You prob­a­bly know that there are two main schools of thought when it comes to neur­al uploading/​playback. The “Ger­man school” aims for total fideli­ty: pure, per­fect synaps­es for­ev­er. The idea is to cap­ture the con­scious­ness in super-high-res­o­lu­tion; afi­ciona­dos of that phi­los­o­phy would be hor­ri­fied at my ear­ly, beloved low-bitrate down­loads. They’d point out that the more you com­press a Mind, the more you lose those intan­gi­ble qual­i­ties that make it unique. You might not be able to specif­i­cal­ly point out what’s miss­ing (there’s very lit­tle notice­able mem­o­ry loss even at bitrates as low as 64 mil­lion synap­tic impuls­es per mil­lisec­ond, or SIMs), but, these high-end neu­rophiles argue, it’s those intan­gi­ble per­son­al­i­ty quirks that make us unique. Tru­ly loss­less Mind­ing is con­sid­ered a the­o­ret­i­cal impos­si­bil­i­ty, like trav­el­ing at the speed of light—the clos­er you get, the expo­nen­tial­ly more pow­er and mem­o­ry is need­ed until it reach­es infinity—but the Ger­mans are damned if they’re not going to try.

The Japan­ese approach is much “fuzzi­er” than that of the Ger­mans’. The idea is not to store and recre­ate the con­scious­ness with pre­cise, ver­i­fi­ably accu­rate detail. Rather, Japan­ese tech hews much clos­er to the aes­thet­ic idea of wabi-sabi, cher­ish­ing incom­plete­ness, imper­ma­nence and even decay. Favour­ing feel­ing over pre­ci­sion, Japan­ese-formed Minds have an unde­ni­able ele­gance and beau­ty. But while I admire the art­ful­ness of their exquis­ite neur­al minia­tures, the effect, to me, has always been more like look­ing at a piece of art in a hushed gallery. You know that what you’re look­ing at is a mas­ter­piece, but it’s not yours. I admire them, but I can’t ever real­ly love them.