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From att!sun!proof.ergo.cs.cmu.edu!Timothy.Freeman Wed Apr 19 02:10:31 1989
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Subject: CRYONICS - Mind links, artificial hearts, automobiles, and language
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 89 04:21:34 EDT
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From: sun!PROOF.ERGO.CS.CMU.EDU!Timothy.Freeman
Status: RO

> ...
>To be short - I don't buy it. Let me ask you: would you rather control your
>own destiny, or give up some or all of the responsibility for your thoughts
>and life to some metapsychic octopus with a secret agenda?
> ...
>I'm leery of your "high bandwidth direct brain / computer interconnection".
>The RISKs of such an interconnection are beyond estimation.
> ...

Many technologies have moved along the path from impossible to
impractical/untrustworthy to practical to indespensible/ubiquitous.
Most of them caused intense apprehension before they became commonly

Language was invented so long ago that everyone uses it, and those few
who don't or can't just don't make much of a difference in the world
any more.  Language has become indespensible and ubiquitous.

Automobiles (and mechanical transportation in general) are quite
common now.  People used to be afraid that going too fast would
somehow lead inevitably to suffocation or death.  No one believes this
now, they happily use cars or public transportation to get from point
to point.  Automobiles have become practical.

Artificial hearts are possible now, but not reliable enough or cheap
enough for people to routinely have them installed.  Only people who
have no choice have artificial hearts installed.  The heart was once
considered the organ that causes emotions, and a person who believed
this would have reacted strongly against having their "soul" replaced
by a mechanical device.  Most people don't believe that their souls
are in their hearts nowdays.  Artificial hearts are possible, but
generally impractical and untrustworthy.

Also note that the technology for artificial hearts was developed in
stages.  Some of the stages were anesthesia, blood transfusions,
learning to prevent infections, heart-lung machines, and heart

Mind-links are not possible yet.  The first people using forerunners
of this technology don't have much choice; consider communication
tools for paraplegics and nerve hookups for artificial limbs.  The
belief that "my soul" is attached to a particular brain will probably
pass by the time there are usable replacements for brains, like the
belief that "my emotions" are imbedded in my heart subsided before
artificial hearts were invented.

Between the present and the time for useful mind-links, there will be
many small advances.  Libraries will come on-line, networks will get
faster, computers will get bigger and faster, better input devices
will be invented, and so forth.  It will all be a gradual thing.

>To be short - I don't buy it. Let me ask you: would you rather control your
>own destiny, or give up some or all of the responsibility for your thoughts
>and life to some metapsychic octopus with a secret agenda?

The same argument works against language.  By communicating with
others, you have less control over your thoughts.  I bet you can't
avoid thinking of a pink polar bear right now.  For all you know, I
have a secret agenda.

In my opinion, doing interesting things is important, not being in

>I mean, haven't you ever wished you could shut your ears the same way 
>you shut your eyes? What if you couldn't shut your eyes, either?

I can turn off my computer, I can get rid of windows on the screen, I
can kill processes that are running, I can use kill files to censor
information when reading netnews.  I expect that the number of useful
ways to block out information will increase rather than decrease.

>The RISKs of such an interconnection are beyond estimation.

In the very long run, not doing such an interconnection will result in
being out of the game of life, since you'll be outclassed by the
people who have made use of such an interconnection.  Which seems the
same as dying to me.  Taking the risk (when the technology is ripe)
can't be any worse.

>The whole thing sounds like existentialist hell...

You're in existentialist hell already, with the rest of us.  One way
out is to realize that, as a consequence of the way we came into
existence, we have an irrational desire to continue to exist.
Cooperating with this desire is easy and fun.  Part of doing this in
the long term is slipping the definition of "self" into something that
is easier to add abilities to.

Tim Freeman
Uucp:    ...!seismo.css.gov!cs.cmu.edu!tsf

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