Donatien GarnierQ: Do you think that there is a spiritual dimension in the internet? A: There is a sense in which the Internet is a group mind of human society. The Internet consists of linked peer-to-peer nodes with no central controller (other than the "postmaster" Domain Name Server machines that lookup the routing for a given web address). This structure is reminiscent of the brain, which consists of linked neurons with no "boss" neuron. Does the Internet think? Maybe, after a fashion. It's a foolish and distractible as any human. The Internet is thinks a lot about money and sex. Q: You have been famous to be one of the first to mention the possibility of being dowloaded on the Internet. Is it still something you think about ? A: Please, Donatien, the correct word here is uploaded. You and I are down here, the Internet is up there. When we offer our data to the Net God, we elevate it and upload it. When we thankfully receive the benisons of the great Planetary Computer, we download data. Today, the only feasible way to upload my personality to the web is to write a lot of stuff and put it up there for others to get in the future. This method doesn't really need the Internet of course, it's the same process as book publication. As for actually getting the software, wetware, and hardware out of my brain and putting onto a computer, well, I don't think that's really going to happen anytime soon, and maybe never. Uploading oneself is a science fiction idea whose real function is symbolic. Like mythology, science fiction uses fatastic notions to represent archetypal human situations. To upload your mind is a symbol for writing a book, making a painting, recording a song, or even just getting someone to understand what you're talking about. Q: You are also famous to have spoken of cyber flesh. Could explain that concept to me ? A: I think you are referring to flickercladding, which is the flesh my soft robots (the moldies) are made of. Flickercladding is a computationally rich plastic with a grainy structure. Each grain acts as a processing unit that repeatedly takes in the states of its neighbors and then updates its own states. What makes this nicer than current-day computers is that the flickercladding is soft, not hard. One can readily suppose that the plastic is actually a "piezoplastic" that can behave like a muscle, so that our flickercladding creature can crawl about. Unlike the uploading of human personalities, I think this is a technology which is actually going to come about within, I'd say, fifty years. First batteries will get soft --- right now batteries are one of the biggest things hanging up in robotics. Then wires will become plastic, the chips will become plastic, we'll get plastic muscles, and the whole thing will merge into a brilliantly colored slug oozing arond on the floor between your toes. Just don't let one crawl into your nose!
Interview to Rudy Rucker for The French magazine FUTUR(e)S. Paris, 6/16/2001