What would happen if we upload our brains to computers? | Robin Hanson


Someday, we may have robots
as smart as people, artificial intelligence, AI. How could that happen? One route is that we’ll just keep
accumulating better software, like we’ve been doing for 70 years. At past rates of progress,
that may take centuries. Some say it’ll happen a lot faster as we discover grand new
powerful theories of intelligence. I’m skeptical. But a third scenario is what I’m going to talk about today. The idea is to port the software
from the human brain. To do this, we’re going to need
three technologies to be good enough, and none of them are there yet. First, we’re going to need
lots of cheap, fast, parallel computers. Second, we’re going to need
to scan individual human brains in fine spatial and chemical detail, to see exactly what cells are where,
connected to what, of what type. And third, we’re going to need
computer models of how each kind of brain cell works — taking input signals,
changing interval state and sending output signals. If we have good enough models
of all the kinds of brain cells and a good enough model of the brain, we can put it together to make
a good enough model of an entire brain, and that model would have the same
input-output behavior as the original. So if you talk to it, it might talk back. If you ask it to do things,
it might do them. And if we could do that,
everything would change. People have been talking
about this idea for decades, under the name of “uploads.” I’m going to call them “ems.” When they talk about it, they say, “Is this even possible? If you made one, would it be conscious?
Or is it just an empty machine? If you made one of me,
is that me or someone else?” These are all fascinating questions
that I’m going to ignore … (Laughter) because I see a neglected question: What would actually happen? I became obsessed with this question. I spent four years trying to analyze it, using standard academic tools,
to guess what would happen, and I’m here to tell you what I found. But be warned — I’m not offering inspiration,
I’m offering analysis. I see my job as telling you
what’s most likely to happen if we did the least to avoid it. If you aren’t at least a bit disturbed
by something I tell you here, you’re just not paying attention. (Laughter) OK, the first thing I can tell you is that ems spend most
of their life in virtual reality. This is what you might look like
if you were using virtual reality. And this is what you might see: sunlight glinting off of water,
you might hear gulls flying above, you might even feel the wind
on your cheeks or smell seawater, with advanced hardware. Now, if you were to spend
a lot of time here, you might want a dashboard where you could do things like
make a phone call, move to a new virtual world, check your bank account. Now, while this is what
you would look like in virtual reality, this is what an em
would look like in virtual reality. It’s computer hardware
sitting in a server rack somewhere. But still, it could see
and experience the same thing. But some things are different for ems. First, while you’ll probably always notice
that virtual reality isn’t entirely real, to an em, it can feel as real to them
as this room feels to you now or as anything ever feels. And ems also have
some more action possibilities. For example, your mind just always
runs at the same speed, but an em can add more or less
computer hardware to run faster or slower, and therefore, if the world around them
seems to be going too fast, they can just speed up their mind, and the world around them
would seem to slow down. In addition, an em can make
a copy of itself at that moment. This copy would remember
everything the same, and if it starts out with the same speed,
looking at the same speed, it might even need to be told,
“You are the copy.” And em could make archive copies, and with enough archives, an em can be immortal — in principle, though not
usually in practice. And an em can move its brain,
the computer that represents its brain, from one physical location to another. Ems can actually move around the world
at the speed of light, and by moving to a new location, they can interact more quickly
with ems near that new location. So far, I’ve been talking about
what ems can do. What do ems choose to do? To understand that, we’ll need
to understand three key facts. First, ems by definition do what
the human they emulate would do in the same situation. So their lives and behavior
are very human. They’re mainly different because
they’re living in a different world. Second, ems need
real resources to survive. You need food and shelter or you’ll die. Also, ems need computer hardware,
energy, cooling, or they can’t exist. For every subjective minute
that an em experiences, someone, usually that em,
had to work to pay for it. Third, ems are poor. (Laughter) The em population can grow
quicker than the em economy, so that means wages fall down
to em subsistence levels. That means ems have to be working
most of the time. So that means
this is what ems usually see: beautiful and luxurious, but desks — they’re working most of the time. Now, a subsistence wage scenario,
you might think, is exotic and strange, but it’s actually the usual case
in human history, and it’s how pretty much
all wild animals have ever lived, so we know what humans do
in this situation. Humans basically do
what it takes to survive, and this is what lets me say
so much about the em world. When creatures are rich, like you, you have to know a lot
about what they want to figure out what they do. When creatures are poor, you know that they mostly do
what it takes to survive. So we’ve been talking about the em world
from the point of view of the ems — now, let’s step back
and look at their whole world. First, the em world grows
much faster than ours, roughly a hundred times faster. So the amount of change
we would experience in a century or two, they would experience in a year or two. And I’m not really willing to project
this age much beyond that, because plausibly by then something else
will happen, I don’t know what. Second, the typical emulation
runs even faster, roughly a thousand times human speed. So for them, they experience
thousands of years in this year or two, and for them, the world around them
is actually changing more slowly than your world seems to change for you. Third, ems are crammed together
in a small number of very dense cities. This is not only how they see
themselves in virtual reality, it’s also how they actually are
physically crammed together. So at em speeds, physical travel
feels really painfully slow, so most em cities are self-sufficient, most war is cyber war, and most of the rest of the earth
away from the em cities is left to the humans, because the ems
really aren’t that interested in it. Speaking of humans, you were wanting to hear about that. Humans must retire, at once, for good. They just can’t compete. Now, humans start out owning
all of the capital in this world. The economy grows very fast,
their wealth grows very fast. Humans get rich, collectively. As you may know, most humans today
don’t actually own that much besides their ability to work, so between now and then,
they need to acquire sufficient assets, insurance or sharing arrangements, or they may starve. I highly recommend avoiding this outcome. (Laughter) Now, you might wonder, why would ems let humans exist? Why not kill them, take their stuff? But notice we have many
unproductive retirees around us today, and we don’t kill them
and take their stuff. (Laughter) In part, that’s because it would disrupt
the institutions we share with them. Other groups would wonder who’s next, so plausibly, ems may well let humans
retire in peace during the age of em. You should worry more that
the age of em only lasts a year or two and you don’t know what happens next. Ems are very much like humans, but they are not like the typical human. The typical em is a copy
of the few hundred most productive humans. So in fact, they are as elite,
compared to the typical human, as the typical billionaire,
Nobel Prize winner, Olympic gold medalist, head of state. Ems look on humans
perhaps with nostalgia and gratitude, but not so much respect, which is, if you think about it,
how you think about your ancestors. We know many things about how humans
differ in terms of productivity. We can just use those
to predict features of ems — for example, they tend to be smart,
conscientious, hard-working, married, religious, middle-aged. These are features of ems. Em world also contains enormous variety. Not only does it continue on with most
of the kinds of variety that humans do, including variety of industry
and profession, they also have many new kinds of variety, and one of the most important
is mind speed. Ems can plausibly go from human speed up to a million times
faster than human speed, and down to a billion times
slower than human speed. Faster ems tend to have
markers of high status. They embody more wealth.
They win arguments. They sit at premium locations. Slower ems are mostly retirees, and they are like the ghosts
of our literature. If you recall, ghosts are all around us — you can interact with them
if you pay the price. But they don’t know much,
they can’t influence much, and they’re obsessed with the past,
so what’s the point? (Laughter) Ems also have more variety
in the structure of their lives. This is your life: you start
and you end, really simple. This is the life of an em, who every day splits off
some short-term copies to do short-term tasks and then end. We’ll talk more about
those short term versions in a moment, but they are much more efficient because they don’t have to rest
for the next day. This em is more opportunistic. They make more copies of themselves
when there’s more demand for that. They don’t know which way
the future’s going. This is an em designer, who conceives of a large system and then breaks recursively into copies
who elaborate that, so ems can implement
larger, more coherent designs. This an emulation plumber who remembers that every day,
for the last 20 years, they only ever worked
two hours a day, a life of leisure. But what really happened is,
every day they had a thousand copies, each of whom did a two-hour plumbing job, and only one of them
went on to the next day. Objectively, they’re working
well over 99 percent of the time. Subjectively, they remember
a life of leisure. (Laughter) This, again, is you.
You start and you end. This could be you
if at the start of party, you took a drug that meant
you would not remember that party ever after that day. Some people do this, I’m told. Toward the end of the party, will you say to yourself,
“I’m about to die, this is terrible. That person tomorrow isn’t me,
because they won’t remember what I do.” Or you could say, “I will go on tomorrow.
I just won’t remember what I did.” This is an em who splits off
a short-term copy to do a short-term task and then end. They have the same two
attitude possibilities. They can say, “I’m a new short-term
creature with a short life. I hate this.” Or “I’m a part of a larger creature
who won’t remember this part.” I predict they’ll have
that second attitude, not because it’s philosophically correct,
but because it helps them get along. Today, if the president says
we must invade Iraq, and you say, “Why?” and they say, “State secret,” you’re not sure if you can trust them, but for ems, a copy of the president
and a copy of you can go inside a safe, explain all their secret reasons, and then one bit comes out
from your copy to yourself, telling you if you were convinced. So now you can know
there is a good reason. I know you guys are all eager
to evaluate this world. You’re eager to decide
if you love it or hate it. But think: your ancestors
from thousands of years ago would have loved or hated your world based on the first few things
they heard about it, because your world
is really just weird. So before judging a strange future world,
you should really learn a lot about it, maybe read a whole book about it, and then, if you don’t like it,
work to change it. Thank you. (Applause)

99 thoughts on “What would happen if we upload our brains to computers? | Robin Hanson

  1. He is literally showing us our future. We may as well call them what they are , Fallen Angels Demonic Spirits who are deceiving the mindless humans once again.  Do not listen to these Lies, Jesus is the only way out of this. He is the only peace in this time of chaos, the ONLY truth in a world drowning is deceit. He loves you right where you are and exactly who you are, the world wants our should Jesus wants your soul to be saved from the demonic forces of evil.  I bet if we dug a little deeper into this "man" we would find some kind of dark evil secret society connection, likely through the elite brainwashing of a college.

  2. YOUR "EM" IS NO MATCH FOR OUR LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST. GET BEHIND THEE SATAN! "But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” MATTHEW 16 ~~ AMEN!

  3. This man should just play Black Mirror's "San Junipero" episode. That's basically in a nutshell what he is trying to portray.

  4. 2:41 Quote "if your not a bit disturbed by what I'm saying here you're just not paying attention". I find it slightly offensive that he presumes we're all not paying attention, when by the end of the talk I'm actually wondering what actual evidence he has used to base his "analysis". Making a bunch of assumptions isn't the same as taking a set of data and using an algorithm, I'm certainly not holding any stock in this 12 mins of absolute guff.

  5. A huge leap ahead for the elite's depopulation program and the New World Order. I'm not religious but it's amazing how the force in control helps these evil people to play out their overall future agenda. Now, the elite and powers in charge, can safely get rid of the entire population, allowing robots equipped with human characteristic talents, traits and personalities to replace people in it's entirety, not only doing the manual labour, but copies , Em, can create music, write books, create art, design buildings, games whatever they want, as well as science of course. While needing no money, virtually no space in the world, will work endlessly, never demand rights or rebel, etc etc. A very smart move all in all. Now we wait while they figure out more ways to murder us, beyond third world war, vaccines, chemtrails, GMO foods, food additives , scientifically created diseases such as AIDs and Ebola – i'm quite sure as they get nearer to their goal of not needing humanity for absolutely anything at all, the rush will be on to find more effective and quicker ways to murder more people in larger numbers. For the few people left who don't know what i'm on about – check the Georgia Guidestones, and various videos on New World Order, depopulation. And go on studying from there,

  6. This is not possible to do. Because only during the process of saving/copying/whatever computer would do at the moment, our inner molecules would already be moved to other place, in other form, with different temperature, different structure, simply, YOU CANNOT copy neither replace our consciousness somewhere else because IF YOU WANTED TO, you'd need to do the whole process in less than a nano-second, actually far far beyond nano, in terms of time.

    Computer data that we are working with, mostly when saving / copying / replacing etc. are static, from the beginning of the process to the END, the information computer's working with, is the same. Although, that cannot be applied to a human body. Brain works on oxygen, blood vessels and other stuff that moves constantly.

    It's like if you had server with thousands of connected users, constantly addings and removing data, and you tried to store the data from an exact state of a server into your local storage, the second your download would start, data stored in that SERVER would've already been changed.

  7. "I'm not offering inspiration; I'm offering analysis."
    Yes, please! More of this on TED. Enough with the irritating "inspirational" lectures that have swamped TED during the past few years. This channel used to be about knowledge. Now it's 90% about feelings, emotions, well-being and personal identity and similar bullshit.

  8. A bit silly, multitude of things can go different way (including that we probably will build superhuman level AI before being able to scan brains to make a good computer model of it).

  9. I think the speaker assumes the first Em would allow others to be made. A single Em could have boundless knowledge despite who they were in life. Even if you added other Ems wouldn't it be more likely that they just merge?

  10. Without a physical body these 'EMS' are nothing like humans. Being software only they are missing the comprehension of space, as well they would have no understanding of time since they can travel between data centers at light speed. Clones of human minds would become unconscious dreamlike piles of mush the instant they are created.

  11. This is very meta. "You are the copy" might refer to us, not just the ems. If the natural course of progress for the human race is to create a virtual reality indistinguishable from our own, then there is no good reason to think we aren't already in one right now. This universe is already running on a machine somewhere.

  12. Interesting idea, but credit should probably go to Charlie Brooker for the concept. These ideas were really well explored in the 2014 Black Mirror episode White Christmas. Scary stuff. Also check out a similar but more positive exploration in the episode San Juniper.

  13. This guy says he spent 4 years on this but I think what he means is he spent 4 years getting super high. Every few statements he says something illogical.

  14. We are living in a virtual reality. The world we experience is just our brains predictions of what the world looks like based on the sensory input it receives.

  15. This really didn't say a whole lot and is almost entirely speculation. He didn't really answer the question in any way either. One concrete point he made was that the "ems" would be machines (duh, literally the title). However, the idea that Ems would live at a pace so fast that human time seems abysmally slow can be remedied in a few different ways. Since Ems all live in virtual reality, that means some kind of software has to be in operation. The programmers/designers of said software must write in some kind of "limit" to the processing power or time perception of the Em in order to prevent such drastic distortions in development. I understand that this slightly defeats the purpose of Ems, but for longevity and practicality purposes this would be a likely and reasonable solution. The only question/problem is if these Ems have any way to access the source code for this software (at least one most likely will at some point).

    Another possible solution to the issue of perception distortion is physically limiting the processing power and speed of Ems (aka through specifically designed hardware). However there are holes in this as well.

  16. This is by far the best thought towards AI I have heard… It actually makes sense, and it has plausible theory backing it

  17. Another psycho-scientist with grandiose ideas.
    What makes him and his ilk think we'd want to upload ourselves to a computer?
    These people are SICK in the head.

  18. you cant upload your "brain" to a computer.
    the brain is made of neurons.
    neurons produce thoughts.

    even if one day we build a quantum computer
    the best scenario is to replicate its ABILITIES.
    you can not transfer "consciousness" whatever that is.
    and this is part of the point.
    you need to be exact in definitions.
    what EXACTLY is consciousness ?
    does it include memories and/or perception ?
    If you are born deaf, dumb and blind AND ne feeling of any senses
    like physical pain, touch, or any of our 5 (or more) senses, then are you really conscious ?

    when did it first start ?
    were you always conscious ? if not, it had a starting point.
    when you were born ? beore ? how long ? EXACTLY when ?
    your brain is not static… it changes and makes and breaks connections all the time.

    motivation + desire.
    These 2 things are what drive us and make us who we are.
    and without these, we have no personality.
    Motivation and desire are built from our senses and perceptions.

    neurons produce thoughts.
    consciousness arises from the flesh.
    When your brain dies, so do you.

  19. I have a very hard time imagining jobs that an emulated human consciousness could do from within a computer that couldn't be done more cheaply by a set of algorithms. (ie, processing power and memory devoted only to the task at hand, not to simulating an environment or computing the various emotional repsonses the emulated human would want or need)

  20. ಠﭛಠ um excuse me Mr “futurist” brainiac, Do “Ems” dream in electric sheep?! Do “Ems” have nightmares of sheep being led to slaughter?! Is the awkward laugh after each point made because you can’t spell slaughter without laughter? And, most importantly why do you creep me out? Is this weaponized-Alzheimer’s looks like?!

  21. Do we really continue to live when our copy (clone) lives in a simulation ?
    You need kind to transfer ourself into the cloud not to copy it into the cloud…

  22. Religious EMs. I lol-ed. But I really like the plumber living a life of leisure with one in a thousand chance to see tomorrow once he is on the job. I'll read the book.

  23. This Ted Talk is grillning amazing. A year Ago I read a book called, " The footprints of god" by Greg Iles. And its just about this topic. Is science fiction, but the good kind of sci-fi. I highly recomendet it.

  24. I want whatever this dude is smoking…On a more serious note: He makes a lot of assumptions and completely rules out any form of regulation. Just because we theoretically could clone ourselves indefinetly doesn't mean we would.

  25. Uploaded intelligence: This pusillanimous despair of death is a distraction from a life well lived. If you were to copy your meme-set to run as digital code, it would still be as dead as Dorian Gray’s picture. Life has a head start in the development of a rich sensor array, energy flow, self repair and reproduction. If you imagine living in a video game is Nirvana I suspect you’ve not spent enough time skinny dipping on clear starry nights with friends.
    After 4 billion years of random selections life’s possible manifestations are just begging to be consciously understood and truly intelligent design is soon to be possible. It would squander yet untapped potential if the human race were usurped by transistorized cuckoos in the nest.

  26. Peace be with you all.so you basically you are excited that you create yourself with technology by copy god what is new you were created we know you but what is new with this new creation you create it as a creation The four years work you put into creating something that is like you you could put to improve yourself and you become better than this new creation you create

  27. Sooo much assumptions that are presented like truth: the whole talk is bogus. The guy even contradicts himself, and seems to not understand basic economy / free market mechanisms. This is best interpreted as a fary tale

  28. need to stop titling this downloading and uploading. Like no this would be cloning our consciousness. immortality is bs

  29. So you can make a copy of me that can replace me and has my memories and act exactly like i do? This is scary.

  30. You guys clearly dont see that this guy actually just made a huge discovery ,
    for instance imagine if we lived lived in a virtual simulation this would mean everything and anything would be possible inside that simulation including immortality imagine being able to do anything you want and playing god in a simulator an actually creating another universe inside that universe the possiblities are endless.

  31. For those unfamiliar with Hanson, I recommend to check out his blog, Overcoming Bias. His qualifications – which are very real and indisputable – can also be found there.

    This man's ideas are unorthodox, but his intelligence and creativity are rivaled by few.

  32. Hmm… I only got the nuances of what he was actually saying because i study economics… I guess people who di dnot study economics will not the full meaning from what he is saying.

  33. I do not believe that you, as in, you in the physical form you're in right now in 2019, would be the same as the "you" copied and uploaded to the cloud. That will never be you. That's a copy of you. It's a new you. It's a you that will have a completely different experience than the you of yesterday. The you of the physical.

    Much like how a clone twin shares the exact same DNA with you will have different "external and internal" influences throughout life.

  34. This is a dangerous game. We have to be very careful with how we approach this technology. Downloading ourselves is way more than downloading our consciousnesses. Another level more. We ourselves are consciousness; but our awareness that we ARE conscious is how we recognize beauty, awe, and love. If we download just awareness without it's ability to recognize itself as aware, it would be no different than an animal with the primal instincts of survival and attaining more. It will be a new race of animalistic, mind driven machines

  35. i liked your speech.And you made me a different person,before of you i have seen this theory.bt thank you,because you gave informations that i did not know.HI,i am14 years old

  36. How dumb do you have to be you die permanently and a shity program that thinks it’s you exists you still died wtf how god damn stupid do you have to be

  37. Is it just me, or is it already bothering anyone else, just 1 minuet into the video, that he is out of breath and panting like he just ran a marathon? Because I know it's a problem if I have to pause a video this early just to comment my concern.

  38. Watching those constant down low hand gestures gets pretty annoying after a while. Let’s not copy any of those psychological ticks into another bodily vessel.

  39. So its suicide just to let a digitale copy of you move around after your death? Are these people insane, why would anyone agree with that.

  40. The only real way I can envision real mind transfer is to be connected to a robot. While I'm connected im seeing through 4 eyes and I'm moving 2 bodies simultaneously. Then my human body is given a sedative and slowly put into a coma. While I remain looking through the robot eyes or virtual world eyes etc..

    That actually seems plausible.

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