|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2018-04-15 10:06:00
Why I Think Mind Uploading Is Not Likely To Happen Any Time Soon
Put simply? I don't think mind uploading, or the immanentizing of the eschaton or the storage of brains in computers or anything similar is likely to happen any time soon (or indeed within either my lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone alive at this period) because I'm mentally ill.
Stay with me, there is actually a connection between the two of these, and it isn't just "me being crazy not to believe in the chosen Rapture of the Nerds".
I'm mentally ill. I also have a metabolic disorder. Now, for one of these illnesses, there is a simple test which can be performed to determine how severe my illness is (and it will report this regardless of whether or not I report the symptoms of my illness to my doctor). The results of this test will determine whether or not I need medication, how high or low the dose of that medication should be, and whether this dosage needs to be altered. Guess which one of the two illnesses above I'm talking about with all of this - go on, guess!
That's right, it's the metabolic disorder - hypoactive (under-active) thyroid, to be precise.
It certainly isn't the depressive mental illness, which I've had for longer, and which was the thing I reported to a General Practitioner which resulted in the blood test which determined the under-active thyroid in the first place.
Here's the process for getting diagnosis and treatment for depression: go in to your doctor, and describe your symptoms to the doctor. If enough of your self-reported symptoms match with the diagnostic criteria for depression, you will receive a preliminary diagnosis of possible depression. Depending on your identified gender, your social class, the depth of your wallet, and the relationship your doctor has with matters psychological, you may receive any (or all) of the following as a result: 1) a referral to a psychiatrist to get correctly diagnosed; 2) a referral to a psychologist or counsellor for talk therapy; 3) a prescription for anti-depressants, usually of an SSRI (strategic serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) type; 4) a statement that it's all in your head, get out of the house and exercise more, eat a healthy diet and stop smoking; 5) a blood test to rule out things like anaemia, hypothyroidism, and other obvious physical causes of low mood; 6) a prescription for the contraceptive pill.
Not quite the same level of ease of diagnosis, is it? Or even the same level of accuracy of treatment.
Even if you do get handed the anti-depressants, you'll be told to watch out for a string of side-effects from your medication (which can include things like suicidal ideation and profound depression - that's right, the medication you're taking to make things better can have the side-effect of making them so much worse), and also that the effects won't really kick in for about six weeks (any improvement before then is probably placebo effect). If the medication doesn't work after six weeks to three months, you'll be told to go off the medication - either stopping cold, or titrating down, depending on the particular medication - and try a different one. Yup, that's right, the process is literally: "here, try this and see if it works for you".
It is therefore no real surprise that people with complex psychological diagnoses tend to have a collection of medications which need to be carefully balanced (there's the meds for the psychological symptoms, the meds to counterbalance the side-effects of the psych meds, and in some cases, the meds to counterbalance the side-effects of the meds which are intended to deal with the side-effects) and they tend to display various behaviours which tend to be interpreted as symptoms of mental illness, but are often symptoms of taking particular types of medication.
Now, all of this sounds completely irrelevant when faced with the question of mind uploading, right? But wait, there's a point to all of this. My point is: we aren't able to solve mental illness in humans yet. We don't have the understanding of how things go wrong to the point of causing mental illness except in the most basic of terms. Okay, there's the neurotransmitter theory, which argues people with mental illness are either lacking in or possibly oversupplied with various types of neurotransmitters - but nobody's figured out a way of "proving" this one short of just supplying neurotransmitters and seeing whether the symptoms go away. There are no tests to determine which neurotransmitters people are lacking in (unlike with things like under-active thyroid, or malfunctioning pancreas, or damaged liver) - what we're doing on the mental health front is the equivalent of handing people a shot of insulin and saying "here, see if this fixes what ails you". We can't fix this reliably in humans (that SSRI treatment for depression? Has a failure rate of approximately 40% - two people in every five who are prescribed SSRI anti-depressants won't see any improvement in their condition).
We currently can't fix mental health problems in human brains. We currently can't reliably and accurately diagnose mental health problems in human brains. So given we can't reliably detect and repair errors in human minds in human brains, how the merry hells do we think we're going to be able to reliably detect and repair errors in a human mind in an electronic format?
How do we even know the uploaded mind is going to be capable of what might be deemed to be "sanity" in the first place? We don't know how much of our thinking is very much grounded in our physicality - we do know there's at least some. Consider the whole business of being "hangry" - short temper caused by being hungry - as an example of just how effectively our bodies can influence our brains. So the question becomes, can we survive as potted brains, or might we need human bodies in order to be properly human?.
Now, I realise the computer science bods are busy looking at me as though yes, I'm crazy, because I'm putting this forward as a valid objection to their golden solution to the problem of being an embodied human. But my point is this: when it comes to computers, humans know how they work from the ground up. Computer scientists are supposed to be able to explain how a computer operates on both a macro and micro level (and if they're electrical engineers as well, they're supposed to be able to explain why certain materials are used to create the micro-circuitry and how it all works there). But nobody on this planet is currently able to explain how the human brain works at anywhere near this level of complexity. We have ideas about the micro-level. We have theories about the macro-level. But there's an awful lot of blank spaces, question marks, "and then a miracle occurs", and "here be dragons" on the overall map of "how brains and minds work". Which means we really do need to know these things before we can start uploading minds. (Heck, we don't even know whether the brain is the actual seat of the mind - we used to be pretty certain this was the case, but evidence is starting to trickle in there may be a few more factors at work than just the configuration of the grey matter).
If we know these things, we will have a much better understanding of how the human mind ticks, and why, for some people, it occasionally goes "cuckoo". We will most likely have a theory of mental illness which is far more solidly predictive and testable than the existing neurotransmitter theory. We will almost certainly have much more predictable diagnoses for mental illness, more accurate prescription processes, and a much higher cure rate. We'll probably see an improvement in the rates of things like alcohol and drug abuse, as well, as admitting to a mental illness becomes much less of a stigmatising event, and much more along the lines of "oh, you're diabetic/coeliac/asthmatic/allergic to bee stings" etc. But until we have that sort of level of knowledge, I would not be willing to put my trust in any form of mind uploading which doesn't involve a keyboard and a text document as an intermediary, simply because the poor devils who tried it would most likely wind up as insane machines.
 In about 20% of cases, the symptoms don't go away at all. In about another 20% of cases (I'm in this group) they go away for a while... and then they come back. For me it usually took about six to twelve months for my brain to acclimatise itself to whatever I was taking and start being depressed again.
 It's worth noting: according to the neurotransmitter deficit theory of mental illness, this shouldn't happen.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116816.h