28 Jan 2009

Nick Bostrom & Anders Sandberg: Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) (Mental Uploading / Mental Downloading) Part 3, Section 1, "Emulation Systems"

by Corry Shores
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[My more developed Deleuzean critique of mental uploading can be found here. The following summarizes Nick Bostrom's & Anders Sandberg's new study on whole brain emulation. My commentary is in brackets.]

Nick Bostrom & Anders Sandberg
"Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap"

Part III: Issues

Section I: "Emulation Systems"

[Bostrom & Sandberg have presented a roadmap for the development of a new technology: the computer emulation of brain functioning. They argue this could allow us to exist past our body's death. Now they will explain how such emulations will be embodied so that they may interact with either the real world or with simulated virtual worlds.]

The primary piece of the mind emulator is the brain model that simulates human mental functioning. In addition, the emulation will need "some way for the brain model to experience bodily interactions with an environment" (30).

There are two possible ways to accomplish this embodiment:
1) Let's presume we already have the software that simulates the activity of the brain. To that programming we add more that simulates the body's functioning. And we create a software-produced environment for the emulated body-mind to interact-in. In other words, we generate a virtual body that inhabits a virtual world. [For example, consider a first-person video game. We create a software program that emulates the human mind, and it is in charge of controlling the first-person character in the game. We run this program in some house. And we design his virtual environment to have the same spatial proportions as the house the computer is in. Then, we place the computer on a machine that allows it to move around the house. The simulated first-person character might move a meter foreword in his virtual world. That thereby moves the actual computer the same distance in the same direction. So if the virtual character moves from one end of a room to another, then the actual computer running this program as well moves across the actual room it is in. This way, the computer does not need to see where the walls are. For, the virtual ones it is aware-of correspond in a one-to-one way with the actual walls in the house. Thus,] the emulation's virtual world can be linked to the outside world.

2) The computer running the brain emulation can be given a body with its own means to sense the world around it, and to interact appropriately with it.

At the lowest levels of successful brain emulation, what is most important is that it maintains at least short-term functioning of the brain. Hence in these early stages, complete bodily capacities are not yet necessary.

However, we will also want to develop long-term emulations that replicate all facets of human functioning. To this end we will need to ensure the emulations have the full capacity to sense and communicate. (30)

Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
Available online at:

Nick Bostrom's page, with other publications:

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