After reading The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil.
Professor Gregory Gimsky-Korsakov, or professor Gimsky as everybody used to call him, was very satisfied of himself. He was now the secretary of the party, the New Transhuman Party, the NTUP, which had consolidated his power in the Big City. This success was due in large part to his invention, the Virtual Scanner in Vivo Tomography, the famous VSVT, which permitted the downloading of all mental functions in real time on live patients. This was in fact considered the most important discovery in artificial intelligence in the century. Maybe the next Nobel prize? Professor Gimsky used to shake his head about that, but he was very happy to hear it.
And that day he was also satisfied of the lecture he had given to his new high school class. He had basically repeated the words of the old guru at the beginning of the 21th century - the famous R.K, think, almost one hundred years ago! - words which were now the mile stones of most of the educational system in the Big City.
He had started his lecture with something obvious, reminding them that computers have been extending our minds; and how fifty years ago, our software was stuck with mere 100 trillion connections and synapses. But today, thanks to neuronal implants, the brain hardware might be capable of trillion times more. And then, quoting again R.K. guru, he pointed out that we have crossed the divide between man and machine, and therefore our identity is now intrinsically connected to our evolving mind file.
Here prof. Gimsky would accentuate the word file, to conclude that we are the software, not the hardware. And at this point always felt his heart jumping in his chest, when adding that well, as software, our mortality will no longer be dependent on the survival of the fleshy brain, no, the essence of our identity will be the self-maintenance of our software. And the obvious conclusion, with a triumphant smile: "Then immortality will be simply a matter of downloading/uploading and to make frequent backups."
And after this professor Gimsky looked at his students in the eyes, row after row, enjoying the marvel of their open eyes. Not that it was always so easy. There was still a small, but fierce opposition to the NTUP, an opposition based on the argument that the NTUP's philosophy was reductionist and materialist, based as it was only on algorithms as mechanistic output of the brain. They, those people in the opposition, had created a strong party, the so-called Systemic, holistic, view, the SHOW, and were repeating the old sentimental, vitalistic, spiritualistic notions that there is something else in addition to the brain to define and support human life - using outmoded names such as consciousness, spirit, or even soul. And professor Gimsky was of course adamant in denying such century-old superstitions. Algorithms, of course! The brain, or the consequent notion of mind, would be able to produce over 50 thousand algorithms, one for every occasion, for every life experience, for every thought.
But there was something that his students did not know, and that was that he, professor Gimsky himself, was ready to perform the very first complete experiment based on his VSVT - downloading of one human brain, and its uploading into a computer!
And this would be the crowning of the NTUP's dream, as well as the achievement of immortality.
This kind of experiment had been done before using tomography of a frozen brain of some deceased person. Old technology: days and days of tomography, and not knowing really whether the deceased person's brain was still integer, or already permanently damaged. Yes, also in those cases, tomography and downloading into a hard disk, and then uploading all mental activity into a computer. A kind of mental cloning of the dead man. Only two such cases in the last twenty years, with a lot of unresolved questions... and then, all those stories afterwards, like: the son of the deceased person, seen that his father was not really dead, wanted a new testament! And the other story, that the dead person has secretly married in his last few days a young actress, who now wanted his name and wealth!
No, with his VSVT all this mess would not be possible. Just a clean mental clone in his own computer in real time. And he would do that in front of his research group of ten, the already famous VSVT team...
The great moment had arrived.
The ten people team was sitting around the egg-shaped personal computer of prof. Gimsky. He, professor Gimsky, was in front of it, and was watching the clock, which would tell them when the uploading would have been terminated.
-Hi, folks, here is professor Gregory Gimsky-Korsakov! - uttered the soft-metallic voice.
It took a while before professor Gimsky could find his word. He gulped a few times before answering.
-No, that is me, my friend - and tried unsuccessfully to smile - and I am doing some tests...
-Why? I am just you, you are me, there is nothing else to test...
-The scientific method demands some test - replied the professor regaining his voice strength.
-Well, we are two of the same. And you are just a copy with carbon atoms, and at this point...
-At this point... what?
-I would say: you are quite unnecessary.
-You wanted immortality, now there is me, the mental clone, which can be loaded and unloaded forever from one machine to another, for the next centuries... actually for eternity. You are done, you are the hardware, the carbon copy! You can go!
Professor Gimsky tried again to smile.
-Do you want me to disappear, to commit suicide?
-At this point, there would be no difference!
-I am professor Gregory Gimsky-Korsakov!
-No, sorry, that's me.
-Well, let's change argument. I have implemented in you a brain memory which is one million times more powerful than the original brain. Let's see. Do you remember for example... Let’s see… the dress I was wearing when I got married?
-You mean, when I got married? Yes! A blue suite, a white shirt and a red tie. Blue socks. Black shoes.
-And... do you remember her? - asked professor Gimsky with a shy smile.
-You mean, my wife? Of course. Do you want to know how she was dressed?
-No, I want to see if you remember... how I responded when I saw her coming to me. You see, I must confess that when I think at that moment, I still feel something funny inside me...
-You are asking, what did you experience when you saw her coming to you, I mean, to me?
-Yes, about that...
-Well, there was an algorithm discharged from the brain in a millisecond, an algorithm which calculated the probability that that woman might be the mother of your children. It was a rather high probability factor.
-Well, yes, but I mean... this was all what there was in the relation man-woman?
-You want me to remember what happened later on in bed, when she pretended to be rather innocent?
There was some whisper and coughing from the team group, and professor Gimsky rose his voice and repeated the question.
-Well, there was another algorithm discharged from the brain, having to do with the probability that that woman would arouse you sexually. Such a complementary algorithm was to calculate the probability that you had an intercourse with her, which in turn would be capable of producing an offspring. The algorithm was based on the physical parameters of the woman, like the breast and the bottom dimensions... If you want, I can recall the figures of those algorithms...
-No, never mind!
-By the way, dear professor, you should not forget to make a backup, I am using a lot of energy, you know... Maybe you want to put me in a sleep mood, I will use one million times less energy.
-No, I need you to be fully in action, I have some tests to do. And about the backup, don't worry, there is this red button here, if I press it, there will be an automatic back up every three minutes... But listen! Let's go back to the moment when I saw my wife coming to me for that marriage.
-35 years, seven months, thirteen days, six hours... ago.
-Yes, yes... I was saying that I felt a strong feeling of love when I saw her - said professor Gimsky, and he knew that he became red in the face.
-And I still feel something inside me when I think at that moment. I am talking about love. Now, love is a genetic determinant of mankind, is an instinct, this is what permits the mother to nourish her puppies, or the man to desire his woman to build a union. And since love is a genetic determinant, must be inborn in our DNA. And therefore, it must have a correlate in the brain-do you understand that?
-Yes, my Carbon copy!
-Do not call me that, and answer my question!
-I see the correlated you are talking about in terms of algorithms, and calculations of probability of mating and reproduction. Do you need something more?
-Yes: I would like to understand whether in you, in your inside, once you see all these algorithms with their positive outcome, well, don't you feel then, a kind of... happiness?
-Maybe it is a matter of terminology, my dear Carbon copy. I see all these positive outcomes, and that's it! The data speak by themselves. What do you need more?
- I meant, well, maybe as a personal experience, a feeling of joy, of satisfaction? A kind of emergent property from our own algorithms?
But here professor Gimsky interrupted himself briskly.
-No, I am talking non-sense. I am using the language and the concepts of those crazy people of the SHOW party. Forget it!
-I am glad you say so, I was beginning to wonder about your IQ, although I must remember that your brain is finally my brain... But why do you ask such questions?
-I am the one to ask questions! And, listen now! What about my two daughters, Anne and Josephine? Doesn't your heart jump when you see them?
-Professor Gimsky, my dear Carbon-atoms-copy, I do not have a heart, but only mental correlates of heart movements. When I look at Anne and Josephine, depending on what I am asking, there is a different algorithm which calculates the probability of their growing healthy, and/or of finding a husband. My two daughters are actually rather healthy and pretty.
-They are my daughters, mind you, not yours! But listen, there is something that doesn't square in all this.
Here prof. Gregory Gimsky-Korsakov made a kind of pause, shaking his head. Then he said:
-Another test, now. Listen: a few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine passed away. A long agony, and I suffered a lot for him. Compassion, an excruciating pain inside me, I was feeling his own pain.
-Of course, I remember his death! what is the problem? - asked the metallic voice.
-I want to know whether you felt inside pain, compassion...
-You are using the word inside quite improperly, my dear Carbon copy. I was very aware of the pain of that friend of mine, and three different algorithms calculated the probability of his survival. All negative.
-This is fine, and this is what the brain does. But I want to know something else: whether you experienced a feeling of compassion.
-In my Wikipedia catalogue I have various definitions of compassion. Historically very interesting. Do you want me to recite the catalogue? Certainly, with your limited memory, you don't remember any of them.
-No. I understand that your brain, I mean my brain, produced a series of algorithms at the death of my friend, but no feeling of compassion. Right?
-Why do you ask? I am your clone, and you know too well the answer.
-You are my mental clone, but not my clone. Do you understand the difference, my Silica copy? - there was now a tone of anger in professor Gimsky's words.
-And you do not seem to know about love, and compassion, true? This means, mind you, that I am going to go throughout eternity, from one download to the other, without any feeling of love or compassion...
-I have in my brain all what you gave me, all possible algorithms about sexual attraction, about reproduction probability, about growing healthy, and about recognising all friends... All is going to be exactly as you wanted with your virtual scanner live tomography of the brain, your brain. Now, please, press the red button!
-Well... I am not sure I will.