Thursday, May 09, 2013

Ben Goertzel - Countering Objections to Mind Uploading (and Refuting that Countering)

In this post from IEET, Ben Goertzel offers his rebuttal to a recent article by George Dvorsky at io9 on why we will likely never be able to upload our "minds" into computers. He gave 8 reasons, none of which is the most crucial reason.

Before getting to the 9th reason, there is one REALLY important piece that has not been addressed in most of the articles I have seen - what is the definition of "mind" being used in the argument? Here is one of the possible versions of mind, from Wikipedia:

Understanding the relationship between the brain and the mind – mind-body problem is one of the central issues in the history of philosophy – is a challenging problem both philosophically and scientifically.[11] There are three major philosophical schools of thought concerning the answer: dualism, materialism, and idealism. Dualism holds that the mind exists independently of the brain;[12] materialism holds that mental phenomena are identical to neuronal phenomena;[13] and idealism holds that only mental phenomena exist.[13] 
The most straightforward scientific evidence that there is a strong relationship between the physical brain matter and the mind is the impact physical alterations to the brain have on the mind, such as with traumatic brain injury and psychoactive drug use.[14] 
In addition to the philosophical questions, the relationship between mind and brain involves a number of scientific questions, including understanding the relationship between mental activity and brain activity, the exact mechanisms by which drugs influence cognition, and the neural correlates of consciousness
Through most of history many philosophers found it inconceivable that cognition could be implemented by a physical substance such as brain tissue (that is neurons and synapses).[15]Philosophers such as Patricia Churchland posit that the drug-mind interaction is indicative of an intimate connection between the brain and the mind, not that the two are the same entity.[16] Descartes, who thought extensively about mind-brain relationships, found it possible to explain reflexes and other simple behaviors in mechanistic terms, although he did not believe that complex thought, and language in particular, could be explained by reference to the physical brain alone.[17]
There is a fourth option to the mind-body problem, an alternative I once named Singularism. In essence, Mind is the complex interaction between the body/brain and it's subjective experience, which is shaped and defined by its interpersonal and intersubjective context within a specific physical and temporal space.

Dan Siegel has a much simpler definition, but it's based on similar ideas to the ones I offer above - “A core aspect of the mind can be defined as an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” 

The key words in Siegel's definition are embodied and relational - these are the essential elements missing from most of the definitions of mind that are used when people talk about uploading mind into computers.

Countering Objections to Mind Uploading

Ben Goertzel

Posted: May 6, 2013
By Adam Ford

Ben Goertzel, an IEET Fellow, in response to some common objections covered in an article on io9 by George Dvorsky (IEET Director) 'You'll Probably Never Upload Your Mind Into A Computer.'
Here is the beginning of the original article:

You Might Never Upload Your Brain Into a Computer

Many futurists predict that one day we'll upload our minds into computers, where we'll romp around in virtual reality environments. That's possible — but there are still a number of thorny issues to consider. Here are eight reasons why your brain may never be digitized.

Indeed, this isn't just idle speculation. Many important thinkers have expressed their support of the possibility, including the renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil (author of How to Create a Mind), roboticist Hans Moravec, cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, neuroscientist David Eagleman, and many others.

Skeptics, of course, relish the opportunity to debunk uploads. The claim that we’ll be able to transfer our conscious thoughts to a computer, after all, is a rather extraordinary one.

But many of the standard counter-arguments tend to fall short. Typical complaints cite insufficient processing power, inadequate storage space, or the fear that the supercomputers will be slow, unstable and prone to catastrophic failures — concerns that certainly don’t appear intractable given the onslaught of Moore’s Law and the potential for megascale computation. Another popular objection is that the mind cannot exist without a body. But an uploaded mind could be endowed with a simulated body and placed in a simulated world.

To be fair, however, there are a number of genuine scientific, philosophical, ethical, and even security concerns that could significantly limit or even prevent consciousness uploads from ever happening. Here are eight of the most serious.
With that, here is the reply from Ben Goertzel, one of the most vocal supporters of mind uploads.

Objections are covered in order as they appear in the article:
1. Brain functions are not computable
2. We'll never solve the hard problem of consciousness
3. We'll never solve the binding problem
4. Panpsychism is true
5. Mind-body dualism is true
6. It would be unethical to develop
7. We can never be sure it works
8. Uploaded minds would be vulnerable to hacking and abuse
Ben Goertzel wrote a response to the io9 article:…

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