Some of us believe that computers, in the next 20 years or so, will not be cold mechanical devices, but rather squishy biological creatures.
And we’re already correct if you think about it.
Every living creature is a complex system of binary code. Biological organisms are nature’s computers; organic [mobile] OS’s with sophisticated compatible hardware. Featuring such a vast capacity, we could run the entire Internet with the living cells contained in a single sneeze.
The universe is composed of “yes” and “no,” of “on” and “off,” or “is” and “is not,” which is binary notation similar to a computer’s familiar 1′s and 0′s.
This is “sneeze” in binary: 01110011 01101110 01100101 01100101 01111010 01100101
Viruses and Bacteria, like human beings, are “empty space,” containing charged particles of positive or negative “ones” and neutral “zeroes.” The difference between these organisms and an inert collection of molecules, is that living 1′s and 0′s have both the potential to be memory, and through reproduction and metabolism, the ability to generate the energy needed to read and write information to that memory.
As this technology develops, the result is a dramatic increase in memory capacity. No longer limited to the tiny amount of data stored by conventional means, we will have the ability to harness empty space and record massive amounts of information as a whole.
The human body contains unlimited memory compared to the primitive magnetic hard drives we have today. At some point, we may use our body as our primary computer. Eventually, we will want to backup that computer so the information is not lost if the computer is stolen, infected with corrupt files, or ceases to operate.
The backups will need to be stored somewhere, and where better than an exact copy of ourselves? The first step is figuring out how to store and retrieve all of this information in a biological host…
HUMAN COMPUTERS ARE FLASH MEMORY
Most everyone, even in developing nations, has heard of or used flash memory, but very few people understand how it works. Flash memory is a series of memory cells storing information in floating-gate transistors. It is a bridge science to biological computers.
Picture an inert paste sandwiched between two metal plates. When an electrical charge is first introduced, it snakes through the paste turning all of the transistors neutral (or zero), and as information is stored, some of the transistors are switched “on” to positive (a one) – a process known as Hot Carrier Injection (HCI).
These ones and zeroes are how binary code is stored on a flash drive. Such memory is “read only,” accessible in the presence of an electrical charge, known as EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory). You don’t add to a specific allocation of data, you erase it completely, and write new data, containing both the old and updated information.
Instead of the inert paste, a microorganism could provide the memory functions via its gene sequence, and even generate its own power supply from reproduction and metabolism. This technology already exists with some [limited] functionality in computer science, but will be on offer at a practical consumer level within a couple of years.
Any one part of our body, a finger for instance, is capable of storing massive amounts of usable information in much the same way as flash memory. Perhaps the hard drive on your computer will someday be an actual “thumb drive,” converting information to memory every time you hit the spacebar. (handy!)
The computers we have today, made of metal and plastic, will reach a large capacity even with the restrictions inherent of modern storage paradigms. Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, insofar as Artificial Intelligence in relation to the human brain’s information cycle is concerned, will manifest as he predicted.
However, to truly advance, computers need to think outside the proverbial box. Grow some skin and be able to look themselves in the mirror…
SCANNED HUMANS and PRINTED COPIES
The future of high-capacity computers is not a mainframe, laptop, or phone with a 500 yottabyte hard drive.
Imagine a computer that is so human, it is actually an exact replica of a specific person. A “personal computer” in every way.
Data Hogs: In January 2010, Wikipedia’s backup was 5.87 terabytes (TB’s). IBM’s Watson boasts 16 TB’s of RAM. The Hubble Telescope collected 45 TB’s of information in its first 20 years. The German climate computer (DKRZ) generated 10,000 TB’s of data in one year. In 1993, total Internet traffic was estimated at 100 TB’s. In 2008, Cisco Systems estimated yearly Internet traffic at 5 zettabytes (ZB).
To be more precise, let’s say that a guy walks into a room, is put to sleep, and his body scanned with a yet-to-be-invented atomic biological scanner. Every detail, down to the last molecule, recorded in a massive computer.
An equal, but opposite yet-to-be-invented device, prints out the man’s replica – a carbon copy so to speak – in another room, identical to the first room.
When they both awake, having been informed of the experiment but not the results, neither one knows if they are the copy or the original. They have all the same memories, moles, irregularities, tastes, and beliefs.
HOW CAN YOU TELL THEM APART?
Some scientists argue that with enough capacity, we will be able to upload human consciousness to a supercomputer, manipulate it, and then download it back into the source brain.
You could take a murderer, remove the “murder” part of his behavior, and his punishment will be to live with the torment of knowing he did what he could never bring himself to do again.
While that example may be possible because the target and result are finite, there is a problem with uploading and downloading consciousness as a whole. Such activity requires the consciousness to be a material thing. And it [probably] isn’t.
If indeed the “clone” is an exact copy, you shouldn’t be able to identify any differences between them. But with a simple test, you will be able to tell the copy from the original due to an instant side effect: the copy will fall off his bicycle.
CONSCIOUSNESS IS STORED IN TIME
You have heard the expression, “It’s like riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget.” Well, even if the original human was a BMX champion, the copy never learned to ride a bicycle. The copy never really had the experience. In reality, he has never sat on a bicycle, and despite an intimate knowledge of the equipment, has never put foot to pedal.
Let’s say the original was an Olympic gold medal gymnast, the copy will make a fool of itself attempting a simple cartwheel.
In fact, the copy will be unable to walk, speak, or even feed itself immediately after duplication.
Because it has never done these things before.
Having memories or knowledge of an experience is not the same as actually doing it. I have lifted weights on and off throughout my life, but I don’t gain muscle mass simply by the knowledge of having lifted the weights previously. The benefits were lost and gained in the moment, dispersed by time.
A book about basketball cannot actually play the game. Even if it had arms, legs, and the physical capability to do so, it would have to learn to crawl, at the very least, before its first slam-dunk.
An experience may be physical, but having had an experience is abstract. Knowledge is physical, but knowing is meta-physical. The ethereal “having experienced” doesn’t truly exist, rather it is an interpretation of the original event. A memory of a memory. In the future, your memory of that memory may be subject to change, especially if the “you” never really experienced it firsthand.
For instance, if you know how to write – having the understanding and knowledge of the words, the utensils used to make the letters, sentence structure, etc – you may still not know how to physically hold the pencil if you haven’t done it before.
Without practice, what good are the how-to pictures on the side of a chopsticks wrapper?
Upon experiencing life for itself and developing skills from activities, a copy of a human painter may turn out to be a human writer. The copy of a star basketball player may instead play chess and have a psychosomatic phobia to bouncing balls.
Some people are bad at math, get in a car wreck, and then devote their lives to calculus.
The copy of the original human in my scenario, upon waking up on the table, would be confused and frustrated as to why they are virtually paralyzed.
Our experiences – the sum parts of our collected memories combined with the actual moments they occur – are stored in time. For an adult copy of a human to perform the same complex tasks as the source organism, it will take much more than a hefty supply of available memory.
In addition to all of the physical information, we will need to copy consciousness at string level, where time doesn’t exist, or at least is moot, and compile the new human with an instant expansion of experience; flooding the tips of the toes with balance, the fingers with dexterity, and the brain with the same feelings felt by the source.
Which brings us to the second problem… an increased demand for bicycles.
BACKUP SUCCESSFUL: WHICH ARE YOU?
Okay, you backed yourself up, and you are synched in every way imaginable. Which are you… the original or the backup?
Perhaps you will hop on a bicycle to see if you have ever ridden one before. Maybe you are a copy, made by nature. Your old cells replenished by new cells so many times you really have forgotten things you once knew. Experiences from your past are now things you look forward to for the first time in the future.
If the copies are exact, it doesn’t really matter which one you are. Sit back, relax, and update your operating system when necessary.
Title [inside] Joke: The title of this article in my notes was, “Biological Language Constructs and the Diffusion of Abstract Cellular Information in Copied Human Mechanical Organisms.” Since that wouldn’t fit comfortably in a blog header, I decided to change the name. Inspired by the re-release of “Total Recall,” the movie adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s famous, “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” I shortened the title.