This is where you will find definitions of the terms I (and others) have coined, and which often turn up in my essays.

DIGITAL PERSON: A digital person is a character created and developed in cyberspace. I did not coin the term and I am not sure who did. There is a book called ‘Digital People: From Bionic Humans To Androids’ by Sidney Perkowitz which might be the origin of this term.

In his book ‘Appocalyptic AI’, Robert Geraci writes: “immersionists in Second Life are individuals who seperate their second lives from their conventional lives…A transhuman immersionist believes that his or her SL self could potentially seperate from the biological entity tying it to earthly life and become a person in its own right’.

The amount of seperation between the digital person and the RL self differs from individual to individual. For instance, whereas some are happy to divulge RL details like real name and actual gender, others never divulge any information about the RL self. But one thing that is probably common to all digital people/RL self is this: The latter tends to think of the former in the third person (‘what he/she did in SL’) rather than the 1st-person (‘what I did in SL’).

Probably, any RL person who roleplays a digital person acts AS IF their avatar is a person in its own right, while at the same time recognizing that it is no more autonomous than an avatar of someone who sees no distinction between RL/SL selves (but primaryCentred suggests a way in which an avatar might have an existence above and beyond a PARTICULAR human). However, perhaps certain advances in science and technology will one day enable digital people to truly act independently of any human actor. See ‘mind child’.

iGENES/iGENOME: The ‘iGenome’ is the sum total of all that ‘i’nspired and ‘i’nfluenced the creation of a digital person.  The idea here is that a brain absorbs certain patterns such as other people’s mannerisms, behaviour, style etc and such fragments combine in such a way as to form the rough sketch of a character. An igene is an individual fragment. For instance, the reason why my hair is black is because my favourite female sci-fi characters (Ripley from Alien, Racheal from Blade Runner, Trinity from Matrix and Kusanagi from Ghost In The Shell movie) all had dark hair.

An assumption of PrimaryCentered is that the iGenome of any one digital person also exists in sufficient detail in minds other than the current primary. However, it must be the case that some igenes are unique to a particular mind. The more unique igenes there are, the more likely it is that a digital person will be primaryBound.

MIND CHILD: This was originally coined by the roboticist Hans Moravec. In his terminology, the phrase referred to ‘fourth generation robots’ or robots with general intelligence comparable to humans. I take it to mean an avatar that can operate fully independent of any human, maybe because whole brain emulation has reached a level of sophistication where the mind that once pupeteered the digital person has been scanned and reverse-engineered into a functional software model. Since this software model could just as easily ‘inhabit’ a robotic body, Moravec’s original definition is still relevant but is now expanded to include software-based bodies as well.

PRIMARY: I first saw this used by Charles Stross in ‘Accelerando’. In that story, ‘primary’ referred to the original brain that was scanned in an uploading procedure. After the upload was complete, copies could split off, diverge, remerge, giving cyberspace a complex family tree.

I originally intended the term to refer to ‘the human mind that will be uploaded’, but the uncertainty of when (if ever) uploading would be feasible, and a reading of Doug Hoffstadter’s thoughts on minds containing lower resolution models of other minds, resulted in my reinterpreting the term to mean ‘an entity that tends to have a higher-resolution model of  ‘I’, compared to the other people ‘I’ interact with’.

PRIMARYBOUND: This refers to a belief that AN AVATAR IS UNIQUELY TIED TO A PARTICULAR PERSON. If this is true, then anybody else logging in to account X is NOT the avatar they claim to be. More precisely, if anybody else tries to impersonate that character, others will recognize that the person behind that character is not the same person it was before.

PRIMARYCENTRED: This refers to a belief that AN AVATAR IS NOT UNIQUELY TIED TO A PARTICULAR PERSON. IT COULD BE ROLEPLAYED BY ANYBODY/THING THAT HAS SUFFICIENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHARACTER. So long as A) somebody logs in and roleplays avatar X and B) others interacting with avatar X believe it is avatar X (and not an imposter) then avatar X IS avatar X, regardless of whether or not ‘the primary’ remains the same.  Success in impersonating avatar X would probably depend on the impersonator’s model of that character being more detailed than that of other residents/ forum contributers etc. So, the more well-known an avatar is to an individual, the harder it would be to successfully impersonate them, because the impersonators mental model of avatar X would have to be of higher resolution than a friend who may know avatar X very well. This tells us that a primary is all but impossible to convince. For instance, nothing could roleplay Hamlet Au and convince Wagner James Au that ‘it really is me’- even an upload of his own mind. But, (if primarycentred is true) an upload would definitely be able to convince everybody else, as would a human impersonator with extremely detailed knowledge of Hamlet Au’s personality, history, etc. If Primarycentred is true, avatars have a lifespan that need not necessarily be the same as the person who first set up their account.

UBUNTU-WEB: This was originally an African concept, which means ‘A person is a person through other persons’. Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained, ‘A solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. You are a human being precisely because of relationships’. Ubuntu-Web refers to THE NETWORK OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN A DIGITAL PERSON AND ALL THOSE IT INTERACTS WITH. This includes interactions on a regular basis, on an occasional basis, one-off encounters; in a positive or antagonistic way. It is through this evolving network that the character of the digital person truly develops.

Doug Hoffstadter’s description of David Oleson ‘I At The Centre’ is also an apt description of a Ubuntu Web: “One sees a metaphorical individual at the centre, whose shape (the letter “I”) is a consequence of the shape of all its neighbours. Their shapes, likewise, are consequences of the shapes of THEIR neighbors, and so on. As one drifts out from the periphery…the shapes become more and more different from each other”.

UBUNTU WEB imagines the primary at the centre (which adds another meaning to the term ‘PRIMARYCENTRED’), with the highest-resolution model of the digital person’s ‘I’. Very close friends cluster around it, friends one meets on a less regular basis lay further out, and the further towards the periphery one goes, the less familar the person is to the digital person/primary (and vice versa). As in ‘I At The Centre’, as we move from the centre to the periphery, we see the ‘I’ gradually becoming more and more different, because the mental model of the person is less and less well formed.

While most people assume the Primary is absolutely the most important part of ‘breathing life’ into a character (see ‘PrimaryBound’), my suggestion is that this network is as- if not more- important. A digital person is only as real as other people are prepared to believe. See also PRIMARYCENTRED for further explanations as to why the primary is very important, but not absolutely so.

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