserved memory.

That group has a strong overlap with pattern identity theorists, who are quite comfortable with a copy of them living in the future, and throwing away the original brain.

So the intersection of these two groups is motivated to work on technologies such as aldehyde-stablized cryopreservation (vitrifixation) that are incompatible with the future goal of thawing, restoration, and repair, as they are not reversible short of far distant molecular nanotechnology. Their aim is to produce the best possible record of data of the mind with the intent of reading into a machine environment in the future, then discarding it.

To my eyes this is a terrible, terrible, mistaken view on identity, and one that will cause a great deal of existential harm when it is extended from theory to action.

The rest of the cryonics community is interested in a technology path that leads to reversible vitrification in the near future, and some kind of union with the tissue engineering / organ engineering community. They want the flesh restored and repaired, and the end goal of cryopreservation is some form of advanced cell/bio/nanotechnology that can achieve that end.

This is why Alcor, etc, is not adopting vitrifixation.

So on the one hand, great to see progress, and vitrifixation is an excellent advance in tissue preservation in the general sense. It will be of use in many areas of research. On the other hand, pattern identity theory seems to have many of the aspects of religion. A copy of you is clearly not you, and no amount of handwaving is going to make that the case.

"A copy of you is clearly not you, and no amount of handwaving is going to make that the case."

What an unnuanced way of stating your opinion. Views on what "identity" is differ, clearly.

The philosophical difference between the two groups is very interesting. I tend to agree with your take, and would greatly prefer to see advances made in reversible vitrification so it can be widely used.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact