Volume 2, Issue 1 
1st Quarter, 2007

The Role of AGI in Cybernetic Immortality

Ben Goertzel, Ph.D.

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Dr. Ben Goertzel at the 2nd Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology on July 20, 2006 in Lincoln, VT.

Ben, as Founder/CEO of both Biomind LLC and Novamente LLC, insightfully expounds upon the knowledge of and differences between Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence toward human and cyber-immortality.

Varieties of Immortality

What do we mean by immortality?  A number of different things are gathered into that word.  I’m reminded of a famous quote from Woody Allen that some of you are probably familiar with: “I don’t want to be immortal through my work; I want to be immortal by not dying.” 

People have referred to various types of immortality: Biological immortality, living forever in your body, which is the most straightforward type; cyber-immortality, immortality by perpetuating oneself in a computational medium different from the original.   You could upload yourself into a robot; turn yourself into a program running on a space satellite, etc. 

Then there are various forms of partial and limited immortality, which some of us get some limited satisfaction from – things like writing books or software programs, or producing children.  These processes persist some of your patterns beyond your own lifetime, but you can question how much of your own awareness or identity is really perpetuated.

In fact there are some philosophical questions even with uploading: If you upload yourself, is it really you or is it just some guy who’s trying to be you?  If your upload steals your wife, how much satisfaction do you get from it?

Gradual uploading may provide a way to get around this problem --what if you upload 1 percent of your brain today, the next 1 percent the next day, the next 1 percent the next day, and so on.  Then there’s some continuity between your current embodiment and the next embodiment – there’s more of a sense that it’s the same self all along.

If you get rid of the original guy after you create your upload, then you don't have the "upload stole my wife" problem.  But otherwise, if you don’t kill your old meat embodiment, then even if you gradually upload, you still may be left with two of you, two separate streams of experience.  And this is a whole new way of thinking, both personally, legally and societally.  That you can have multiple guys who are all Ben Goertzels or all Martine Rothblatts or whoever.

I tend to be more aggressive than Bill Bainbridge[1], in that I don't think the uploads are something you’ll have to hide in outer space.  But that's a whole political question that I won't get into.  In this talk I’m going to delve further into the philosophical issues than the political ones.

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1. William Simms Bainbridge - (October 12, 1940 - present) is an innovative American sociologist who currently resides in Virginia. He is co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and also teaches sociology as a part-time professor at George Mason University. He is also the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Bainbridge is most well known for his controversial work on the sociology of religion, however recently he has published work studying the sociology of video gaming. Wikipedia.org February 8, 2007 1:21 pm EST




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