A digital person is a person running on digital computing hardware. Karnofsky uses the term to refer to human whole brain emulations  as well as digital "descendants" of humans:[1]

The central case I'll focus on is that of digital people just like us, perhaps created via mind uploading (simulating human brains). However, one could also imagine entities unlike us in many ways, but still properly thought of as "descendants" of humanity; those would be digital people as well.

Karnofsky writes that "the transformative potential of something like digital people, combined with how quickly AI could lead to it, form the case that we could be in the most important century".[2]

In particular, Karnofsky argues that digital people would have the same moral standing as humans (cf. moral patient), would accelerate economic growth and scientific progress, and could cause a "lock-in" of values. Karnofsky writes:

Most of this piece[2] would apply to roughly any digital entities that (a) had moral value and human rights, like non-digital people; (b) could interact with their environments with equal (or greater) skill and ingenuity to today's people. With enough understanding of how (a) and (b) work, it could be possible to design digital people without imitating human brains.

Further reading

Hanson, Robin (2016) The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life When Robots Rule the Earth, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.

artificial intelligence | artificial sentience | human-level artificial intelligence | moral patienthood | transformative development | whole brain emulation

  1. ^

    Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people would be an even bigger deal, Cold Takes, July 27.

  2. ^

    Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Digital people FAQ, Cold Takes, July 27.