Friday, February 12, 2016

Basic Existence: Memory Loads, Teleportation, and Transcendence

Skill Uploading and Cellular Memory

In The Matrix, you load the ability to pilot helicopters or do kung fu in an instant. USB 17.0 transfers all the styles and techniques into your brain, and with a flicker of eyelids, you're ready to duel in Zero G in a hybrid of Southern Tiger and White Crane, or execute corkscrew maneuvers in confined space with heavy rear rotor damage. That's fine for fantasy, but we know it wouldn't work "in reality," because the ability to do those things doesn't depend on knowledge alone. The complete and perfect memorization of kung fu forms, even to the point of accurately loading the lifetime experience of a hundred different masters, does not prepare the body for a duel, because the trivia components of knowledge alone, even combined with the memory and experience components, are not complete knowledge.

Take Neo--if he were to be loaded with decades' worth of human martial arts knowledge in a few seconds, he'd have that knowledge, but he wouldn't be able to effectively put it into practice. He'd lack the growth of new neural pathways designed to specifically support that knowledge, and he'd lack the physical muscle memory of how to apply his techniques, even if he had simultaneously possessed the memory of having that muscle memory--say, by having downloaded the life experiences of a guy who sparred five times a week for forty years. It takes time to grow those neural pathways, time to extend them to and between the muscles involved in each movement, and at the same time (sic), time to correspondingly strengthen (with the simultaneous development of beefed-up neural pathways in the new areas themselves) the muscles, ligaments, etc., associated with any given movement. Balance feedback has to be worked in there, too, along with dozens of other things.

How, then, to build a realistic Neo? We'd have to not only upload all that martial arts knowledge, but perform full-body surgery across all his systems to replace every component of any movement. Not only the brain, but the nerve endings stretching to all digits, and we'd have to beef up the parts of the heart that would coordinate instinctive breathing patterns in time with his new movements, and by the time all the capability was loaded, he wouldn't really be Neo anymore, let alone "Neo + Kung Fu," he would be something entirely different, a composite persona of Neo + Kung Fu + Sifu Wong + Sifu Hsia...and so forth. The experience patterns laid down in his deepest fibers, like waterworks below asphalt below cement below skyscrapers, which would be necessary to permit him to actually do all the cool stuff he needed to do, would make him no longer him. An improved him, maybe, but certainly no longer the "old" him.

The Star Trek transporter dissembles your molecules, so are you really the same person when you materialize on the other side? Does it make a difference if the teleportation technology incinerates your original body, then recreates an exact replica at the landing site, or if it simply "phases out" your original molecules, sends their pattern to the new site, and reassembles those same molecules? In either case, is it really you after teleportation, or merely an identical copy of you which will never know that the original you was destroyed on the "sending" pad?

During the course of a normal human lifespan, all of your cells eventually die and are replaced, ergo you're in a slow teleport right now. So, if incinerating the old body on the teleporter's outbox, then recreating a new one in the inbox, is the same as death and cloning, then so is normal, humdrum, pre-neolithic life. What, then, does existence mean, if switching out 100% of your atoms maintains in the mind the coherent impression of being? In Sixth Day, each new Arnold Schwarzenegger clone is a conscious being, completely "itself" after being eye-flashed with the memories of the previous Arnold--but in that case, unlike Neo in The Matrix, Arnold's body is being custom-built to the latest memory specs, therefore all the neural wiring and muscle memory associated with previous brain-only memory is coordinated to his most recent eye-flash.

Later Data on Selfness

Those introductory questions are interesting, if simple. We know that knowledge alone, and/or memory alone, do not themselves create capability. Great pianists can learn a piece perfectly without practicing it once, by accessing their years of prior muscle memory in the form of having played every note or chord previously, and building the brain-only pathways to connect memorization of a fresh piece to preexisting networks. Squishy little computer engineers, though, can't become great kickboxers through books alone, for the most assiduous study will not build the full-body neural pathways necessary to apply that knowledge to the body.

Terran science circa 2016 tells us that much--here, we know about "muscle memory" et. al. What we don't know experimentally yet, though, is that cloned bodies plus brain memory do not equal full capability, either. When science advances enough, we'll be able to do the following experiment:

Step 1: Perfectly clone the bodies of one hundred copies of 1995 Michael Jordan.

Step 2: Perfectly load the memories and basketball skill of 1995 Michael Jordan into each of the freshly cloned brains.

Step 3: One by one, awaken fifty of the clones in an isolated, sterilized stadium. Tell each one that it is 2085, and he is a clone of 1995 Michael Jordan being used in an experiment. Ask each one to show off some slam dunks. Record observations.

Step 4: One by one, awaken fifty of the clones in a different isolated, sterilized stadium. Tell each one that it is 1995, and that he is Michael Jordan, recovered from a vague but minor accident. Ask each one to show off some slam dunks. Record observations.

The results of such experiment(s) will later reveal that neither clone type--the one aware of its own farcity and the one believing itself genuine--will be as good as the original 1995 Jordan. Such data will show that, whether such clone(s) happens to be better or worse than the original, it is not identical, even if it thinks itself so. Barring the availability of an authentic 1995 Jordan with which to compare, later experiments will be able to demonstrate this effect by comparing clones in highly specific, highly quantifiable tasks of physical and mental dexterity, alongside the original experimental model as controlled variable--the original person used as a baseline, performing against her or his clones in, say, dance sequences, computer assembly, violin sight-reading--to prove that even with complete and exact duplication of the entire body, including aging cues and experiential growth of all bodily systems linked to instilled memories, performance is at best comparable, never exact, and frequently inexplicably divergent.

(And when it happens, there will be falsified results galore, as future AMAs try to prove that pre-loaded knowledge does create self by using very simple tests to "prove" exact performance. That's a later version of our usual battle here.)

Now, the above selection only represents this one's made up science fiction talking, but even if you don't believe all of my bullshit, consider the possibility that data later does show essentially that, and that this one merely guessed right in 2016. It's possible, right? Even if I'm not a super duper reincarnating space traveler here to save one or two people from Jenome, later memory testing will show either that uploading memories into clones produces essentially identical results, or it produces something different from essentially identical results. In the latter case, you and/or your successors will be faced with the dilemma this one raised here, namely: if knowledge and physicality do not create self, what does?

Deus Ex Machina

Here we reach the predictably mushy answer: some appeal to soul. Later experimental results from the Disney-Huffington School of Neurokinetics at Harvard will be heralded worldwide, proving that history is over and cells do create the sum of conscious existence, but nagging questions will remain among the Outer Party, and the occasional extremist wacko will claim that research is being falsified, grants un-granted, etc., in order for the corrupt elites to cover up the truth of divergent clone performance (which means that the individual deserves more freedom from the medical regency council, etc.). No matter: even before that point, and even without believing any of my make-believe, you already have the scientific tools necessary to prove the soul, since even twentieth century Terrans knew that all the body's cells die and are replaced during the course of a life. Ergo you're in slow teleport, like we already said before, and yet your sense of "you" persists. An illusion? The pro-reproductive side effect of reassuring memories? Sheer nonsense; it's wishful nihilism to claim that continuous maintenance of a coherent electromagnetic field by a rotating cycle of dying and reincarnating cells is reducible to matter alone. These philosophical questions have already been solved, which is to say, everyone must re-solve them again as she or her prefers. "I fell asleep, but I woke up, and it's still me. Therefore, I am."

Consider the science that happens long after the "clone memory loading" stage. Once a year or a century has passed during which the evil ones try to repress knowledge of observable transmaterial affects, newer experiments will be able to identify the electromagnetic structures that hold real knowledge. The next stage of the "self" will be discovered, in the form of EM packets attracted to EM fields through which they can utilize matter--including knowledge and memories encoded in a blend of EM fields and bodily molecules--to act. And is that the soul, and then the debate is finally over? No, never. Once that's discovered, the entire thing just restarts on the basis of new maths applied to those types of measurable energy. Which is to say, once machines have identified the energy signature of the human soul, the argument will be made that the soul isn't really "the soul" in the sense of grace or transcendence or any of that, rather, it's just another reaction dependent on higher-yet-still-impartial laws that we don't yet understand. The ancients would've viewed the discovery of DNA as proof of intelligent design, yet now that we know of it, it's used as proof of randomness. So too "the soul," later on.

The Itch

There's no accounting for taste in the pursuit of something transmaterial. Plenty of people do it the Abramic way, and plenty of people do it in the increasingly popular, equally plausible progressive way (if you'll excuse this one's use of the term). We champion the idea of transsexuals, or groups of brilliant and inventive African astrophysicists, because the image of those people overcoming material limitations makes us feel that we, too, could surmount matter, and be something enduring. We might someday produce an African Einstein, in the sense of someone able to plagiarize another's theories and be lauded for it for generations, but deep down we fear that we may never produce an African Tesla. That failure would cement our deepest fears of everdeath: for, if men cannot become women through surgical intervention, maybe we cannot overcome our own matter, ergo we are doomed to destruction upon the decay of our bodies.

Humorously enough, it's an ancient religious urge--a pursuit of grace--that causes people to support these causes (sic). We all inhabit these decaying meat shells, and have some sense of potential destruction. Even when the elites have developed ageless bodies, and created trans-galactic backup systems for their memories (updated by the second), the fear of a Big Crush, or a chain of supernovae, will still haunt them. Physical destruction of memory banks, or a gunshot wound from a robber: fear of death will remain even to the very advanced materialist, who has designed the entire material universe to reassure himself of unassailable perpetuity (again, think Yaldabaoth). The bitter fury with which frightened people defend their own notions of transcendence, however illogical, has its sources in many sicknesses. The greatest of these is the belief that, if matter's impact cannot be conquered, they lose. Sacred cows are defended by those who hear the whisper, If this is not true, then I will die forever.

This is where we see the fanatic urge for whatever the latest social crusade is. We're afraid that we are nothing more than matter, so we want proof of overcoming matter. Some people talk in tongues, some people believe in sex changes. If Tom can become Tammy, and if we can show faith in that, and if enough others can show faith in that, maybe it means that we, too, can surmount the bounds of matter and become immortal. Fear of being bound to the fate of decaying meat shell lowering...lowering...lowering...

What I'd like you to take away from this is the generalized awareness of "I am." The constant destruction and replacement of bodily cells, conjoined to your apparent maintenance of selfness, is the instant laboratory wherefrom you can conclude it's not only matter. If you're still around for memory backups and clone loads, you'll see external proof of that, but it isn't necessary. Conceive of yourself as the relationship between the decaying meat hunk, the information encoded therein, the EM packet connected thereto, and the information encoded therein--the latter two being the missing link that explains the divergence between tasks performed based upon uploaded abilities affixed to a different EM field, and tasks performed based upon abilities pre-experientially linked to the same EM field that originally experienced them. Some clones will outperform originals, depending on whom the body is hosting; the point is, the performances will not be identical, the way they "should" be.

This isn't meant to be a tear-jerking plea, as counterscience would hold. Rather, it's another piece of the process to work on understanding, as comparatively minor from a distance as watching someone learn how to ride a bike. Your hand is your hand, your soul is your soul, yawn, what's for lunch?


  1. Ach. A hitch in your stride here:

    He'd lack the growth of new neural pathways designed to specifically support that knowledge,....

    bub, we already have the pathways, they don't grow fresh or revive anew with something "learned."

    Don't fall for this bullshit "neurobiology" crap peddled by people like Dawkins & Co. Our nerve tissue is there already. To suggest it forms brand-new because you are getting new info pushed into your cranial vault is no more than the bafflegarb offered by Lisa Randall in her theories on "branes" which are not "brains."

    Neuroscience, the cold fusion of the mid2010s.

    1. Oferchrissake, substitute "route familiarity," then. ;-)

      Like, the roads are there, but the guy at the gas station can be either faster or slower at pumping fuel and aligning wheels on your mid century European.

    2. I'd accept anything that resembles a metaphor, instead of a white lab coat endorsed pseudo-theory on new cells moving into places they weren't previously, all because the overall body in which they reside has attempted to learn something.

      I think the white lab coats have observed how muscle tissue actually grows more thickly capillaried and there are some muscle tissue additions when someone trains extensively and wisely, and assumed it happens with neurons as well. But we all remember what Felix Unger said about "assume," right? Makes an ASS out of U and ME, eh?

      I like the overall entry, and what I picked on above could easily stand as a parody of the white lab coats seeking more research money with bogus results as seeds for such seeking.

  2. One problem with the "The matrix" analogy is that all the stunts and the kung-fu happened *inside* of a computer simulation. I.e. no need for muscle memory or whatevs (remember, they were all just laying down in their pods, plugged into 'the matrix')

    1. Yes, but when Neo fought Bane (with Smith loaded into Bane) in the real world in Revolutions, he possessed the same martial skill-set. And so did Smith as Bane despite never having been inside a meat hunk before.