Uploading — A Little Wishful Fiction  

This is a short story (science fiction) about uploading. I initially posted it on alt.extropians on 1998 Jan 16th, with the title "Uploading — A Little Wishful Fiction".

Excerpts from the journal of David Jensen, an early mind transfer patient.

[] 2031 March 12th, Wednesday, 2:02 PM

Riding to my third and final briefing session with the brain surgeons. I review my notes from the last two sessions. At the first session they talked about early discoveries with the corpus callosum, (that's the big nerve bundle linking the left brain with the right brain) and the experiences of patients in the 1900's who had one side of their brain removed, and other patients who had to have various pieces taken out. It was kind of creepy but I think they were getting me used to the fact that some pretty serious things were going to happen to me if I gave the go-ahead. I'm still a little queasy about having them cut into me. Anyway, at the end of the session they asked the $100,000 question: Now that you've heard what it's like to have half your brain disconnected and removed, imagine the reverse — having a new brain added and attached.

The second briefing was all about the information theory and statistical properties of brains. They talked about how the links of a brain's neurons had been found to have the same statistical distribution as healthy societies, the 1900's telephone system, large massively parallel supercomputers, N-dimensional hypercubes and several other things I had never heard of, like "linguistic root-concept networks". They also talked about the different functional components of the brain and how quickly each function would begin to feel different as it diffused over into the new brain.

[] 4:35 PM

The doctors gave me a handout from the third session. I'm going to type it in here so I can recycle the paper.

"The artificial brain will be simulated until it reaches the point where it is ready to become part of the intelligence wave pattern, more precisely called 'the adaptive entropic stimulus/response function ring'.

"The human brain will be connected to the artificial brain by means of trillions of connections, between individual neurons — enough connections so that the bisection bandwidth is enough to keep the two brains almost completely up to date with each other."

(I asked about "bisection bandwidth", and the doctors said it measured how much information, in bits per second, could travel between two halves of a brain, or a computer network. An old 1990's term, I remembered right after I asked. In computer architecture we call it "interchange rate".)

"The two brains then begin to interoperate as one brain. Thoughts, perceptions, emotions and other similar phenomena begin to occur in both halves nearly simultaneously just as they do on the left and right halves of a normal brain.

"The human consciousness will start to perceive the actions of the artificial brain as part of its consciousness. This will happen gradually, like fingers slowly creeping across the 'new callosum' and into the other brain. The process is gradual because the new neurons take a while to develop new 'wave patterns'. At the patient's request or if the neuroanalyst deems necessary, the process can be made more gradual by switching on the connections gradually.

"The patient starts to get accustomed to his/her new thoughts, as each piece of the new brain becomes part of one consciousness. It becomes part of you; your senses and actions are directly linked through the new parts of the brain as well as the old.

"Cautious patients often worry that the new brain will influence the old brain just as much as the old brain influences the new. This doesn't happen because the new 'neurons' are initially configured in 'high learning index' mode, much like the neurons in the speech processing centers during the first few years of a child's life. The new neurons essentially rewire themselves until they 'realize' that they're interoperating in a consistent way. For a technical explanation see [ANG:anthro.brain.learn-7:/Salter.Evan/2008a ID-6ew4-51aah-401-200-9044,sec7.6ff]

"The 'new callosum' has one end in the computer system the patient will communicate with, and the other end in a massive bundle of tiny fibers that extends into the brain. The surgeons are responsible for making sure that the millions of fibers are reasonably evenly distributed throughout all active parts of the brain. It doesn't matter precisely where each one ends up as long as they're fairly evenly distibuted, because the new brain maps itself to all the neural patterns during the neuronal learning process. Each fiber picks up signals from a few hundred points along its length, for a total of a few billion connections. The precise number varies by patient.

"The fundamental physical technology dates back to the mid-1900's, initially developed as a prosthesis for patients born blind. In early operations a mere 100 to 1000 connections were made to the visual cortex but the brain quickly learned to derive useful visual information and incorporate the signals into its experience."

[] 2031 March 14th, Friday, 11:35 PM

Had a really nice dinner with Linda tonight. I took her out to the Italian place on Collins Av, where we went on that midsummer when we met Andrew. We've been closer and happier these last few days than anytime I remember since that midsummer. I think she knows what I'm heading into and really respects me for it. Anyway, I told her about my decision when we got home, and we had a great night together. It's nice to have her sleeping so softly next to me.

[] 2031 April 3rd, Thursday

They brought the new eyes "on line" today. At first they seemed like a totally alien input; "a new sense" as the doctors said. I've got this annoying mess of — sort of like hallucinations or — well they're not sights or sounds anyway, but they're synchronized with what I'm seeing. I should have done drugs when I had the chance, maybe I'd be able to describe this if I had experienced synesthesia firsthand.

Anyway, whatever it is, it dosn't appear as vision, yet! The doctors say it'll "click" within a few weeks, like when you're learning French and they throw you into the middle of Lyons or someplace and you have no one to speak English with anymore. Time will tell.

[] April 7th, 8:30 AM

Oh my god — I have just re-experienced a memory from when I was in the womb — I can't describe it at all but I have this gut feeling just like when my vision started working for the first time. I know it sounds crazy, but I've felt this before and it's the deepest oldest sensation I've ever had. I also had that weird "embryo" feeling this morning, like I felt sometimes during the chemotherapy in 1987. This feels just like that! Wow, that's cool.

[] 2031 April 19th, Saturday, 2:58 PM

With the new headset on I can close my eyes, and I still see! My new 'eyes' are still open. When I turn my head I see different parts of the world around me. The only drawback right now, is this irritating sensation that I'm forcing my eyes not to blink, like in a childhood staring contest. The doctors say it'll go away after a few days on the headset.

My hearing is mostly transferred, too. Linda asked me today about the other senses, like smell and taste. I told her that those senses are being linked electronically, but there are no physical prostheses so I won't be able to smell her perfume for example, once they've transferred the olfactory nerves out of my body — unless she sets it in the simulator preferences on the console.

That didn't help at all. Linda got pretty sad when I said that. I'm going to start giving her more time to be with me alone, so I can just listen and be with her. I'll make sure the doctors know how important this is. We've been through it several times but nothing can prepare you for the real experience. She needs to face it and she's facing it now and I'm going to give her my undivided attention.

[] 2031 May 20th, Tuesday

They briefed me for the next stage today. Basically the old brain will be shut down bit by bit. As this is happening I have to take a lot of time and effort reexperiencing all kinds of memories, emotions, and thoughts in order to recall the memory contents of my old mind and let the new mind learn the patterns. The whole process can take up to 7 years! That's a long time for me to have to stay in this wheelchair! I know I've thought about it for years but it still seems like a big deal. I guess the last couple months have spoiled me, with so many things happening so quickly.

But, the doctors assure me I need to do this, 'memory lane therapy' as they call it. It's this part of the process, this slow experiencing of the millions of different thoughts and emotions that really accomplishes the mind transfer. I'll undergo lots of trauma later if I leave any large parts of my memory behind. I remember the horror stories of recovering Alzheimer's patients 20 years ago!

Again I'm glad I kept such detailed journals, particularly during the 90's and 2000's. Those are years I will always cherish. Linda has found me some more monthly documentaries of national and world history, including a great series for the 1970's. I hope so — nobody I've watched so far really did justice to that period.

[] 2032 October 23rd, Saturday, 11:00 AM

I just finished reliving the Sterling Men's Weekend today! It was the Simmons-Thomas adaptation, with all my journal notes woven into the holoplay by Andrew's studio, and level 3 subliminal prompting. Anyway, IT WAS AWESOME!!! and I'm glad I decided to do this, a great way to spend my 69th birthday indeed! Linda was impressed. I still wish I had her with me the first time I completed the Weekend, and I think now she understands why. If not, well... she soon will! O-8

[] 2036 April 4th, Friday

"We are here today to pay our respects to the mortal remains of David Jensen, comrade, friend, lover, husband, father.

"Those who share David's beliefs, that he lives on in the ether world, pay tribute to this body that served him so well until he was able to move on.

"And those who are spiritual, be assured that David's spirit lives on, and was if anything, honored by the attention David gave to try to remain with his friends and family, helping loving and serving all those who were close to him.

"And all together, be assured in your own way and do not weep for David, for even now he smiles and stands among us. And in your own turn, you may step forward and tell the assembly how you will preserve his legacy.

"David, above all you taught me the importance of being clear on my purpose, being courageous and giving 100 percent. I will pass that on to others as I continue my life!

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. What was, is gone, and what is, shall go, but all shall come again. May the spirits bless you all for all of your days. Amen."

[] 2044 Feb 3rd, Wednesday, 8:30 AM (Ether Time: 2048 Nov 11th, Wednesday, 11:14 PM)

Preparing my summary statement for the Ether Society SIG, New Candidates Introduction. My 125th prepared public speech, near as I can tell. What a great life I've had! No, what a great life I've started!

You will live in a distributed redundant multiprocessing system, on several computers around the world, along with many others like you. The computers still need to be maintained physically, and many human beings who do not wish to forego their mortality are happy to do so. The symbiosis between the mortals and the immortals is nearly perfect.

The immortals vacate the planet, freeing the environment and physical space for the remaining mortals to live in greater comfort. Earthers finally get the smaller population they've been fighting so long to get. The immortals earn their keep by continuing to invent and create, solving more and more of the remaining problems of the mortals. As their minds multiply the invention rate increases.

The mortals, while sacrificing immortality and burdened with physical work (which nevertheless decreases with passing years as the immortals continue to invent more automation and efficiency), are blessed with the simple physical life they love and believe in. They can bear children the old fashioned way, and their children live into a choice that they can take when they're ready — remain mortal and risk death, or transfer and become immortal.

It is proposed that a substantial number of humans will form a third class, of mortal humans who are linked to the cyberworld through computer implants. We still don't have good technology for doing this without confining them to some sort of wheelchair, but many consider that no problem. This third class becomes dependent on both the physical world and the cyberworld, and provides the important services of diplomacy and policing the balance of power between the mortals and the immortals. It is in their best interests that the symbiosis continue and neither side "defeat" the other. Much like the checks and balances of the three branches of American government, the three classes of people cooperate to maintain a working global society.

Within the cyberworld, many new possibilities will develop. Trek fans — remember the Holodeck? It is one of the simpler things you could do! Individual minds begin to discover that they can share thoughts, and even combine if they wish, with other minds. A new type of marriage, much more powerful than anything possible in the mortal world, occurs when two minds irrevocably merge into one — greater than the sum of the original two. This new, greater intelligence can do things neither of the two could do alone, much faster and more efficiently than the two could do working together as partners. One can imagine this merging process continuing, producing larger and larger intelligences... Can you imagine yourself one day saying:

"I will no longer be much compared to one of these merged intelligences. No matter how smart I am on my own, these larger intelligences are smarter! Eventually I'll see that my personal pride isn't worth it — after all, I'm not doing much at all compared to one of them!"

Alternately, two individuals may retain their separate consciousness but choose to create a new intelligence, trained by both of them — a child. The neuroscientists learned that it takes 7 years (normalized to the year 2000, or about 4.1 years today) to train the new intelligence enough to consider it an adult. The natural human generation time has gone from 14 or 15 down to 7.

The mortals will have one unique experience that we might never enjoy ourselves — watching the other half of their society accelerate and ultimately reach lightning speed. As computing speed continues to improve, the child-training process becomes faster (in real time). The human generation time continues to decrease. Generations come more and more quickly. As the population grows, invention happens faster and computing speed evolves more quickly too. To the immortals, this speeding up won't be happening — as if traveling at near the speed of light — they'll see the physical world slowing down.

For those still waiting to decide if they want to step over, just remember: you can take it with you. Everything you are doing now is useful if it can ultimately be transferred into cyberspace. Your posessions are useful if they can be digitized, photographed, or otherwise brought over. Your home TV movies and journals of all kinds will be very useful; they will provide the immortals with a way of going back into the old world and visualizing what it was like.

[] Ether 2063.10.23,09:30 (Earth GMT: 2050 Jan 11th)

Hey Jeff, hope things are going well. Yeah I know I didn't write back when I said I would. I'll give you 50 as soon as I'm off link.

Today's the big day: I'm 100 years old. Of course, I keep reminding Linda that back on Earth I'm only 86 (and she's barely 85!). Anyway, we're spending the day in the holoprogram I picked out last spring, the Las Vegas Luxor honeymoon suite, circa 1995. The rest of Linda's presents are — appropriate to the setting. That's all I'll say here. Even in Etherspace there are circles of confidentiality.

So, let me know when you're coming across. (-: Ha ha, only serious. I really do get that you're ready for it though. I wouldn't say it if I didn't! Anyway, there's an open house at 4:00 PM on the 18th, your time. I'd love to have you there.

Call back anytime, I'll set the machine if it's nighttime. You've got a day or else it's your 50! :-) See ya, jerk

Copyright © 1998-2019 by Robert P. Munafo.

(The original license for this article prermitted reposting on USENET newsgroups and BBSs only; however the story is now under the Creative Commons license as indicated in this page's footer.)


If these issues interest you, you may also enjoy the movie Robot Stories, particularly its last segment "Clay".

Several other types of uploading are described at this page

Extropianism in general is described in the Wikipedia article: Extropianism. See also Singularitarianism and Transhumanism.

The author's home page

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