An infomorph is a virtual body of information that can possess emergent features such as personality. The term was first described in Charles Platt's 1991 novel The Silicon Man, where it refers to a single biological consciousness transferred into a computer through a process of mind transfer. In the book, a character refers to an infomorph as "intelligence held in a computer memory", and an "information entity".
As an uploaded entity
Whether the vision shared in Platt’s novel will ever be more than a theory is uncertain, but computing power is still increasing exponentially (see Moore's law for more details), and the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University have considered the philosophical and technical feasibility of this theory at some point in the future.
The Institute considers it theoretically possible to understand the absolute workings of every aspect of the mind, and the ability to measure this in a specific individual, although Heisenberg's uncertainty principle may apply if it is discovered that the brain's workings on a quantum scale are relevant to the workings of the mind. However, the rate of appreciation of knowledge in neuroscience and psychology is far slower than the rate of increase in computing power. There are also philosophical questions to be answered, the most important being the nature of consciousness and whether it is possible to transfer a consciousness or if this transfer would effectively be a copy.
As an "info-being"
The growing reliance of system connections on functional, rather than physical, proximity of their elements will dramatically transform the notions of personhood and identity and create a new community of distributed "infomorphs"—advanced informational entities—that will bring the ongoing process of liberation of functional structures from material dependence to its logical conclusions.
Chislenko re-defines the term outside of its original mind uploading construct and uses the category of “infomorph” to refer to a virtual body of information similar to an autonomous software agent. He describes infomorphs as distributed beings with no permanent bodies and near-perfect information handing abilities. In this context, infomorphs are described as a form of distributed artificial intelligence who possess autonomy, raising a series of important functional, legal and philosophical questions:[original research?]
- Will the traditional human issues be of any relevance in an environment populated by distributed information entities?
- Will human-style democracy (decision-making by body count) work in the world of ever changing functional interconnections, where the very definition of what constitutes a person will be increasingly blurred?
- Could an infomorph court of law issue a memory search warrant?
- Could an individual's memory be kept encrypted? Will infomorphs be entitled to "medical" insurance against certain types of structural damage, or will they just have to back themselves up regularly?
His work questions the ontology that may emerge between humans and info-entities and how human beings will communicate with bodies of information abstracted from the physical environment.
Amber Case, a pioneer of cyborg anthropology, considers users of social networks to be "partial infomorphs", along with people whose writing is left behind after their death. She talks of an "informorphic footprint", corresponding to the size of information created and distributed during a person's lifetime.
- Platt, Charles (1997). The Silicon Man. ISBN 1-888869-14-3.
- Anders, Sandberg; Nick, Boström (2008). Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap (PDF). Technical Report #2008‐3. Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
The basic idea is to take a particular brain, scan its structure in detail, and construct a software model of it that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain.
- Alexander Chislenko (1996). Networking in the Mind Age. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- Case, Amber. A Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology. Retrieved 12 December 2011.