The Vision

Putting Human Consciousness in Cyber Space

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright December 2014


Just as mankind has long aspired to soar like a bird, he has long aspired to move his conscious out of his body and into other realms. The 2050's version of that will be moving from the human body into cyberspace and back, back into a different organic-based body than the one it came from.

This is an exciting aspiration, but it will be difficult to achieve, much more so than flying. In this essay I will outline why.

The Thinking Stack

The heart of the problem is that consciousness is an emergent property of nerve activity. It was not the goal of developing a nervous system, it appeared (emerged) simply as a way to organize analytic thinking processes. For this reason it is quite elusive, as in, hard to describe and analyze. Science has yet to find a "seat of consciousness" in the brains. Instead it comes about when many sorts of neurological activities happening in many parts of the brain coordinate in subtle ways.

Consciousness is at the top of the human thinking stack, and emergent. This means it is very sensitive to the design of the thinking stack. This means that if consciousness is going to have a comfortable home in cyberspace, the whole human thinking stack must be emulated, not just some tip of the iceberg activities. This is going to be a big task. Cyber intelligence and self-awareness will have its own thinking stack and it will be completely different. It will have bandwidth on cable and through the air, and communications standards such as 802.11 and OSI protocols, not neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters.

What will it be like?

This apples and oranges difference means that putting a human consciousness in cyberspace will take enormous resource. And it will run dog-slow compared to its self-aware cyber contemporaries. This means that the story line of a human consciousness taking over cyberspace is as fantastic as Santa Claus existing. It won't happen. Instead the cyber intelligences will be nursemaiding the feeble human consciousness while it exists in cyberspace.

Given this constraint, the basic purpose of putting consciousness into cyber is to store it until it can be put back into something organic. Once back in organic it can mesh much more easily with the nerve-based thinking stack the organic will have.

This still leaves open many interesting possibilities. For instance, the consciousness can be transmitted from one star system to another and inserted into an explorer organism grown on the distant star system. This may also be a solution to the "Youth is wasted on the young." conundrum -- a wise old mind can be inserted into a youthful body.

The process of inserting is likely to be a gradual one. As the new organic grows from immature to mature, the external conciousness will be steadily added. This can happen as the organic is experiencing growing up in a human-like ways, or while it matures essentially motionless in a vat.

In sum, there lots of interesting possibilities, but having a human mind controlling things while in cyberspace is among the most expensive, and therefore least interesting.


--The End--