Archive for the ‘Moore’s Law’ Category

Human Replication Technology, Update 2010: Replicating the Brain

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Successful replication of a mature human brain – one that we would accept as a replacement for our own, or for the brain of someone we love – must preserve almost all the connections within it.  Connections embody the psychological properties that make human individuals who they are: memories, learned abilities, habits, associations, talents, and emotional responses.

In an organ such as the liver, it doesn’t matter that two particular cells are adjacent, because the liver is not a communications network.  In the brain, the physical arrangement of individual cells matters very much.  All our psychological attributes – the differences between the minds of an Einstein and a Hitler – are instantiated in that physical relationship. (more…)

Human Replication Technology, Update 2010: Bioprinting

Friday, November 5th, 2010

My original post on technologies of human replication, a year ago, was mostly about numbers.  I estimated that a ‘fair copy’ of a human being, functionally indistinguishable from the original, could be constructed from approximately 1016 bits of information.   That’s a petabyte – a lot of data by today’s standards, but not mind-boggling.  One petabyte = 1024 terabytes (Tb).  The going price for a 1 Tb hard drive today is $70 retail; 1024 of them would cost $71,680 (less with volume discounts).  By Moore’s Law, that cost should drop to 0.7 cents by 2056.  In that time-frame, other technologies required for human replication will have matured.  As I argued, the business case for developing such technologies is compelling.  Three business drivers – applications where the economic benefits justify the required R&D – are transportation, health, and life insurance.

Some implications of the transportation and life insurance applications have already been discussed in the Phantom Self blog.  Information-based teleportation –human replication as a means of transportation – is a game-changer for the transportation industry, but will not, by itself, turn society upside down.  Travelling to Omaha as a stream of data will quite naturally become the usual way of doing business.   The use of this technology for life insurance – restoring people from backups, after they have died – is more radical, because it changes our relationship to death.  Death will be transformed from the ultimate loss to a temporary setback, like the setback called ‘death’ in a video game.

I haven’t said much about health applications.  But in the medium-term future, health care looks like the biggest driver of all.  Health care costs in developed nations are escalating towards fiscal crisis.  According to the 2007 Commonwealth Study, the United States spends 16% of its GDP on health care – triple the percentage it spent in 1960.  The trend shows no signs of abating.  Average age in the developed world continues to rise, and annual health care costs increase with the age of the patient.

We need to do things better.  An interesting development in health care technology, directly related to human replication, is organ printing. (more…)

Life Insurance as Game Changer

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Who would have predicted that boring old life insurance would become the ‘killer app’ that makes human replication technology truly transformational?  But that does seem to follow from the logic of the situation.

The arguments for information-based life insurance are even more compelling than the arguments for teleportation.  The advantages of travelling as information are speed, convenience, cost, and sustainability (in the form of lower carbon emissions).  The final product is the same as conventional travel – the customer is (to all intents and purposes) transported from place A to place B.  But in the case of life insurance, the product is radically transformed.  Whereas traditional insurance merely mitigates the damage of death by providing monetary support to surviving family, the new insurance warrants the life of the policyholder by – in the event of his death – restoring him from a backup file.   It changes our relationship to death, which is no small matter. (more…)

Progress in Replication Technology

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Nanomanufacturing3All that’s needed to make a case for radical reform of the idea of self is a thought-experiment with a clear and compelling outcome.  However, the world is full of people who pay no attention to thought-experiments, however revealing they may be in exposing inconsistencies in everyday ideas, because thought-experiments aren’t ‘real’.  These are people from Missouri, as the saying goes, who demand to be shown.  And I have nothing to show, yet.

But even people from Missouri can be convinced to take a possibility seriously if there’s enough evidence that, although not here yet, it’s coming fast, probably not very far away, not in front of the house yet but closer than the next county.  Like the second Al-Qaeda attack on American soil.  Something worth thinking about.

This post examines the possibility whether we will one day have the capability of replicating a living human being, and if so, when might that be?  (more…)