Destructive Uploading
Destructive upload
Image from Bernd Helfert
Reconstructing the mind of a human or other biont by disassembling their brain
In order to reconstruct the mind of a biont, it is necessary to determine the physical state of each of the neurons and synapses inside eir brain, and copy those states to another medium in some way. 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). Early attempts involved slicing the brain of a recently deceased person very finely, but these attempts were failures.

The earliest successful destructive uploading of a human personality was achieved in 330 AT. This procedure involves a detailed, destructive scan of the neurons and synapses of the individual's brain. As the substitution progresses the mind of the person involved is slowly transferred to the new artificial neurons (which are modelled in virtual form), and eventually the mind is completely contained within an artificial substitute brain. This new artificial brain has additional features which allows the entire mindstate of the sophont within to be recorded and copied to another substrate as required. The resulting informorph is known as an upload or copy.

In the early days of destructive uploading this replacement process required very large and complex probes and other equipment, and the substrate containing the replacement neurons was too large to fit inside the patient's head. The individual concerned was unconscious, which did not allow for a continuity of consciousness. At the end of the process the patient's biological body was effectively immobilised by this large mass of equipment, and was usually discarded.

Pattern Identity and Continuity Identity

The earliest forms of destructive uploading occurred while the subject was under anaesthesia, so that the mind state which was transferred was that of an unconscious person. This form of destruction and re-assembly was sufficient to satisfy believers in pattern identity theory, who maintained that the pattern of memories, neurons and synapses contained the whole of the personality and by replicating them in virtual form the personality would be faithfully transferred. All of the first individuals to be uploaded in this way were believers in pattern identity theory, for obvious reasons (some of these early uploads are still extant in the current era, although in greatly changed form).

However another school of thought, Continuity identity theory, holds that the mind of an individual must have continuous existence in order to be considered to be the same. As uploading technology improved, it eventually became possible to gradually replace the biological neurons wholly within the confines of the patient's skull with similar-sized replacements, and the subject can remain conscious throughout.
This process, known as gradual uploading, satisfies most (but not all) believers in continuity identity.

Individuals who undergo a process of gradual uploading remain in eir old body, becoming a kind of cyborg with an easily copyable electronic mind. Cyborgs of this kind often refer to themselves as Changelings, although a more vulgar term is 'zomborg'.

Destructive uploading was declared illegal in 435 AT by the Earth Council, but continued to be practised elsewhere in the Solar System by various factions. The development of gradual uploading overcame some of the ethical objections raised by opponents of uploading technology, and this ban was overturned in 500 AT.

Most uploading which occurs in the modern era is non-destructive uploading, where the mind-state is copied within the body without destroying any cells; the mindstate is read by nanoscale technology and copied elsewhere, leaving the original intact. This form of copying does not satisfy the requirements of continuity theory, and those who subscribe to that point of view generally decline to be copied at all, or may prefer to use some form of gradual uploading. The most advanced forms of uploading operate on a quantum level, and are destructive by nature because of the no-cloning theorem.
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 10 October 2010.