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Old November 5 2012, 08:57 PM   #229
Bonzo the Fifth
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Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

Christopher wrote: View Post
Good analysis, Bonzo, although I'm skeptical of the standard sci-fi convention that merely copying a brain's contents (AI or organic) and installing them in a different platform constitutes transferring or resurrecting the original identity. A consciousness isn't just data and memories, it's an active, dynamic emergent process taking place within a brain. It's as much a function of the hardware itself, its initial conditions, and its state at any given moment as it is of the data stored within it. So I don't agree with the fictional conceit that resurrecting a mind is as simple as copying a JPEG. A conscious mind is far more complex than that, so it stands to reason that the process of preserving or recreating it would also be far more complex -- and that running the same memories on a different piece of hardware would result in a distinct entity, more an offspring of the original than a direct continuation.
Possibly something closer to parthenogenesis or cloning, since we're talking about a form of reproduction more intimate than merely having a child. We're talking about an identical state of being, same memories and experiences, possibly translated into a different medium, like the duplicated Chrichton from Farscape or the Thomas Riker/Will Riker conundrum.

How do we treat that? How is that experienced by the individual involved. Did they 'die', and if so, should we mourn them? I don't really know how to react to something like that, not really. But it doesn't have the feel of 'death'

And yet it does.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Granted, VGR (along with "Ship in a Bottle") has established that it's relatively easy to transfer a holographic consciousness from one storage medium to another. But, with the exception of "Living Witness," it's generally shown that not as copying the mind, but as transferring it whole so that it is removed from its original storage site at the same time it's installed in the new one. That's consistent with the idea that it's more a process than a program -- not just an inert lump of data being uploaded, but a dynamic and shifting set of activity states and interconnections that can move through a network as a coherent pattern. (Think of consciousness as analogous to a wave pattern moving through a medium. When an ocean wave moves through water, the actual water molecules don't move with it; they just oscillate up and down, but the greater pattern they form through the relationship of their individual motions is itself moving as a coherent whole.) So an AI consciousness could "move" through a network from one body or mainframe to another by altering the pattern of the network's activity; but storing the data it contained and starting it on a separate system would be a different matter.
One could make the same argument in regards to the transporters and how they're able to recreate individuals after disassembly, even though as far as I can tell, subjects aren't put to sleep or deactivated in any sense during the process.

Granted, I'm not saying it makes any sense in a real-life context, but it's worth considering since it is something that occurs in-universe on a regular basis, so it would seem like there's a cause to suspect it's possible without extraordinary effort.

Christopher wrote: View Post
Maybe, if you had enough storage space, then you could store a "snapshot" of the network's pattern of activity at the moment the consciousness was stored, analogous to what Windows does when you put your PC in hibernate mode (only far more complex and detailed). That way, you could use both the stored data and the snapshot of the system's state to create a closely equivalent configuration on a separate system and essentially duplicate the original consciousness. That would explain "Living Witness." But what Data downloaded into B-4 was just his memories; we have no reason to believe it contained such a finely detailed snapshot of his own brain's activity pattern. Which would mean that what Soong retreived from B-4 and downloaded into the new android body wasn't Data's identity, just his knowledge and memory. Which is why I believe that this new "Data" is more an offspring than a resurrection. He's Data Junior.
From a 'real world' perspective, that's how I would see this working, as copying a dynamic, fully operating brain, whether organic or artificial, does seem a bit unfeasable. But I suppose that depends on whether you think that an artificial consciousness is mere software or if it's as bound to it's medium as our own consciousness appears to be. If it's software, or can be actualized that way, I suppose you could copy, clone, merge, etc. any way you wanted to. But if it's bound by hardware, that would complicate matters, wouldn't it?

Unfortunately, we just don't really know anything about how positronic brains work. And Star Trek seems to have played both sides of the argument in that, sometimes, it seems that Data is mere software in an amulbatory body, which could transfer from it to the Enterprise computer, to other computer systems, etc. Other times, he seems just as trapped in his brain as we are. They did the same thing to the Doctor in VGR, which made even less sense, in my opinion.

But if memories were all that made a man, wouldn't Data have gone mad when he absorbed Lore's memories and experiences or had a similar cascade failure as Lal when he downloaded her? It seems odd that Soong would simply erase himself and turn himself into a clone of Data. Something about that doesn't quite ring true, especially given the 'dream sequence' where he wakes Data. I'm getting away from science and more into the metaphysical at this point (Metaphycial cybernetics!), but that scene impressed me with the idea that, in that moment, Soong, Data and B-4 were all distinct and full individuals. Were Data just a memory substrate with no 'soul', I can't see that scene playing out the same way. But at this point, I'm not arguing from a position of science so much as my perspective as a reader, so take that as you will..
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