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A whole brain emulation, or “em,” is a fully functional computational model of a specific human brain. As such, it thinks and feels much like the copied human mind would. Economist Robin Hanson predicts that the age of em is not that far off, and that copied human minds may soon be more common than biological ones.
That’s a bold prediction, to be sure. Hanson’s new book, The Age of Em, explores the economic, social, and policy questions that we may face in this possible future. It also touches on the science of forecasting: What can we know about the future, using what tools, and with what degree of reliability? Even those who find farfetched his claims about brain emulation will do well to consider how sure they are of their own predictions of the future, and on what foundations they rest.