FTP030: Robin Hanson – The Age of Em: 1 Year After We Upload Ourselves to The Internet

Brain emulation, also known as mind uploading, is a concept that has fascinated science fiction writers and futurists for decades. This is the theoretical idea of scanning a brain – or a mental state – and copying it into the computer. Although no such technology currently exists, many prominent people have explored it as a likely possibility for the future, from inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil to science fiction author Charles Stross.

Robin Hanson: The Age of Em – Whole Brain Emulation

Futurist and economist Robin Hanson takes the idea of brain emulations to a new level of detail in his new book The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth.

He extrapolates from what we currently know about human biology, computer science, physics, psychology, and economics, and attempts to predict what will happen once we are able to successfully upload the first humans into the digital form. By his calculations, this is something that we can possibly see within the next hundred years. The events he describes in his book take place 1 year after the first human has been uploaded to the internet.

Robin Hanson himself has a very diverse academic background, which makes his multidisciplinary approach somewhat different from those who came before him in this field. While many other futurists and science fiction writers have focused on trying to get the technology parts of the story right, Hanson focuses more on the economics, psychology, and social science aspects on the emulated humans and their environments. He also outlines the 3 technologies that will be required to create full brain emulations, and how we can develop those technologies faster.

In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:

  • What happens 1 year after we upload our brains to the internet
  • How brain emulations will interact with each other and biological humans
  • Life in VR: what would it be like?
  • Why future growth may not driven by innovation
  • The 3 technologies that are required to create full brain emulations
  • The ethics of emulating humans – destructive and selective uploading
  • How brain uploading will change the concept of death
  • The simulation hypothesis – what’s the chance we are already in a simulation?
  • Brain emulation and the Fermi Paradox

Quote From This Episode:

“History is important and interesting to study, but the future is also important – plausibly, more important, because we can actually do something about the future. The past is too late to do anything about.” – Robin Hanson

Mentions and Resources:

  • Robin Hanson’s website
  • Robin Hanson’s papers
  • Whole Brain Emulation / Mind Uploading wiki

Recommended Books:

More From Future Thinkers:


1 Comment
  1. Shane Solano 2 years ago

    I’m constantly amazed and dismayed (but not shocked) at how obsessed people (esp. Millenials and esp. allegedly ‘forward’ thinking futurists) are w/socialism (mid-19th century ideology which is actually a far more regressive idea than that) and democracy (an idea that goes back 1000’s of years)…these ideas are very irrational and do not have great track-records, yet people stubbornly cling to them. It speaks to the power of culture/propaganda to inculcate irrational belief systems in children who have no means of intellectual self-defense.

    Mr. Hanson’s perspective is a breath of fresh air and a TRULY imaginative vision of the future based on knowledge/logic…not an expression of today’s trendy political causes and popular, quasi-religious beliefs–in particular I refer to ‘environmentalism’ (effectively a guilt-based Earth-worship which is being used to promote more top-down control over society) and socialism (the idea that the economy/society should be dominated even more than it already is, which is A LOT, by our political masters).

    The lack of perspective, knowledge/wisdom, and humility displayed by so many people today is astounding!

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