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Brain Augmentation: What’s the Deal?


Virtually every single one of the atoms within your brain will be replaced within a few years, and many in quite less time. What does that make you think about? It makes me think of brain augmentation.

If our brains are essentially just blueprints that are being filled in with atoms, and it doesn’t have to be the same atoms for it to be the same brain, just the same types of atoms, does it change the nature of the discussion if I suggest that we should replace minuscule, microscopic portions of our biological brains with something else, something far more efficient, capable of always being connected to the Internet ?

Does it make you stop to wonder if maybe it’s not such a bad idea to replace small portions of our brains with things that are less prone to, say, Alzheimer’s disease, provided we could do the process incrementally? Given that nature is already removing our atoms and replacing them billions at a time, how is that any different (in terms of identity) than us replacing the ones that really need replacing?

If we’re already within the realm of philosophical debate about whether we’re the same person from moment to moment (and I think we certainly are), then there is never going to be a pure answer to the question of identity changing because of substrate. Personally, I think that as long as consciousness is uninterrupted, we get to experience all of it as “us.”

The human brain is our chief location of identity, the one thing we will continue to have left after all else has been stolen. So what about hacking into the human brain under the scenario I’m describing?

This scenario is an exhausting one, and one that is certainly a credible threat, just as hacking computers is a credible threat. This doesn’t mean we’re going to stop using computers though, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to avoid augmenting my mind if at all possible. Imagine being able to think at the speed of light, not at the speed of chemicals. A day for us in terms of thinking will be like a thousand years. Imagine how much thinking you can get done in a day, with a thousand years to think about things. Not only would you be able to resolve deep philosophical issues in a matter of minutes, but you could also potentially solve problems that have plagued humanity for millennia.

This only scratches the surface of the conversation, and doesn’t go into AGI (Artificial General Intelligence, or “strong AI “), but it should give the layman something to think about (no pun intended).


This post originally appeared here in somewhat modified form: