[sl4] Re: Personal identity (was Re: A teleporter)

From: Filipe Sobreira (warlordbcm1@yahoo.com.br)
Date: Mon Feb 09 2009 - 17:43:34 MST

Well, since English is not my native language, and typing anything really meaningful takes LOTS of time for me, I'll just paraphrase someone whose opinion is exactly the same as mine. He managed to express incredibly well his viewpoint on this subject, and since we think the same, I've decided that I could be more successful using his terms than my own. His name is David Jackson, and he usually posts on another list I lurk. So here we go: ________________________________ Here's more or less where my notions of what constitutes self are coming from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_(philosophy) It seems that lot of this discussion drifted away from the original topic. A lot of physics arguments were used to prove that two atoms of the same kind are equal and interchangeable. Thats for sure, and no one could tell the difference between them. Atoms have no labels, nor souls, as John mentioned before. But that was not what I was talking about in first place. I've started to talking about atoms to prove that even two equivalent atoms are not one and the same. If I have two hydrogen atoms (lets call them...Bob and Bob), put them into a BE condensate and then heat them back, there will still be TWO atoms. They do not disappear, and despite they share now all measurable information, despite they being absolutely interchangeable, this does not change the fact that they are still there, absolutely identical, but two nonetheless (this is easily measurable by verifying their masses). Now, what does this have to do with the personal identity discussion? My
 point was that if even two atoms of the same kind are no ONE, why two people with the same mindstate would be? But that seems to be something that we all agree: Two things are two. Before the discussions drifted away to something unrelated, I was going to say that we seemed to agree on one basic stuff. The aforementioned 'two are two' thing. The problem lies when someone says something like: "Your copy is you, in every meaningful way" When you say "my copy is me" my immediate question is "relative to whom?" I don't know that the statement makes sense in the absence of an observing perspective. SOMEBODY has to make that statement ... If you presume an external observer, then, yes, it's obvious that two instances of the same mindstate are informationally equivalent. But what happens when the comparing observer IS one of those mindstates? Does he find himself to be equivalent to his copy? How can he, when his evaluation of himself includes his perception of self (be that merely information, a soul, or whatever) while his evaluation of his copy does not? I'm not just talking about the "information interface" the rest of the world sees. This is what I've called third person perpective before. I'm talking about the subjective experience of what it feels like to be me, as opposed to how it might feel like to be someone else. Bear with the language analysis coming up; it's not that I don't think you know English, it's just that I think it's important, in this case, to make sure we're all on the same page. I use the subjective pronouns "I", "me", etc to denote that "self" in my writing. So when I say that "I am writing", I mean that the subjective experience of being me includes typing this paragraph. That renders it distinct from a reference to any other writing critter whose experience is not that of being me. When you say "My copy is me" there is an implicit "I believe" tagged onto the beginning of that sentence. To me, that denotes a subjective experience including the belief that it includes the subjective experience of some entity labeled "my copy." This seems circular to me, and is probably not what you actually mean when you say something like "I am a pattern, and everything with the same pattern is me". To me, this denotes something like a distributed mind, which is unrelated to this topic. If your subjective experience does NOT include the subjective experience of your copy, then I don't see how it's possible to say that the condition of the copy's subjective experience means anything in terms of your own. If your objective in creating that copy is to attain personal immortality ( i.e. to make your subjective experience survive indefinitely) then I don't see how spawning another entity who happens to operate with the same information in your brain approaches that goal. Its existence is comforting to others, who can only evaluate you from an external perspective. Their evaluation may result in an arbitrary degree of equivalence. But their evaluation of the two of you is NOT the same as the analogous evaluation either one of you by the other. They MUST evaluate themselves to be separate, independent beings unless they share a subjective experience of being. (Or unless they're crazy....) You could say that as long as your pattern is retained (and a pattern is a type of information) than the 'whole' is retained, even if the pattern is not actively being expressed at some point or changes substrates (uploaded). Okay ... but this is the perspective of an outside observer. What is the perspective of the pattern being copied? Should it expect its perspective to shift should someone copy it bit-for-bit onto an SD card, take that card to Mars and load it into a functionally equivalent substrate? I don't see why. So, faced with its own extinction and wishing to avoid it, is creating such a copy a viable strategy for survival? Advocates of the Pattern Theory of Identity claim that "A process that takes you apart and destroys/disrupts that informational pattern that is you would certainly kill you. A process that retained the pattern would retain you as it were", but again, from the perspective of an external observer, sure. Perhaps even from the perspective of the copy, once it is instantiated. But what about from the perspective of the critter being so disassembled? Should it presume that, once it loses consciousness, it will not gain it back? Perhaps it's worthwhile to consider what, if any, minimally functional state exists for a working mindstate. At what point does removing portions of a mindstate render it inoperable or "dead?" If I am being copied by progressive disassembly and duplication, then at some point I would presume my mindstate will lose enough of itself that it will cease to function. That point, I'd think, would be a good point to label "dead." Depending on where this cutoff point exists, there are a few possible implications for a progressive disassembly/copy scenario: 1) The "donor" mindstate reaches its nonfunctional state BEFORE the copied mindstate becomes viable. In this case, the donor mindstate experiences extinction before its copy can be brought on-line. Unless there's some means of "floating" the donor's sense of self during the dead period, I don't see how it could end up in the copy. So a donor going into such a situation should probably not expect to regain consciousness once the copy is complete. Therefore, the copy is not a viable route to continued existence. 2) The donor mindstate reaches its nonfunctional state AFTER the copied mindstate becomes viable. In this case, the donor can carry out the "poke test" to verify that its copy constitutes a separate, independent mindstate. Since it doesn't share a sense of self with the copy NOW, why should it expect to share one later? It should probably assume that, if the disassembly process continues, it will lose consciousness and never wake up. Therefore, the copy is not a viable route to continued existence. 3) Actually, this is a variant on 1 ... but it's kind of an edge case, so it may deserve special treatment. Lets say that the cutoff point is when 1/2 of the mindstate is removed. So the donor loses functionality at the same point the copy becomes viable. Physics, however, prevents the off-line/on-line events from being truly simultaneous. SOME amount of information must be removed from the donor to be duplicated and placed in the copy. The transfer of this information cannot take place faster than the speed of light. So at best, the donor will become nonfunctional a fleeting instant BEFORE the copy becomes viable. This, then, becomes situation #1. So what if you could "freeze" a brain in time, stopping all activity for an arbitrarily period of time before restarting it. What would be the effect of this on that brain's self? Personally ... I have no idea. My feeling is that it wouldn't do anything -- the "self" would pick up exactly where it left off, perceiving no gap in its own existence.Is inactive the same as dead? You could argue that its like resting, but "resting" is still an active state. Stuff is still going on. I'm not convinced that "self" requires consciousness. In fact, I'm pretty sure "self" doesn't rely on consciousness, since it survives my snoozing daily. I don't know where the cutoff point is where the activity of a brain/whatever becomes insufficient to support a "self," but I'm pretty sure it exists somewhere between "sleeping" and "dead." So what if you freeze a mindstate, copy it, destroy the original and reinstate the copy? Will the "self" of the original mindstate find itself in the copy? Why should it? And if it shouldn't, should the original mindstate expect to regain consciousness when the process is complete? Moreover, since I can conceive of a situation in which the data patterns of my mind are stored to SD card while the original "me" persists, and since I can prove by poking that the SD card is not me, I'd have to conclude that there's nothing special about the circumstance where the original me doesn't exist simultaneously with the card. Pattern Theory of Identity advocates tend to say that there is nothing special in the nature of self that leads them to conclude that one self is as good as another. But isn't the "nothing special nature" a false premise? Observers are not atoms. Your perception of yourself IS special, in that it's unique in your perception of the world. You do not perceive any "self" other than your own, so by definition your experience of self is unique. (At least, I assume you do, since I'm not a solipsist. But, for all I know, you really don't have a subjective experience of self and I'm just arguing with a black box, as Matt suggested as being possible) If I have nine red balls and one green one sitting in a line, perhaps you could make an argument that the physical arrangement of the balls is inconsequential -- there's nothing special about having the green ball on one end of the line as opposed to, say, the middle. But there IS something special about the green ball, in that it's green while all the others are red. Saying that two informationally equivalent people are identical in every way that matters, is nonsense, because you arbitrarily ignored his own first person perspective. To an external observer, yes they are identical. To one of the instances in question, I think it's pretty clear that every copy is not identical. Suppose I could be nondestructively copied. To me, looking at my copies, I perceive myself to be "green" because I am experiencing being me, whereas they are "red" because I am perceiving them as other. All copies are NOT equivalent from the perspectives of one another. They have a unique sense of self, just as I do. They have the same name, the same memories, the same genetic makeup -- the same sense of identity as it relates to the rest of the world -- but they do not have the same experience of being who they are. Hence they are not sufficiently equivalent (to one another) to justify calling them the same person. You might say however that one copy is just as good as another. I would agree -- the unique experience of any particular copy doesn't mean anyone ELSE is not justified in assuming multiple copies are the same person when they are, by all outward measure, equivalent. And this has the potential to lead to all sorts of very dangerous and unpleasant things, since it VASTLY devalues the individual. If one copy is just as good as another, then what reason would I have to value the existence of any particular instance if equivalent copies exist? Why bother installing safety devices in vehicles, for instance? If somebody dies in a car accident, we can just instantiate a backup copy and everybody's happy. But why stop there? Perhaps, every year, as a kind of "research tax," every citizen is required to donate a copy of themselves to scientific research. Since we aren't worried about impacting the individual's health, we can conduct any sort of experiments we want on his copies. If copies are cheap, we need not even take any special means to sustain them. As long as they survive long enough for us to do what we set out to do, we're good. Say we're worried about how our kids are going to turn out? No problem. Make a backup of them when you're reasonably happy with their behavior and just kill the little bastards when they start to get unacceptably rowdy. Then try something else with the backup to try and steer it onto a more desirable developmental course. No reason why this approach need by restricted to children -- governments could do the same thing to their citizens if they become insufficiently loyal. That's abhorrent, you might say -- and I'd agree. But I think that a morality proscribing such things would be entirely arbitrary in a society that perceived backups/uploads as you and Matt describe. If people were as casual about death as they were about birthdays (i.e. grandma's reinstatement party) why would they go to the lengths we go to today to prevent it? From our modern perspective, isn't it likely that such a society would seem exceptionally brutal? If people have no reason to value their own personal existences ... what logical reason do they have to respect the existence of others? Economics, maybe. But, when you get right down to it, it's a thin basis for a moral code.... But back to my point. Lets say, for the sake of argument, that information is sufficient to establish identity. As long as two things are informationally equivalent, neglecting such "trivial" aspects as location in space and physical composition, perhaps we can identify them as a single entity. Now take a single-celled organism. Call it Zell. Zell can be represented by a given pattern of information, as encoded by its genes, the structure of its organelles, etc. Say Zell divides perfectly, with no mutation, to produce two identical copies of itself. How many cells do we then have? Does it make sense to say that there is really only one cell, because they encode the same information? Does it make sense to say that when we kill one cell, that cell is dead and the existence of the other in no way affects the fact of its nonexistence? Should we bother giving the other cell its own name, or should we refer to them both simply as "Zell?" Why should we think about minds any differently from the way we think about cells, if they are both just patterns of information? Enough, Filipe Sobreira "Adtollite portas principes vestras Et elevamini portae aeternali Et introibit rex gloriae. Quis est iste rex gloriae?" (Psalm 23(24):7–8a) ________________________________ ________________________________ De: Matt Mahoney <matmahoney@yahoo.com> Para: sl4@sl4.org Enviadas: Segunda-feira, 9 de Fevereiro de 2009 12:55:08 Assunto: Re: [sl4] Personal identity (was Re: A teleporter) --- On Sun, 2/8/09, Filipe Sobreira <warlordbcm1@yahoo.com.br> wrote: > This whole topic is very interesting, but I find it hard to > discuss without knowing what the others believe in some of > the basic principles, so this is a question to the group as > a whole: In what consists your theory of personal identity? > What something needs to have to be called 'you'? Animals and children that have no concept of death have nevertheless evolved to fear most of the things that can kill them. Death seems to be a well defined (learned) concept until you introduce ideas like AI, uploading, copying, teleportation, and the brain as a computer which can be programmed. You don't know whether the universe is real or whether all of your sensory inputs are simulated by a computer that exists in a world you know nothing about. You don't know whether your lifetime of memories were programmed in the last instant by a computer in a world where time is a meaningless, abstract concept. If you were destroyed and replaced with an exact copy every second, each new copy would be unaware of it. If your memories were erased and replaced with that of a different person, the new person would be unaware of it. Exactly what is it that you fear? The correct question is not what should you do, but what will you do? The way our brains are programmed, we will probably treat machines that look and act like people as people and give them legal and property rights. We will see our friends die and then appear to be brought back to life as machines, and want to do likewise. The implications are much easier to work out. We don't need to get hung up on meaningless discussions about the identities of atoms trying to define "you". -- Matt Mahoney, matmahoney@yahoo.com Veja quais são os assuntos do momento no Yahoo! +Buscados http://br.maisbuscados.yahoo.com

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