April 14, 2004

Ben Hyink's Brain

I've been chatting with Ben Hyink about TV04. Ben is as much at home with secular humanism as he is with transhumanism; his work often reminds me of the humanist heritage embedded within transhumanism. He is also an amazing organizer, being the founder and director of the Transhumanist Student Network.

And true to his futurist leanings Ben likes to theorize about the evolution of the human brain, including speculations about the so-called "Meta Brain Growth Process." Ben's not sure if he can make TV04, but if he does he may speak on this topic.

Here's an email I received from Ben today where he goes into some detail about cognitive and consciousness theory, functionalism, cryonics and uploading:

"Until just recently, I thought I had my presentation topic ready. I had planned to point out ontological implications of various popular uploading proposals and suggest a rough sketch of the MetaBrain Growth Process for further exploration. Some correspondence with Robert Bradbury helped me realize that the popular (and MURG) definitions are not the only ones, and at the fuzzy boundary of sub-optimal processes, we still encounter "the 'ol proverbial can-o-worms" as he put it. In any case, I will have to make some adjustments to salvage the speech.

I'm also looking closely at functionalism to see what its limits might be and whether we will need to perform experiments before we can say replicated structures create the necessary identical self-reflexive entities, or whether the cog sci "token theory" peeks at the case of neural structures being merely unconscious "place-holders" for a continually active program (which would not bode well for cryonics). I lean toward functionalism, but the alternative nags me. (It might also imply that we are always different people after losing consciousness, "rebooted" as simliar conscious programs on the same system, which is unsettling.)

* I might add a brief reference to Hanson's early-adopter theory about the use of non-destructive uploads to help craft cybernetic extension methods and the "Ring of Gyges" dilemma such that the instantiated separate-but-"identical" upload *person* would acquire great power very fast. Do you trust your character enough to see that happen, without any vague hopes of mending your ways by the power of your own will? Do you trust your life/perspective and those of family, friends, and fellow people to that life/perspective? How might we protect non-uploaded people from uploaded people without curtailing upload rights? How effective could we make 'firewalls?'"

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