Why You Won't Be Uploaded

If smarter-than-human AI is developed, some feel this isn't a problem because we will all be able to be "uploaded" by then. Economics suggests that even if the formidable technical challenges to uploading are ever resolved it will still only be a tiny fraction of the population, if any, that gets uploaded.

Cost of uploading

Putting aside the technical challenges for one moment. Let's look at the costs today.

Cost to store a brain representation:

Cost to run a brain emulation:

Cost to scan a brain for uploading:

Only one brain might ever be uploaded

Costs of scanning brains, running emulations, and storing emulations will fall as technology progresses, but the very large difference between the cost to scan and to store (currently over a factor of 10 million) is unlikely to be change. The cost of scanning might fall rapidly, but it is unlikely to ever obtain parity. The difference is driven by the difference in the resolution required to scan a brain (the number of voxels) and the resolution required to store a brain representation (the number of bytes). These two numbers differ by over a factor of a million.

Given the expected cost differential, if it was possible to upload, once the first brain was uploaded it would be much, much, cheaper to make copies of the first brain and modify them, than it would be to upload additional brains. By the time uploading was affordable for the masses the proliferation of emulations would have made the world an unrecognisable place for humans (in The Age of Em, Hanson estimates any era of emulations will only last for 2-5 years before being replaced by something even more bizarre; and during any such era it seems likely that manipulation of the physical world (scanning) will evolve at a slower rate than manipulation of the virtual world (running emulations), with the cost of storing emulations falling somewhere in between these two rates).

Or none at all

It seems that construction of an emulation based on scanning small pieces of different types of brain tissue to discover general wiring organizational principles is going to have a long head start over scanning a complete brain. Scanning, say, 100 different 1mm3 volumes would reduce the price by a factor of 12,000 to $80m today. This is quite affordable for a government sponsored research project today. By the time uploading was ever affordable to the general public, the effects of such emulations would have transformed the world irreversibly.

Other approaches to scanning

The reason for the large difference between storing and scanning is scanning today needs to construct a structural connectome, which is much larger than the functional connectome needing to be stored. One promising technique for deriving the functional connectome is scanning the brain using DNA or RNA barcoding. Such techniques are close to becoming practical (see Using high-throughput barcode sequencing to efficiently map connectomes), but unfortunately while they might one day deliver a connectome, they don't include the weight associated with each connection. Knowing the weights between neurons is vital to uploading. Other scanning techniques, such as nanobot probes, might be able to directly deliver a functional connectome that incorporates weights, but for the foreseeable future such techniques remain the work of science fiction.

AI Policies Wiki: Uploading (last edited 2018-01-14 07:55:29 by GordonIrlam)