An em results from taking a particular human brain, scanning it to record its particular cell features and connections, and then building a computer model that processes signals according to those same features and connections. A good enough em has close to the same overall input-output signal behaviour as the original human. One might talk with it, and convince it to do useful jobs.
- Let me first summarize some of my main conclusions. Be warned, however. If it will irritate you to hear conclusions without their supporting arguments, then just skip this section for now. If you do read this, try to withhold judgment2 until you’ve heard the supporting arguments in later chapters.
- In this book I paint a plausible picture of a future era dominated by ems. This future happens mainly in a few dense cities on Earth, sometime in the next hundred years or so. This era may only last for a year or two, after which something even stranger may follow. But to its speedy inhabitants, this era seems to last for millennia. Which is why it all happens on Earth; at em speeds, travel to other planets is way too slow.
- Just as foragers and subsistence farmers are marginalized by our industrial world, humans are not the main inhabitants of the em era. Humans instead live far from the em cities, mostly enjoying a comfortable retirement on their em-economy investments. This book mostly ignores humans, and focuses on the ems, who have very human-like experiences.
- While some ems work in robotic bodies, most work and play in virtual reality. These virtual realities are of spectacular-quality, with no intense hunger, cold, heat, grime, physical illness, or pain; ems never need to clean, eat, take medicine, or have sex, although they may choose to do these anyway. Even ems in virtual reality, however, cannot exist unless someone pays for supports such as computer hardware, energy and cooling, real estate, structural support, and communication lines. Someone must work to enable these things.
- Whether robotic or virtual, ems think and feel like humans; their world looks and feels to them much as ours looks and feels to us. Just as humans do, ems remember a past, are aware of a present, and anticipate a future. Ems can be happy or sad, eager or tired, fearful or hopeful, proud or shamed, creative or derivative, compassionate or cold. Ems can learn, and have friends, lovers, bosses, and colleagues. Although em psychological features may differ from the human average, almost all are near the range of human variation.
- During the em era, many billions (and perhaps trillions) of ems are mostly found in a few tall hot densely packed cities, where volume is about equally split between racks of computer hardware and pipes for cooling and transport. Cooling pipes pull in rivers of iced water, and city heat pushes winds of hot air into tall clouds overhead. But whereas em cities may seem harshly functional when viewed in physical reality, in virtual reality em cities look spectacular and stunningly beautiful, perhaps with gleaming sunlit overlooking broad green boulevards.
- Ems reproduce by making exact copies who remember exactly the same past and have exactly the same skills and personality, but who then diverge after they are copied and have differing experiences. Typically whole teams are copied together, work and socialize together, and then retire together. Most ems are made for a purpose, and they remember agreeing to that purpose beforehand. So ems feel more grateful than we do to exist, and more accept their place in the world.
- On the upside, most ems have office jobs, work and play in spectacular- quality virtual realties, and can live for as long as does the em civilization. On the downside, em wages are so low that most ems can barely afford to exist while working hard half or more of their waking hours. Wages don't vary much; blue- and white-collar jobs pay the same.
- All of the copy descendants of a single original human are together called A “clan." Strong competitive pressures result in most ems being copies of The thousand humans best suited for em jobs. So ems are mostly very able focused workaholics, at the level of Olympic medalists, billionaires, or heads of state. They love their jobs.
- Most ems in these top em clans are comfortable with often splitting off a "spur" copy to do a several hour task and then end, or perhaps retire to a far slower speed. They see the choice to end a spur not as "Should I die?" but .instead as "Do I want to remember this?" At any one time, most ems are spurs. Spurs allow intrusive monitoring that still protects privacy, and very precise sharing of secrets without leaking associated secrets.
- Clans organize to help their members, are more trusted by members than other groups, and may give members life coaching drawn from the experiences of millions of similar copies. Clans are legally liable for member actions, and regulate member behaviors to protect the clan’s reputation, making ems pretty trustworthy.
- Em minds can run at many different speeds, plausibly from at least a million times slower than ordinary humans to a million times faster. Over this range, the cost to run an em is proportional to its speed. So the faster ones run at least a trillion times faster than the slowest ones, and cost at least a trillion times as much to run. Regarding the minority of ems with physical robotic bodies, while human-speed versions have human-sized bodies, faster ems have proportionally smaller bodies. The typical em runs near a thousand times human speed, and a robotic body that feels natural for this em to control stands two millimeters tall.
- Em speeds clump into speed classes, faster ems have higher status, and different speeds have divergent cultures. Bosses and software engineers run faster than other workers. Because of different speeds, one-em one-vote doesn't work, but speed-weighted voting may work.
- The em economy might double roughly every month or so, or even faster, a growth driven less by innovation, and more by em population growth. While this growth seems fast to humans, it looks slow to typical high-speed ems. Thus their world seems more stable than ours. While the early em era that is the focus of this book might last for only an objective year or two, this may seem like several millennia to typical ems. Typical speed ems needn't retrain much during a century-long subjective career, and can meet virtually anywhere in their city without noticeable delays.
- An unequal demand for male versus female em workers could encourage em asexuality, transexuality, or homosexuality. Alternatively, the less demanded gender may run more slowly, and periodically speed up to meet with faster mates. While em sex is only for recreation, most ems have fantastic virtual bodies and impressively accomplished minds. Long-term romantic pair-bonds may be arranged by older copies of the same ems.
- Compared with humans, ems fear much less the death of the particular copy that they now are. Ems instead fear "mind theft," that is, the theft of a copy of their mental state. Such a theft is both a threat to the economic order, and a plausible route to destitution or torture. While some ems offer themselves as open source and free to copy, most ems work hard to prevent mind theft. Most long-distance physical travel is "beam me up" electronic travel, but done carefully to prevent mind theft.
- Humans today reach peak productivity near the age of 40-50. Most ems are near their peak productivity subjective age of somewhere between 50 and a few centuries. Ems remember working hard during their youth in experiences designed to increase and vary productivity. In contrast, peak productivity age ems remember having more leisure recently, and having experiences designed more to minimize productivity variance.
- Older em minds eventually become less flexible with experience, and so must end (die) or retire to an indefinite life at a much slower speed. The subjective lifespans of both humans and slow em retirees depend mainly mat. stability of the em civilization; a collapse or big revolution could kill them. Retirees and humans might seem easy targets for theft, but like today the weak may be protected by using the same institutions that the strong use keep peace among themselves. Ems enjoy visiting nature, but prefer cheaper less-destructive visits to virtual nature.
- While copy clans coordinate to show off common clan features, individual ems focus on showing off their identity, abilities, and loyalties as members of particular teams. Team members prefer to socialize within teams, to team productivity variance. Instead of trying to cure depressed or lovesick ems, such ems may be reverted to versions from before any such problems appeared.
- Ems may let team allies read the surface of their minds, but use software to hide feelings from outsiders. Ems must suspect that unusual experiences are simulations designed to test their loyalty or to extract secrets. Ems find it easier to prepare for and coordinate tasks, by having one em plan and train who then splits into many copies who implement the plan. Childhood and job training are similarly cheaper in an em world, because one em can experience them and then many copies can benefit.
- Ems can complete larger projects more often on time, if not on budget, by speeding up ems in lagging sections. More generally, em firms are larger and better coordinated, both because fast bosses can coordinate better, and because clans can hold big financial and reputational interests in firms at which they work. Ems can more easily predict their life paths, including their careers, mates, and success.
- Ems differ from people today in a great many more identifiable ways. Compared to us, ems are likely to be less neurotic, sexual, death-adverse, and connected to nature. They are likely to be more extraverted, conscientious, agreeable, smart, able, fast, efficient, honest, optimistic, happy, positive comfortable, beautiful, clean, mindful, composed, cooperative, coordinated, patient, rational, focused, nostalgic, rested, peaceful, grateful, gritty, battle-tested, recorded, measured, priced, trusted, religious, married, old, work-oriented, workaholic, self-respecting, self-knowing, law-abiding, politically-savvy, socially-connected, healthy-feeling, good-moody, better- advised, morning-larks, and immortal.
- Ems have less variety in wages and work productivity, but more variety in wealth, size, speed, reliability, and mental transparency. Ems have more vivid and memorable personalities, have smarts that are more crystalized than fluid, are more defiant of rules and authority when young, are secure in more aspects of identity, are better protected from accidents and assault, get along better with work colleagues, and invest less in showing off.
- Em lives are more prepared, planned, and scheduled, but also more undo-able and end-able when those are desired. Ems have more work and meetings, more intensely entertaining leisure, and less contact with children. Their world and tools feel more stable. The world that ems see is more pleasing, variable, annotated, authenticated, and cartoonish.
- Em society is less democratic and gender-balanced, more divided into distinct classes, and its leaders are more accessible and trusted. Em law is more efficient, covers more kinds of conflicts, and offers more choices, The em world is richer, faster-growing, and it is more specialized, adaptive, urban, populous, and fertile. It has weaker gender differences in personality and roles, and larger more coherent plans and designs.
- Even if most ems work hard most of the time, and will end or retire soon, most remember much recent leisure and long histories of succeeding against the odds. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.
- The last 5 pages of Chapter 1.
- While I may well “withhold judgment”, my intention is to use this Summary to orientate myself to the Book’s theses, and prepare an initial response.
- One thing I’ve noticed – by looking through the References section – is that very little work by philosophers is referenced.
- Philosophical works mentioned – or those by philosophy’s fellow-travellers – include:-
→ Jose Luis Bermudez, Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of the Mind, CUP, Aug. 2010,
→ "Bostrom (Nick) - The Future of Human Evolution",
→ "Bostrom (Nick) - Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies",
→ "Chalmers (David) - The Singularity: A philosophical analysis",
→ K. Eric Drexler: Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, Wiley, October 1992,
→ K. Eric Drexler: Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilisation, Public Affairs, 7 May 2013
→ "Flynn (James R.) - What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect",
→ Hans Moravec: Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence, Harvard, 1988
→ Steven Pinker: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Viking, September 2007
→ Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature, NY, Viking, October 2011
→ "Towers (Grady M.) - The Outsiders"
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)