To upload a mind it is necessary only to understand the lower level workings of the brain enough to recreate them in another medium. One need not understand much about the higher level activities which bring about conscious and intelligent thought. Just as a hardware engineer can build a computer which can play chess knowing only about how transistors and logic gates work. The chess software she simply copies. To build a real AI requires that we actually either understand how intelligence works -- which we are not close to doing, or perhaps that we understand its mid-level functions and create something we can turn intelligent by raising it over the course of many years, just as we do with our own babies.LinkDiscuss (Thanks, Jamais!)
However, the uploading scenario presents a rather disturbing conclusion. The first super-beings may not be based on humans at all, but instead may be apes.
In the course of modern science, it is always the case that we experiment with animals first, years before we attempt anything on people. It's the ethical way, and in many cases the only legal way. As such, as we develop the technology to scan or convert an existing brain into an artificial form, we'll try this first on animals. We'll start with lower ones, and then work up to our closest relatives, the chimpanzee and bonobo.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.