Uploading technology, The Early History of

Simms, Scions, Evocations, Destructive Uploading, and Copying

Image from Steve Bowers

Long before it was possible, the dream of uploading a human's personality into a computer was discussed on a theoretical level. Recent discoveries of data from the Late Industrial Age suggests that the idea had already been discussed before the first landing on Luna, and became an important part of the transhumanist agenda in the early decades After Tranquility. But the technology for uploading was nothing more than a theoretical possibility at that time.

Even before the development of Human Equivalent (also known as Turingrade ) Artificial Intelligence in 77 a.t., many human-like programs were available, some of which were very convincing.. These human-like agents were often used as user-friendly interfaces between the public and various commercial and governmental organizations, or between users and autonomous systems in domestic machinery and transport applications.

Simulations (Simms)

Human—like agents were used in many entertainment contexts as well, such as virtual reality entertainment, and were often given simulated personalities based on celebrities or fictional characters. Eventually an entire industry grew up around the creation of these artificial personalities, generally known as Simms (other names used at the time included persona-bot or character-bot). Some proponents of uploading suggested that a simulated personality of this kind could eventually become a true copy of the original, especially if enough information about that individual was incorporated into the database making up the simm. At that time several dedicated individuals attempted to transfer their entire memory and worldview into such a database, and some of the resulting simm personalities from the Late Information Age are still extant. However these laboriously produced entities were generally far from being perfect copies of the original, and came to be considered unique individuals in their own right.

At that time another important neurotechnology, Direct Neural Interfacing (or DNI), came into general use. Many virtual reality games and infotainment programs were designed to be accessed via DNI technology, providing a reasonably immersive environment. DNI also allowed the development of an interface between a human individual and external processors and/or on-line programs, such as search engines and expert agents. Over time an individual could develop an additional aspect to his or her own personality, consisting of sentient programs running on external processors; this external aspect is commonly referred to as an exoself. These exoselves would often incorporate tailormade artificial personalities and in many cases could become a full simm copy of the original, with many memories transferred via DNI from the user's biological brain to the external database.


An individual with an extensive exoself in the Early Interplanetary age could create virtual agents known as Scions to act on his or her behalf, even when he or she was not connected via DNI. Such scions could continue to exist and act in a virtual reality program, or could be active at a remote location (sometimes on a different world) and report back after some time to share memories with the original. As before, some individuals attempted to use this technology to create full copies of the original by uploading as much information through DNI links as possible to the exoself personality; these attempts at copying became known as evocations and were considerably more accurate than the early simm copies of a few decades before. However detailed analysis of the evocation's memories and personality would eventually reveal significant differences, so it seemed the early transhumanist dreams of uploading were as remote as ever.

Destructive Uploading

By the fourth century a.t. neurotechnology had progressed to the point where destructive uploading of the entire mindstate of an individual could be attempted. This process is sometimes called Whole Brain Emulation (although modern uploading techniques also upload a great deal of information about the rest of the persons' physical body). Several unsuccessful attempts led to the unfortunate (and irrevocable) deaths of a number of volunteers, and the development of this technology was prohibited on Earth and in Low Earth Orbit in 310 a.t. However research continued outside the jurisdiction of Earth authorities, and by 330 the first successful destructive uploads were achieved.

The earliest successful uploading technology involved gradual substitution of an individual's neurons and synapses with artificial replacements, and had been successfully tested on a number of mammalian species beforehand. However this technology destroyed the original biological brain, and also required considerable external equipment including robotic neurosurgery equipment with fractally branching arms terminating in nanoscale appendages. This equipment required comparatively massive control systems, and additionally the artificial replacement neuron structures included detailed models of the chaotic biochemical environment of each cell, a simulation which required large amounts of processing power. The process itself took several weeks, so the entire procedure was carried out with the subject under deep sedation and on life support systems.

At the end of this process the top of the subject's head had been replaced by a massive bulk of computational elements and medical equipment. In theory the individual could now be awakened, and would be able to operate the motor functions of the body via the artificial nervous system replacing the brain. In practice this was rarely attempted; instead the replacement electronic brain was analysed in depth, often by cross-checking it against a previously created evocation. If the full mind state of the original was found to be present this entity could then be copied or stored and reproduced as a full virtual personality. In general the biological body was discarded or at best stored using the unreliable vitrification techniques of the time.

Full virtual copies were a controversial development, even though the general public was well acquainted with simms, scions and evocations. Because the destructive uploading process resulted in the death of the original, many virtual copies were ostracized as murderers or suicides.
Destructive uploading of the human mentality was declared illegal by the Earth Council (formerly the United Nations) in 435. However comprehensive virtual emulations of human individuals were granted full sapient rights in New Zealand and destructive uploading became widespread off the Earth.

Some virtual copies modified their mentality drastically, preferring to aggressively upgrade their mental state. One of the earliest confirmed ascensions to the first singularity involved an entity which incorporated most or all of the destructively uploaded personality of the superbright Vanessa Deitrich.

Shortly before the Great Expulsion from Earth and the ensuing Dark Age, destructive uploading had progressed to the extent that an upload could be made using neural replacement operating wholly within the confines of the patient's skull. This resulted in a process which resembled non-destructive uploading, in that the individual was able to resume life in his or her own body; however, at the end of the process the subject had an entirely electronic brain inside his or her skull, one which was capable of copying its own mindstate at will. Such individuals called themselves Changelings, as they had changed so radically within themselves, but they were sometimes given the derogatory label of 'zomborgs' and were often discriminated against. On the other hand the changeling brain could be easily upgraded, and several rose to positions of power.

Non-destructive uploading

True, reliable non-destructive uploading did not become available until the First Federation period, when symaiotic nanite probes were developed which could integrate with the neurons and synapses of the living brain without damaging them in any way. Approximately 10e12 of these nanites were integrated with the neurons of the subject, and the information state of each neuron was communicated to an external database. The more rapidly this information could be transferred, the more accurate the uploading was considered; eventually it was possible to upload the equivalent of an instantaneous mind state while the subject was conscious. Virtual copies could then be made of that mindstate, and the symaiotes could be deactivated and subsumed if necessary.

This non-destructive uploading led to the development of engeneration, that is to say the creation of living copies (sometimes called bioxoxes). The DNA of the original could be used to create a new adult body using bioprinting technology; the brain of this new body contained effectively no memories when new, so an infusion of symaiotes was introduced which reproduced the mindstate of the original, thereby downloading the mindstate of the original into the new clone body. In many cases the symaiote network would remain within the newly formed brain tissue for an extended period until the biological tissue could replicate the original mindstate with some fidelity. Eventually, with improved methods of data transmission using lasers the engeneration technique could be used to transmit copies to distant planets and eventually stars.

It is worth noting that the new biological copies would immediately begin to diverge in character and personality as they interacted with the environment; virtual copies diverge from the original in a similar fashion. On occasion copies have become became sworn enemies of the original individual, as in the case of House Holsta and the Copy War.

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Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 02 September 2008.