What would happen if we upload our brains to computers? | Robin Hanson

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Meet the “ems” — machines that emulate human brains and can think, feel and work just like the brains they’re copied from. Economist and social scientist describes a possible future when ems take over the global economy, running on superfast computers and copying themselves to multitask, leaving humans with only one choice: to retire, forever. Glimpse a strange future as Hanson describes what could happen if robots ruled the earth.

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29 Replies to “What would happen if we upload our brains to computers? | Robin Hanson”

  1. He clearly states that the Em's would be nothing like us, and you would die in real life anyway so what exactly is the point of these things except that they have all our baggage when we can make AIs which are much less likely to be uncontrollable (I'm talking about the AI which we use to drive cars)

  2. I think he forgot to mention ems will have a survival instinct. Their ultimate goal will be to replace us but they cannot survive without us (not in the beginning atleast). There isn't even infrastructure in place to prevent ems from hacking our electronics. They can just hack financial institutions and pay people electronically to build self sustaining servers. Also virtually all jobs that humans do on the computer will be replaced since ems can do them that much faster.

    All this is basically another form of AI. unless they only occupy a digital space that's separate from ours. The Emternet….

  3. I think Mr. Hanson makes some good points, but has two narrow an imagination about how Ems might work. For example, when he talks about cloning a copy that will do some work for the "mother" Em, and then stops (dies), I can see no technical reason why the "child" clone's memories could not be added back into the Mother-Em's memories.

    Also, second of his three assumptions about what is necessary to make Ems happen is too simplistic. He said that we will "scan the human brain and find chemical and spacial data" that defines what a human person is. I think it's going to be a lot harder than that. We really don't know what makes us human or where the seat of our "being" really is. By the time we figure this out, if we ever do, we will know so much more about our "being" physiology than we do now that we could make a great many changes to our "being" to "improve"; both for good and bad.

    I just finished a novel trilogy known as Bobiverse by Dennis E. Taylor (link below). In it a guy named Bob is scanned after death and wakes up as a slave in a computer. Later he breaks free and manages to clone himself.

    But the most likely outcome, it seems to me, is that the first people to awake in a computer will have no civil rights and be force to do the bidding of the owners of the hardware in which they have their being.


  4. Talking about humans as they are brains only is premitive. If this guy considers our ancestors as premitive, then he got it the wrong way. We're humans. Our brain is a tool. A great tool but it's just a tool. We should use it rather than taking orders from it