Volume 2, Issue 1 
1st Quarter, 2007

How Uploading Works

Marshall Brain

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

Marshall an author, public speaker and founder of HowStuffWorks, offers an understanding and explanation of the pace of technology change how he believes in two to three decades, ‘mind uploading’ will work.

I might not actually have free will. When I raise my arm, I might not have actually done that; part of my subconscious might have done that and caused me to raise it.  I perceive it is free will but it may not be.

Even though I have perceived there is one me and I think of myself as a single person, there might actually be multiple things behind me that are being integrated into an illusion that I am me. 

Now I’m supposed to talk knowing that I’m hallucinating an illusion and whatever else. I have to put all that aside and go back to my normal mode of thinking which is:  I am one person with one consciousness.  I do have free will and I am not hallucinating.

I talk to a lot of people and do a lot of stuff that is fun in the way of educating people, such as with the website: How Stuff Works. One thing I know about talking with the general public is that no one is thinking at the level that is being thought of here and no one is sitting around in their living rooms watching television and thinking, wow, in 20 or 30 years, I can have my brain uploaded.  That is just not in the public consciousness.

I have to work at a little bit different level when trying to help people understand the pace of technological change.  To help people understand the pace of technological change, I can’t use computers because most people don’t have a real good grasp of computers.  I can use airplanes because everybody understands airplanes.

If you look back to 1903, and at the moment this happened in normal society, there were no skyscrapers and there were not cars yet because the model-T was not invented until 1909.

wright brothers
Image 1: Wright Brothers

There wasn’t air conditioning, refrigeration, lighting was still - some of it was electrified but a lot of it was kerosene.  The concept of the galaxy had not been invented yet so if people looked at the stars, no one thought of galaxies yet because that does not get invented until 1920.

This rickety, wooden, fabric thing takes off, off the ground, and flies for 200 feet.  And if you were to say to people in 1903, hey, we just had the first airplane, now think about this, 50 years from now, there’s going to be a giant aluminum version of this, except that it’s going to be about three football fields long and it’s going to be able to fly faster than the speed of sound and it’s going to be able to carry 70,000 pounds of bombs around, all the way to the other side of the world, and drop them on foreign nations if it wants to.  That will all happen in 50 years.

They would have just thought you were nuts and yet 50 years later the B-52 bomber, which is able to fly halfway around the world and drop 70,000 pounds of bombs on people, actually happened.

Image 2: B-52 Bomber

Now, 15 years, and not 50, is the pace of technological change.  That is phenomenal and as Ray Kurzweil suggests, the pace is accelerating. Paradigms are shifting at a faster and faster rate. 

It is hard to predict the future, but one thing that I’m pretty sure of, and something that I try to talk to people about, is that we all are going to want out of our human bodies. 

 Image 3: Predicting the Future

We are all inhabiting human bodies right now.  We all, though we don’t realize it or consciously think about it every moment of every day, we all want out of our bodies.  We would like to discard these vehicles that we currently use for transportation and we would like to replace them with something better.



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