In my setting, there are basically no biological life forms left, as everyone has either been mind-uploaded or is an artificial intelligence. It is supposed to take place at a very distant point in the future post Andromeda-Milky Way merger, so technology has had a long time to develop and the computers people are stored in are at speeds approaching theoretical limits (as set by Bremermann's limit) of 1.36e50 computations a second per kg of material.

What I am struggling with is whether or not everyone would know exactly the same facts and skills as everyone else. If everyone is stored in a separate computer with arbitrarily high computations per second allowed for each individual, I worry that whenever any question comes up they could simply "google" the answer instantly and no one would have any knowledge not known by someone else. Is there any pragmatic reason (not based on personal taste of the individual) for having specializations such as "Scientist", "Engineer", etc. within such a society? What could prevent individuals from all having the same skills and knowledge?

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    $\begingroup$ We have a device in our pockets that lets us "google" anything. Yet there are still many people who do not. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jan 2, 2020 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ It may be the same as with people now and their personalities, a lot of people know how to do tasks but don't do them because they don't enjoy it as much as others do. So those that want to, learn more on specific subjects. $\endgroup$
    – user69935
    Jan 2, 2020 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ While we can google anything today, we cannot do it at incredibly fast speeds. You can look up information about engineering or astronomy and the like, but it will still take years of your finite life to train and get a good working knowledge of the topic. You simply do not have enough time or life to learn every skill, hence specialization and some people knowing different things than others. If, however, you could just download skills Matrix style and were able to process things many orders of magnitude quicker then I think (and worry) you might be virtually omniscient. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2020 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ So basically you want these people to cache the stuff they Google. I would suggest you look into different types of caching and decide if the model we currently use for computers would align with your story. $\endgroup$
    – gsquaredxc
    Jan 2, 2020 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ @ZestyNesquik the only reason for them to learn is make things faster, so they only should learn things they will use again, and if the information is rarely used they will likely have to relearn it. Likely the computer they are on is limited in storage so they would have to prioritize. $\endgroup$
    – gsquaredxc
    Jan 2, 2020 at 20:44

4 Answers 4


Let's break this down.

1. Knowledge != Skill

You can know everything there is to know about painting, and still be a bad painter. In fact, most critics of any field fall into this category. You can know something very well without being able to actually do it. Sure, your society is in the far future and we've collectively learnt a lot, but that doesn't still mean individuals being good at something depends on knowledge alone. In this far in the future, we're talking about intergalactic levels of engineering, which will definite pose challenges even to the most advanced, and those individuals will still have to think creatively to find solutions.

2. Sometimes imagination is better (powerful) than information

The best example for this is Einstein. All the leading scientists in his time knew all the major things about physics and cosmology. But it was Einstein who could actually come up with the Theory of Relativity, which is almost completely a product of pure imagination. What sets him apart? We don't know for sure - yes he's probably more intelligent than your average scientist, but what does 'intelligence' mean? It's correlated with information/knowledge for sure, but there's much more to it than that. So in your future, people who could imagine new things are the scientists.

3. We can't know everything

How far advanced we may be, there's still some knowledge that is likely fundamentally unknowable. For example, take the age old question, What's beyond our universe? It may be that we're only one of infinitely many universes, but it could be that because of the limitations of physics we simply can't know anything about what's beyond our universe. And that's jut one example, there could be many more things like that. So even with all the knowledge in the universe, you still can't know everything. In such cases, individualistic abilities to think, imagine, and be creative can be useful.


Looks like you posited universal sharing of information - does that have to be the case? Even with tremendous computation powers, raw knowledge is still valuable (maybe even more so), so if there are still independent agents with free will, they may choose to control and protect their knowledge for their advantage.

This leads to a question - why cannot everyone gather raw knowledge? Because that is gained from physical interaction with the real world, not from navel gazing. So controlling more physical objects is still a source of power. Those can be thought as extended bodies - but do not have to be physically connected. In fact, it's quite feasible that a single independent mind can control significant armies of distributed "dumb" robots (those without free will). Those private "bodies", coupled with private knowledge (which they help to gain), form the answer to specialization and in fact to individuality.


Yes, they will have unique skills and even knowledge.

Now, with that said...

Transcended people may reach standards faster than us. And in time they may reach a very similar mindset and even similar skills. But their individual base will always be there, otherwise they aren't different individuals any more, and just components of a bigger single entity. I will elaborate.

We interact with the computers in a very isolated way. We have to move our bodies to operate some kind of input device, and a complex system of layers of hardware and software is required in the middle.

I believe that digitized people still require some level of isolation to prevent malfunctioning and data corruption. So there will be some kind of software driver and probably sandboxing. For example, those people brains are already educated to do something with the signals coming from their senses. The most efficient way is to translate everything to visual, audio, tact, so they can use what they already know. In a sense, they are still isolated, as they accept inputs in fixed formats.

Can they evolve from their biological emulated starting point and begin accept other formats? Probably. But for the current state of their synapses to be useful, you have to emulate senses at least at the beginning. The being can then evolve from there. If your setting already provided the time required for such evolution, then it is believable. You don't have biological beings, but that alone doesn't guarantee there was enough time to digital evolution. Adjust the details for the outcome you want.

When you transcend, what you upload is an image of the current state of your neurons synapses. This allows you to retain everything, knowledge, personality, etc. Or better said, this implies that you get everything, except that your civ knows the brain better than us, better enough to be selective about what they get.

It is not only safer to not be selective but the person going immortal will probably prefer to retain everything. The biological beings that perfected the procedure probably wanted things that way.

The best structure known to store that is an artificial neural network. What is it? Just image a matrix of numbers, representing your neurons weights, and a set mathematical function that rules how a signal propagates through the network and modifies the weights during training, or produces an output.

The beauty of this, is that to learn something new, you don't need to modify the network shape, you just need to expose the network to new stimuli and let the weights adapt.

Different network designs may have different potential, like be able to be connected to different inputs (the senses). To map a human brain those people need to have an advanced understanding of this, superior than the one we have now. Human synapses probably requires a very specific network design.

Now, that's only a simplified approximation. To map a real human weights into a computer there are a series of challenges.


Precision: Can a vector of float/double/1024bits_floating_point_data_type_from_future, represents correctly what we have up there? Or the result is a ugly approximation? At which precision it is cost efficient to backup our synapses in a digital format?

Because you may have all the quantum bits based storage you want, but I can be super mean and fill it with a single BMP (version 4986 from future) file containing a photo of my cat saved with an absurdly high pixel precision, and absurdly high resolution, just to full your storage device.

Artificial neurons aren't neurons: but at the time Andromeda and Milky Way merged people, if still around, probably have some kind of technological solution. Better artificial neurons, maybe besting the biological ones. I can't imagine how biological ones may have evolved by that time. If those people are doing this, then they are beyond any moral war about using our intellect to decide our evolution. So biological ones may be a thing themselves too.

Extra considerations:

The perfect robots are probably... humans. They can use tools, and come with a very debugged firmware that guarantees a natural predisposition to survival and reproduction. When going digital, are we getting a good deal? Only relevant, of course, if they had a choice.

Why retain individuality? Except that your civ knowledge is complete, and I believe that just can't be, there isn't absolute answers for everything. So you will need to roll a die sooner or later.

And if your civ is with me in this, they like individuality, and that implies different skillsets, and creative ways to use those skills. Two astronauts with the same training may take different decisions given the same situation, and both may be right or wrong at the same time. One may decide to repair the ship, the other has the same skills, but facing the same situation decides to abandon the ship. And both may survive.

Your knowledge VS shared knowledge: our transcended people are past the mechanical layer and can access the Internet faster. But for safety they are still isolated. Their own knowledge (and personality and etc) is the one encoded in their synapses (or virtual emulated synapses), the shared knowledge exists in... HTMLv1024? records in the... Internetv2048? And still need to be accessed and understood. And each individual, digital or not, will understand the records differently.

Of course, digital people can simulate hypothetical situations faster than us. They use faster the same tools (referring to software at least), and they can use some tools made specifically for them, once evolved as digital beings. So standards on everything may be reached faster.

Digital people may decide to abandon individuality. People are different, so some may do that. Will this kind obsolete the other? Not necessarily. They may even be inferior in a lot of ways.

Digital people may be very fragile. Better that your hardware is super robust. Resistant to radiation, lighting and who knows what. They need to be aware that there is a physical universe out there and have efficient tools that they can operate to continue improving and repairing existing hardware.


You would need to contact the Space Force by phone or mail and request exclusive access to their mind-upload database. Then you could easily discern whether any unique skills or knowledge have been uploaded or if it truly is just a crapload of artificial intelligence and people pretending to know what they're talking about in there.

Microsoft claims that 83% of user minds are now using Windows 10 to upload their most private thoughts. Data is uploaded at high speeds using 5G and Wifi which can then be accessed by everybody and their brother to take advantage of you more easily.



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