A Critique of Mind Augmenting Technologies

Examples in History, Popular Culture, and the News

Some of these technologies have been seen in the past.

The popular culture of Science-Fiction uses these advanced technology ideas precisely because they are inherently problematical. In other words, these ideas are the essence of drama.

One problem in researching this paper is that the news is filled with technology stories about augmenting the mind.

Capacity

Historically, the written word, and then the printed word, augmented the mind by increasing its storage capacity. The computer, and the Internet, have greatly amplified that capacity. But before external technology, we had the technology of the mind itself. The Iliad is around only because people memorized it. Memory skills still exist, e.g., slam poets. But now it's nothing compared to the practical Capacity of the Google-aided mind.

Capacity in the news.

1. Microsoft's MyLifeBits™

This project is designed to collect and data-mine the immense mountain of everything you've ever heard, seen, or written. MyLifeBits™ is a lifetime store of everything.
        This is an idea that's only taken sixty or so years to see the light on your computer screen. Called Memex by famed WWII science advisor Vannevar Bush, it's an infinite personal data assistant. In fact, the full title of the project is The Memex Vision and Some Implications of Storing Everything Personal.
        There's that word again: everything. You see, instead of you bothering about what's worth saving, MyLifeBits™ saves everything.

2. DARPA's Lifelog

For anyone not familiar with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a micro-history lesson: DARPA was begat by ARPA, which also begat Arpanet, which begat the Internet. DARPA is one of the world's foremost drivers of human enhancement, but not always publicly.
        So I was surprised to find this public AP report: Pentagon documents state that the goal of the DARPA project LifeLog is to develop software that deduces behavioral patterns from monitoring people's daily activities . . . Here's another quote from the same report:

According to the Pentagon documents, the LifeLog software would file . . . emails, instant messages, phone calls, voice mails, snail mail, faxes, and Web-based transactions, as well as links to every radio and TV broadcast the subject hears and every publication, Web site, or database he or she sees.

        Did you catch it? What did you see? Everything he or she sees? Really? Ever had the TV or the radio on when you weren't really paying attention? Are you willing to be liable for everything you see or hear?

Capability

In Popular Culture: Like every Science Fiction movie ever made with a computer as Super Brain.

Projects in the news enhancing brain Capability range from genetic engineering to the super-intelligences of AI and superbrain computers.

Relocation

There are probably some historical examples of mind uploading, but they probably ended up in asylums.

Relocating brains

       
has long been a staple of Science Fiction: first to robots, then computers, androids, and now clones.

Relocation is variously referred to as mind uploading, whole-brain emulation, and mind transfer. One significant current effort aimed at Relocating the brain is the Blue Brain project, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss university team.

Modestly called the most ambitious project in the field of neuroscience, it uses the world's most powerful supercomputer, IBM's Blue Gene, to simulate a mouse brain down to molecular and gene levels of processing. The project leader says it's the equivalent of going to the moon.

Last July, another Relocation story in the news was a report from Dr. Ian Pearson, head of the Futurology at British Telecom. He predicted the uploading of the mind by 2050. He based his prediction on the same factor as everyone else. All we need to upload the brain to a computer is more computer power. Here's what I think about sure things:

The problem is, quite simply, that we don't have a sufficient understanding of brain, mind, or consciousness. Not that we'll never have that knowledge. But assuming that it is inevitable the way more computing power is inevitable is just plain silly.
        Sufficient computing power may or may not arrive on schedule; that depends on engineering and economics. But understanding the brain (and the mind and consciousness) is mostly science, psychology, and even philosophy. It's why we have these conferences. And why I attend: because I know I have a lot to learn about the brain, mind, and consciousness. However, I don't assume we'll know enough to be uploading any of these by any given year.

Longevity

A recent PBS program stated that in his last few years, Leonardo da Vinci organized his notebooks for posterity. For someone who was interested in everything, made notes all the time, and finished only a tiny percent of his projects, Leonardo's Notebooks are highly structured. Clearly, he intended these for the future.
        This makes Leonardo the inventor of one more important idea: analog immortality! I further submit this is the forerunner of Longevity, which now appears as digital immortality.

Digital immortality means gathering a person's data and using the best possible current interactive presentation of a digital persona making it accessible to the world, forever.

Longevity in Popular Culture

Nothing says popular culture like Disney. And who's more popular than Abe Lincoln?

How about Ronald Reagan?

How about Ronald Reagan? I went to his website. I was the only person there. It's in sad shape, obviously unfinished. Instead of finding a good example of digital immortality, I found a reason why we need standards.

The mission of the Digital Immortality Institute (DII) is to examine the ethical, social, and technological problems of digital immortality through investigation, conferences, and public forums. And promote the practicality of digital immortality through research and example.

Current examples of Longevity in the news range from extending life (cryonics) to extending aspects of mind (digital immortality) to extending brain existence (uploading).

But did you know about:

INTELLIGENT TOMBSTONES?

Those small discs contain data and pictures about the deceased.

ONLINE CEMETERIES?

Virtual Headstones online @ www.londonmemorial.co.uk

The World Wide Cemetery @ www.cemetery.org
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS AS THE WEB´S PREMIERE MEMORIAL SITE!

Lifelong memories at www.mem.com

Legacy.com is the leading provider of online obituaries

Forever Network: Funeral Chapel Cemetery Library of Lives

BUT THERE'S ANOTHER MAJOR TREND:

PERSONAL HISTORIES!

www.FamilyLegacyVideo.com

www.ItsTimeToTellYourStoryStudios.com

www.Life-Chronicles.com

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Last updated 3/11/06

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