A thought about Brain Machine Interfaces

This podcast got me thinking about what my purpose is.

At first I thought of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). It is an interesting life goal, and was my primary goal post. But when I thought about WHY I wanted AGI (what problems did I want to solve so badly with AGI?), I found another life goal.

That goal is to upload human consciousness.

It might sound absurd today, but I think it is one of the greatest goals of humanity and a beginning and end of the human species.

Let me explain why we would want to do that, and how I think it’s possible.

Why we should digitise our consciousness Link to heading

  • Expand human cognitive ability (make us smarter). Just like a bigger country can have a bigger industry and GDP, a bigger brain has more space for storage/computation, and therefore can hold more information (just from first principles thinking). Furthermore, if this brain is hyper connected to AI systems and the digital world, we will start to become intertwined with digital logic. Comparing a brain closely fused with the digital world to a modern human would be like comparing a modern day human with a smartphone vs a primitive human with no technology.

  • Give us respawn capabilities and live for as long as we like. As long as we have our consciousness spread between different places, if one place gets deleted, we still have others. Now respawning might not be without consequences, as the part of consciousness housed in your brain in that particular moment as you were killed might be lost, just like a country might lose territory from a war. But just like a country, the loss of a part does not mean the end of the country, and the country can spread out again to reclaim land. The only other way to eliminate age related death is to heavily modify the human body (maybe CRISPR?).

It would be interesting if consciousness could be forced out of a brain, because then you could transfer consciousness from one brain to another without losing some of it. The difficulty is that measuring the presence of consciousness might be impossible.

  • Give us ultimate control of our own reality. If we digitise our consciousness, then we most likely have lots of control over the inputs to the brain. Through these inputs we can construct whatever reality we chose, from bubble baths to near-death experiences (just like the matrix). This feels like the ultimate “platform”, that the computer, then iphone, then VR headset, then neural implant leads up to.

why I think its possible Link to heading

It is best to explain in analogy.

Consciousness to the brain is like New York to its inhabitants: it is an emergent property. You can not single out a building or a person or a train in New York and say “that’s New York”, just like you can’t single out a neuron in the brain and say “that is consciousness”. Instead, when a bunch of these things such as houses, people, buildings, and streets come together, a city emerges.

But cities can expand and shrink. Population can grow and the quality of life can increase. Why not the same for consciousness? If we add brain tissue to an existing brain and connect things up, why wouldn’t consciousness spread to occupy that part of the brain?

Furthermore, why would the added piece of brain have to be a biological brain? Couldn’t it be a digital brain (like some consciousness friendy hardware)?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but if I am wrong I am wrong in one of the following ways:

  1. consciousness is somehow prevented or does not spread into new tissue connected to a brain.
  2. We will never be able to synthetically create brain tissue or brain tissue like hardware to connect brains to.
  3. We will never be able to prove the presence of conscioussness inside of a host

I do not know about 1, but I find argument 2 to be uncompelling, since humans are beginning to make brain tissue already. I think 3 is the most challenging argument, but I think we will be able to perform experiements that make us very confident that consciousness is present in a host (especially with a device or mechnism that can “move” consciouness out).