Arash Christopher Eslami's Blog


Archive for the category “Science”

Can I Have an Avatar in Blue, Please…?

Dmitry Itskov actually believes we will have technology in 30 years to become immortal, kind of like a vampire.  That is even more optimistic than Ray Kurzweil.  I like to believe this stuff because I have a great imagination.  It feels great to think that once our bodies start to decline and die, like everybody else, we can simply have our brain transplanted into a machine.  That really implies that we are our brain.  If my brain was taken from my skull and placed inside a machine with a brain-computer interface, then apparently I would be the same consciousness in a different body.

This takes us back to an ancient argument when Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle contemplate the soul.  Is the mind the soul?  Is the brain the mind?  I remember taking a philosophy of mind course and saying to myself of course the brain is the mind.  It is only a difference in semantics.  But I would also say that the brain connects us to the mind; in other words, the brain, a physical substance, is the medium we use to connect ourselves into the intangible, spiritual realm.  So then to modify my earlier statement: we are the brain because we are physical and the mind is not the brain since it is abstract, not physical.

So this idea about Avatar is so amazing to me.  Digressing, just a bit, the movie Avatar was such a great movie.  To me it was as great on screen as Harry Potter was on print.  That is a bold statement for me because I am a huge J.K. Rowling fan.  But just like the movie, an avatar is any embodiment as of a quality or concept in a person, according to the Webster dictionary.  It is kind of like the personification of a symbol: the personification being the mind and the symbol being the avatar–the incarnation of god, a piece at least.  My avatar on the internet is a quality of my person.  Some people’s avatars have pictures of themselves along with their email, Twitter handle, phone number, and so on.  I love the root of words, hence, my classical training in Greek and Latin.  Avatar, though, is not a Greek/Latin root but Sanskrit: ava means down and tarati, a verb, means (she) crosses over.  In Hinduism, avatar is the incarnation of god.

What a connection!  I mean if we agree the soul and mind are synonymous because they’re both intangible, then both the Western definition and Hindu avatar implies the mind is god.  Some may think this is too great a leap in reasoning so let me elaborate.  The Avatar project claims by 2045, they will be able to download consciousness on a synthetic platform.  This could be an integrated circuit or by then a three-dimensional molecular chip in a binary code—our digital selves.  So the brain, the hardware, will no longer be needed since consciousness, the software, is successfully being downloaded into another body—a machine.  So corroborating my main point that if the brain is the person, and the brain connects humans to the mind—the universal soul—then ridding ourselves of the brain by downloading our consciousness, we are essentially incarnating a piece of god into an avatar.

This identity metamorphosis is already happening.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Eugene K. Chow, a Huffington Post writer, writes the following:

Essentially, the root of the problem lies in the gap between our digital selves and our physical selves. We’ve ceded power to our electronic profiles and now our physical beings matter less than the data — the person in front of the immigration agent, poll worker, or bank teller is meaningless compared to what is on the screen.

In other words, data now constructs our identity rather than vice versa. That is to say, if the Social Security Administration believes you are dead, then you are denied all the rights of the living, even if you appear in person.

Mr. Chow, I am sure, is a very bright young man who represents a contemporary understanding of what is happening in our culture.  Unlike a Stephen Hawkings or an Immanuel Kant, Mr. Chow is an average joe who relates with everyday people.  I think he hits the mark in that the transition of forsaking our physical selves for a digital self is already happening on a certain level.


“Avatar” project aims for human immortality by 2045

“Avatar” project aims for human immortality by 2045.

I found this article very interesting.  If you want to see how ambitious some people are about extending life, this is worth a look.

Notes on Singularity

For those who espouse to the Big Bang, then you would by default also agree that this occurred 13.75 billion years ago.  It didn’t take long until atoms began to form, that is, where the nuclei—protons and neutrons—attracted roaming electrons to orbit them.  Atoms were the essential catalyst because as soon as they started coming together as molecules, it was the element carbon with its unique capacity to form bonds in four directions that led to life.

So about 10 billion years later from the Big Bang, carbon-based molecules became three-dimensional, and complex aggregations of carbon compounds were able to produce self-replicating mechanisms.  Life is inevitable at this point, there’s no turning back.

The real question is what facilitated us becoming what we are today.  DNA was the digital recorder of evolution’s experiments which enabled organisms to develop brains and nervous systems.  The human brain’s propensity for abstract thought in tandem with our thumbs has created technology which has catapulted our existence far ahead of every other living thing.  This is where we are now.

Technology, though, has ironically revealed a huge gap between its evolution and our evolution.  There’s no arguing the rate of progress in technology leaves biological evolution in the dust.  Being a skeptical reader of Ray Kurzweil, I do agree with his prognosis that technology is doubling its computation capacity—memory and speed—every year.  The human brain, in contrast, is believed to add 1 cubic inch of grey matter every one-hundred thousand years.  We all know brain size is not the ultimatum on intelligence because if that were the case Moby Dick (sperm whale) would have written Herman Melville’s classic.  Try to bear with my cheesy allusions: I just can’t help myself.

Yes, this is where we are now, but where are we going?  Notice how I italicized “self-replicating mechanisms” above, because I think this is a very important idea for leading thinkers today.  Stephen Wolfram is one of those leading thinkers who demonstrated that a simple process can create more complicated processes—namely, cellular automaton (rule 110 class 4 automata).  I know what you’re thinking, “What the f***!?”  It’s just an algorithm that seemingly defies what an algorithm is able to do.  An algorithm is a finite system which implies it can be fully accounted for, i.e., predicted.  Wolfram’s rule 110 yields complex patterns that are neither predictable nor random.  His argument would like to prove that all complexity in the world is derived from simple computations.  Sounds nice but let me explain why it doesn’t hold up.

Self-replicating is important because of its association with DNA.  When cells divide in our body, DNA is replicated.  If you say evolution is the process of creating patterns of increasing order, then cellular automaton is important for it turns out unpredictable patterns with one exception.  Its complexity scale in patterns is limited.  Although it takes a long time, the human body continuously evolves—larger cerebral, abstract thought, etc.—while the cellular automaton has a limit.  You could do a billion iterations, and once the cellular automaton reached its maximum complexity, it would remain there.

It should be mentioned that Jon Von Neumann was the predecessor to cellular automaton with his universal constructor.  He was probably the greatest mind in the 20th century outside of Einstein.  Oppenheimer is in general given the credit for the minds behind creating an atomic bomb, but Neumann was also an indispensable character in the same project, known as the Manhattan project.  He made extensive trips to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the covert project was happening.  The Manhattan project will be left for another day though.

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