28 Jan 2009

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

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 I: The Concept of Brain Emulation

Section III: "Levels of Emulation and Success Criteria"

Some posthumanists want eventually to develop a technology that allows us to upload our minds onto a computer so that we may survive our body's death. Bostrom & Sandberg map the path to success, and outlines here the different levels of accomplishing that goal.

Parts list

Level 1a) We make a list of all the parts of the brain.
We first designate the smallest scale we are interested in documenting, perhaps the cellular level. Then we make an inventory of all the particular objects in the brain at that level, and we describe their properties and interactions. Here we are concerned mostly with the lower-level neural structures, brain chemistry, and the dynamics of neuronal behavior.

Complete Scan

1b) We produce a 3-D image of the brain.
We use high-resolution imaging technology to create a three-dimensional picture of the brain in its entirety.

Brain Database

2) We organize the information in the parts list and brain scan.
The parts list and 3-D brain image provide all the relevant details of the lower-level structure of the brain. We place all this information into a database, which allows a 1-to-1 mapping of the imaged brain parts to the listed brain parts.

Functional Brain Emulation

3) Most of a mind emerges from the emulation.
We run a computer program that simulates the workings of the databased brain objects. This emulates the lower-level micro-dynamics of the brain's workings. We find that out of this simulation emerges such higher-level brain phenomena as a state of awakenness or of sleep.

Species Generic Brain Emulation

4) A whole mind emerges from our emulation.
All emergent properties of a human brain now emerge from the simulation. Hence the emulated human mind behaves no different than real ones. And it can learn and adapt just like our brains, too.

Individual Brain Emulation

5) Our emulation simulates the mind of some particular person.
Here we are able to produce a simulation of someone's mind so well that it behaves no differently than the original person in any given situation. [See this entry for how Bostrom & Sandberg deal with chaotic or noisy situations where we expect the emulation to act differently than the original person.] As well, this simulated mind exhibits the memories and skills of the emulated person.

Social Role-Fit Emulation / Person Emulation

6a) Our emulated mind functions well in society.
The mind simulation performs appropriately in some social role, such as a normal human job.

Mind Emulation

6b) The brain emulation has subjective experiences.
Our brains have certain unique phenomenal experiences. This makes-up our consciousness. At this stage of development, the emulated mind as well has these subjective experiences.

Personal Identity Emulation

6c) The person whose mind is emulated now continues her existence on the computer simulation.
When our brain emulation technology reaches its highest level of sophistication, it is able to replicate a person's mind so well that there is no difference between them. If the person is still alive, then the personal identity of the original person – as well as the personal identity of her emulation – are "numerically one." If the person dies, then she survives her death in her computer simulation. If the emulation truly captures the original person's mind, then it should be as concerned about the original person's well-being as much as that person herself is concerned about her own well being.

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:

Anders Sandberg's page, also with other publications:

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