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But which one is ME? Letting go of our mono-being identity orientation: Poly-beings, here we come!
Chris T. Armstrong   Dec 17, 2013   Ethical Technology  

Audience for this essay: You can save yourself from wasting some of your finite and far too short lifespan by totally ignoring this essay if you fall into any of the following three categories…

1. You don’t accept the possibility, even in principle, of a future wherein it will be possible via a “whole brain emulation” to upload the ENTIRETY of a human being’s consciousness to a non-biological substrate/processing-medium, whether it is because you think that this process will not be able to capture some special x-factor or soul-like essence or for ANY OTHER reason.

2. You totally accept, in principle, that we will one day be able to achieve a “whole brain emulation” and by uploading that emulation into a non-biological substrate we can achieve a full “continuity of consciousness.” Further, you have no problem accepting that multiple copies of the same consciousness would be full and completely valid instantiations of the “original” consciousness and not “mere copies” that are somehow less-than the original.

3. You choose to direct your energies toward near-term solutions to ACTUAL problems and regard this kind of conjecture as just so much “chin music” and premature, speculative, philosophical jibber-jabber.

Now, for those of you still with me, here we go…

Thought Experiment:

You are living in a future time, around 2045, when mind-uploading has just recently become a routine, safe, and successful way to copy one’s consciousness to a “platform” other than the biological one in which it was born. You are accompanying a friend to a mind-uploading center so she can undergo this procedure. This is a very new thing and people are still trying to comprehend all the implications involved. You have some doubts and questions about it yourself and don’t fully understand the whole procedure, but you are there to support your friend in her decision and not to debate the issues.

Your friend goes in and you, along with other friends and family, watch as she lies motionless while her brain is scanned. After this is finished, there is a long period of processing that needs to be done. A MONSTROUS amount of scanned brain data about your friend’s “connectome,” all the levels of neurotransmitter concentrations at each synapse, and all relevant neuronal micro-structures, the combination of which comprises your friend’s unique “consciousness-pattern,” is instantiated in the new non-biological substrate. A technician comes in and tells everyone that they may want to go have lunch and do some shopping or something and come back in the afternoon…

When you come back, the first-phase is completed. Your friend’s consciousness has been uploaded into its new platform and has been connected to visual, auditory and speech interfaces. All of you are there, crowded around a prosthetic head, waiting to greet the newly uploaded consciousness…your friend. The switch is thrown and the head, that will later be put on a “whole body prosthesis,” comes to “life,” looks around, gets a huge smile and says, “It WORKED!” and everyone’s tensions and anxieties are melted away as they all begin laughing, crying, clapping and cheering.

After they finally quiet down, they ask a thousand questions about what it feels like and if it hurt…all the typical stuff…and then finally, your friend’s skeptical uncle moves forward and begins something akin to a deposition or cross-examination: firing fact-oriented questions in rapid succession as a sort of test to see if this disembodied head really seems to be your friend, his niece. After several successful answers to what seem to her to be silly and obvious questions, your friend says, “Come on uncle, it’s ME!”

After a while, a technician comes in and begins talking with your friend about some details of the last thing they talked about just before the brain scanning began. It was a story about a mythical and magical origami crane that bestows eternal life and good luck on all those who bring it into existence via the intricate origami folding ritual. All the friends and family were there when the technician told this story before the brain scan as well. Soon, the technician says, “Yep, that’s about it. See you after the next phase,” and he leaves. “Why does that guy keep talking about some freaky paper crane?,” someone asks.

Your friend explains, “That’s kind of a tradition that has evolved, mostly for the benefit of friends and family, so they can see something immediate that reassures them that I’m the same person who he told that story to earlier. They tell each person who will be uploading a short story that was uniquely created just for them so the person would have no way of knowing such a story except through this conversation just before uploading.”

“It’s also just a quick check for the people running the uploading process, because if I didn’t recognize the person who told me the story or couldn’t recall the prior conversation at all, they would know immediately that something went seriously wrong with the process. But, for the most part, they depend on these interactions with friends and family, like we’re having right now, for feedback about the authenticity of the uploaded consciousness, relative to the ‘original’ one.”

“They told me that philosophers are still very busy debating all kinds of arcane issues surrounding identity, dualism, soul, and such, but as far as these technicians and doctors are concerned, if everyone who knows me says I’m exactly the same person as before I uploaded, that’s good enough for them. They don’t worry too much about the philosophers and their ‘busy-work.’ They figure, at least it keeps them off the streets.”

After a few more hours of visiting with your friend, a technician comes in and tells everyone that they have a lot to do to get your friend’s new brain connected up to the “whole body prosthetic” and all of its enhanced sensory apparatus and you can come back in about 24 hours to see the finished “product.” As you walk out, you can see through a glass window your friend’s biological body in a medically induced coma and you get a very odd and jarring feeling of cognitive dissonance since you were, only seconds before, talking with your friend…or were you? This question haunts you through the night and into the next day.

Before you leave the uploading center, you are all asked to meet with several specialists who interview each of you to get your impressions of your interactions with your friend and whether anything seemed amiss or if there was no difference between this uploaded consciousness and your biological friend.

The next afternoon you all reconvene at the uploading center. You are brought into a room and there stands your friend in her new prosthetic body. Everyone rushes over to her and hugs her and the tears and laughs begin to flow again. Everyone, that is, except for that same curmudgeonly uncle who remains standoffish for a while. Eventually, your friend notices his hesitance and yells to him, “Come over here and give your favorite niece a hug, you crusty old Luddite!” Somewhat embarrassed, he shuffles over and hugs this “thing” that he’s now supposed to accept as his niece. She hugs him tightly and whispers something in his ear that makes him laugh and cry at the same time. He’s beginning to see that this “thing” is seeming more and more niece-like and he is starting to feel that he might eventually accept “her” as such.

Your friend begins showing off her new body’s capabilities, a bit carefully at first since she’s still getting used to the different feel of it and how to coordinate it all. She tells you that she can already feel greatly enhanced potential in this body that she hasn’t even fully explored yet. Not to mention, how incredibly sturdy it is and practically impervious to physical destruction. She talks about her plans to eventually try out other body configurations. The recommended first step is to upload into a humanoid biped body, since one’s brain already knows how to operate that kind of configuration. Eventually people learn how to thrive in many kinds of body-styles or may even, at times, choose no body at all, preferring to exist for a time in an idealized virtual world of their own design.

After being challenged to the obligatory arm-wrestling matches by several large males and even a couple females, which she wins “hands-down,” a technician comes in to go over a few final points and mentions that, according to protocol and your friend’s wishes, her bio-body will be kept alive and in a coma for 30 days, after which time, it will be terminated. When you hear this, you are STUNNED. You hadn’t thought about what would happen to her old body. Maybe you assumed that it would be kept alive or maybe even woken up or who knows what you thought, but you blurt out, “What? Their gonna KILL you? All that will be left is this COPY of you? What will happen to YOU?” The room goes silent. People look a bit shocked. The uncle has a faint look of yeah-what-about-THAT? on his face.

Your friend breaks the silence, “What do you mean what will happen to ME? I’m RIGHT HERE! That’s just my old body in that room over there. I have 30 days to change my mind, but as of right now, I would NEVER choose to go back and “live” in that failing old ‘flesh coffin.’” The technician adds, “She has chosen this option. Some people DO choose to live along side their bio-bodies, or copy their consciousness-pattern into multiple synth-bodies.”

You interrupt, “But which one would be HER?” “They all would be her/me,” the technician and your friend answer in near-perfect unison. Undeterred, you say, “But, if her body dies, which one is the REAL her and not just a COPY? Where will her true self live?” The uncle chimes in, “What they’re trying to get us to swallow is that they’re ALL her true self. None of them are more “true” than any other.” Your friend interjects, “By George, I think he’s getting it” and gives her dear uncle a quick wink.

“Ok you two, I admit that I had some doubts as well, but after I was put into my new synth-body and before you all came back to see the unveiling, I availed myself of an option that all uploaded people have open to them. I asked that my old body be awakened so that we could have bit of a chat. And let me tell you, it’s a SERIOUSLY surreal experience to have a chat with YOURSELF…talk about finishing each other’s sentences…wow! Anyway, I had decided beforehand that I might want to do this, so it wasn’t a total shock to, well, EITHER of me.

The reason I did this was to get confirmation from the world’s number one expert on me…ME…that my uploaded, synth-self, was truly me in every discernible way. After we both got a bit more used to our initial “identity disorientation,” the bio-me grilled me for a couple of hours about my future plans, my deeply held principles and most private thoughts, fears, and secrets…everything she could think of to determine whether she was me and I was her. We were both a little surprised at how quickly we were able to accept each other as…each other, or us, or WE…I guess we need to expand the range of pronouns available for these kinds of situations.

So, bottom line: We both agreed that for us, in spite of some remaining instinctual qualms to the contrary, there was no point in the bio-me remaining active in the world, now that a synth-me was here to take “our” life to the next level. We both accepted that there was no important difference between each other and the bio-me accepted that “she” would REALLY be living on as a synth-her/me. And I accepted that all that was “her” was REALLY me as well.”

You and the uncle are silent for a while and then slowly begin to speak…the discussion goes on, but with a much less contentious tone…minds are blown…lives are changed…

Discussion

Humans have evolved on this planet as mono-beings: We have only one version of our consciousness, and it is located in our biological body in which “we” were born and live, until that body wears out or is destroyed. That’s how it has always been for all(?) living things on this planet and of course it’s hard for us to imagine it being any other way. But once we can truly have multiple selves, the ONE-TRUE-SELF paradigm becomes inoperative and obsolete, or at least, merely one “historical” paradigm among newer ones.

At present, we have a fundamental difficulty, an aversion really, to accepting the idea that there could be multiple, and fully “valid” versions of ourselves existing SIMULTANEOUSLY: poly-beings. I’ve had many discussions with people about this and almost no one can break free from the, quite natural and instinctual feeling that, regarding their sense of self, as in the movie, Highlander, “there can be only ONE.”

It’s totally understandable. It feels natural to me too, since I have only known mono-being-ness. It feels like something as natural as breathing—an existential axiom—that we have a singular identity. We’ve never had any experience other than that, at least not in our “normal” (“neuro-typical”) existence, apart from the realm of chemically induced psychedelic or otherwise “altered-state” experiences. 

We say things like: “I am the REAL me and all uploaded versions are obviously only copies.” Some people hold on to the “only one” intuition so strongly that they assume that all of the copies would be “in sync” somehow and be experiencing exactly the same things in unison…because OBVIOUSLY there can be only one version of their consciousness existing and experiencing the world at one time.

Some think that the “mere copies” will be somewhat zombie-esque: conscious to some degree but lacking some special human quality that only THEY, the original, possess. And these are not only religious people who reject the idea of mind-uploading outright because they believe it cannot capture the “soul.” Often, these are people who THINK they’ve accepted the idea, in principle, that a brain can be copied, uploaded, and could be a COMPLETE consciousness.

Even people who are not arguing that the copies will not be accurate enough in a physical/functional way are often unable to think of the copies as TRUE versions of themselves. They still feel that SOMETHING must be missing and/or their original bio-version can be the only real “them”…for some reason. They are still holding on to their inherent mono-being bias when thinking about the idea of multiple-selves.

A Pragmatic Proposal

No, I am not contending that I have discovered some groundbreaking property of consciousness or a new paradigm of identity. I am proposing that we adopt this point of view as a useful tool, until we have reason to believe that the reality is otherwise.

The proposition is this:

A sufficiently detailed copy of a person’s brain—not a rough approximation, simulation, or software engineer’s conception—is, in EVERY sense YOU. If you make 1,000 ACCURATE copies, every one of them is REALLY YOU, just as much as the original bio-version of you is you.

They will all feel and believe, just as strongly as the bio-original does, that THEY are the true you. They may even have doubts about the validity of the other 999 copies AND the bio-original. They will ALL have the same ego-centered sense of self as the bio-original has. They will ALL naturally balk at the idea that it’s no big deal to be “killed” because “they” will live on through the copies. They will resist this idea unless they can come to some philosophical acceptance of the validity and PARALLEL SAMENESS of ALL the copies: The same philosophical struggle you may be going through right now.

The uploaded selves are not “clones” or the same as identical twins. Neither of those kinds of entities have an exact copy of someone else’s life experiences, memories, personality, etc. They are DISTINCT individuals. An uploaded consciousness is not “merely a copy” that is somewhat less-than the original, it is an EXACT duplicate of the original individual.

An uploaded consciousness will be EXACTLY as happy as the original was to be alive and to be interacting with his/her loved ones (gender will become an irrelevant/fluid/optional property of an uploaded being) and every bit of your consciousness that you consider to be YOU will be there, planning your future, making your same dumb jokes, suffering the same insecurities and displaying your same strengths. This upload that you may be tempted to think of as a mere clone or copy, but not YOU, will express his/her/its happiness over the success of the upload process and the opportunity it will have to live on, in a non-biological and more durable form.

Embracing the Poly-Being Opportunities

In order to embrace the full range of implications of mind-uploading, we need to abandon our either/or intuition in favor of a both/and view. Asking which one is the REAL you is akin to asking a gay couple: “Which one of you is the man/woman?” You’re trying to shoehorn something completely new into an old model. What is needed is a recognition of the new model and a conceptual adjustment that is necessary in order to integrate this newness into one’s worldview.

In order to determine if you are taking this idea 100% seriously…TOTALLY buying into it…ask yourself if you would be fine with letting your original bio-body die and believe that you, the REAL and ACTUAL you, in EVERY sense, would live on as the uploaded duplicate. The duplicate would feel that it was you and all the behavioral evidence it exhibits would lead people to accept that it truly IS you. It, YOU, will carry on with your life without missing a BEAT, because there is no BEAT to miss. It IS you.

A Multiplicity of Possibilities

We can imagine all kinds of sci-fi variations on this theme. We could, perhaps, network all versions together and each could take in all the experiences of the others and choose which memories collected through all the versions’ experiences to integrate into their own version. That is, until they each start becoming different enough that they may want to break away from this network and go off on their own. And if they are not linked, we have to accept the idea that, yes, they BEGAN as many duplicates of one-self, but if they travel off somewhere and have different experiences, learn different things, and make new relationships with other consciousnesses, they will begin to diverge and become more and more different from the original and become truly autonomous variations on the original theme.

Several consciousnesses may be able to merge into a collective entity for a while and then go back to being individuals again. Or imagine merging with your lover on such a fundamental level. You won’t have to imagine what they’re feeling or guess at their perspective. You will be THEM and they will be YOU, while in that merged-state.

And, of course, one of the most valuable aspects of mind-uploading will be the ability to back-up your mind-file and keep it in one or more safe and “off site” locations.

These kinds of possibilities are what we MUST consider if we are to fully accept the idea of mind-uploading as conceived of by Transhumanists.

Hypothesize and Test

Of course, this all rests upon the assumption that the copy is of sufficient resolution/detail to faithfully capture the true functionality of the brain. And that rests further on the reductionist/materialist hypothesis that the totality of our consciousness is an emergent property of the complexity of the brain; that “Minds are what brains do.”—AI pioneer, Marvin Minsky

On the other hand, for dualists, who believe that consciousness exists outside/independently of the physical brain (and to some, beyond the fathomability or scope of science), no amount of cleverly engineered brain-like artifacts will be sufficient to allow consciousness to emerge therefrom or reside therein (unless maybe the consciousness “wants” to reside there for some reason or is PUT there by a god). In this view, “Looking for consciousness in the brain is like looking inside a radio for the announcer.”—speculative physicist, Nassim Haramein.

Yes, both sides are functioning from positions of hypothesis rather than solidly demonstrated and completely settled FACT, but the big difference between these two positions is: At least the transhumanists are planning to RUN THE EXPERIMENT…to put their hypothesis to the test by working toward mind-uploading to see if we can achieve a “continuity of consciousness”—across bio and non-bio “platforms”—through science rather than just believing and hoping that our consciousness AUTOMATICALLY lives on without the brain, in the form of an immortal soul, as most religions contend.

To sum up:

We are currently mono-beings by default; no choice in the matter; dictated by evolution.

Mind-uploading technologies will enable us to become poly-beings by choice; multiple instantiations of THE SAME consciousness functioning simultaneously, but independently.

At the time they are created, they are all equivalently YOU, but immediately begin having their own experiences and developing their own new histories unless a choice is made to keep them all IN SYNCH and “the same” by updating all of them (including non-operational backups) periodically with the experiences of only ONE of them.

If asked, all selves will demonstrate the same will to live and the same stubborn, ego-driven insistence that they are YOU as much as YOU will.

Regardless of how many paradox-laden feelings and intuitions we may have to the contrary, at the time of SUCCESSFUL uploading, the original and ALL copies, all posses equivalent YOU-NESS. There is no logical basis for considering the bio-self to have more PERSONHOOD-STATUS than the uploads. Only a preexisting bias against poly-being-ness would cause you to hold that view.

New conceptions of “individual” and property rights and many other legal and social “entanglements” will need to be resolved in order to deal with the novel implications of this “expanded identity-matrix.”

Instead of the motto on the Seal of The United States: E Pluribus Unum - “Out of many, one.”

The motto of the mind-uploading era could be: E Unum Pluribus - “Out of one, many.”

Top image: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-mcclelland/brain-mapping_b_2993002.html

Chris T. Armstrong is a secular transhumanist and self-appointed publicist of all things H+/Singularity related. He has had articles published on immortallife.infoIEET.org, BrighterBrains.org, and indiafuturesociety.org. He is currently writing his first book, At Any Cost: A Guide to The Transhumanist Wager and the Ideas of Zoltan Istvan. http://transhumanistwagerguide.com/
Back in the 20th century, Chris was a student and researcher in Artificial Intelligence (neural modeling), Lisp programming and a professional software geek. He is also a percussionist/composer, martial artist, powerlifter, proto Renaissance man, and budding bon vivant.
Chris has a BFA and MFA from California Institute of the Arts in World Music. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their two fully-transhuman dogs, Buddy and Beanie. He blogs at http://carmstrong1959blog.wordpress.com/.
His dark-ambient, atmospheric, sci-fi soundtrack sounding compositions can be found here: http://www.SpaceageFurnitureMusic.com
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COMMENTS

y iz it that MY concetptions, and MY philosophies have to go out the window? Why is it that I am forced, every time I decide to read this site, to consider only one tiny shrub of a tree set of technologies, the trunk being uploading? Why is it not possible to contemplate technologies that are even more transformative but are emphatically not uploading? Even your attempt to discuss what some call “mind coalescence” is based within (and confined by) the ontological framework established by the uploaders. Why is it that I have been unable to start a conversation about the project of developing technologies that are compatible with my philosophies? More generally, why can’t we talk about a truly pluralistic transhumanism and about how to meet the needs of the broadest possible transhumanist community rather than denying non-uploaders the chance to explain their visions of what a transhumanist future could look like? I, myself, have faced a great deal of derision over the years for my alegedly backwards thinking and worthless philosophies. When I bring other ideas up, I am either ignored or the subject is brought back to how my ideas are inherently inferior to being uploaded into a simulation.

Really an excellent, thought-provoking article.

There are questions raised here that will only be answered once we do the experiment. I suspect that envisioning existence as a poly-being is as impossible for a mono-being as envisioning (as opposed to theorizing about) a third dimension was to the inhabitants of “Flatland.”

Regarding your thought-experiment about the uploaded friend, I would suggest that we have sort of a Schroedinger’s cat moment as soon as the original body is awakened. At that point, the two beings diverge and become different selves, with different experiences. If the original body was never awakened and there was a truly seamless transition of the personality to the upload, I would suggest that destroying it would not be impermissible. Once it is awakened, it’s another story.

If uploading becomes feasible (and the computability of consciousness is still an open question), it would certainly be as straightforward to make any number of copies of the original upload. Their relationships to each other and to what extent they would share experiences? I don’t know.

Once again, great job!

I fall into 1.  Nevertheless I briefly scanned the rest of the article.  Yes the author understands the implications for the “self” should a materialist based metaphysic be true i.e the notion of a persisting self is an illusion.

.

I am offended. I reject the pompous person that would claim I am either a reductionist/materialist or a dualist. Chris’s whole thought experiment is flawed because his philosophical understanding of the core issues around an individual’s singular Presence is grossly incomplete.

Furthermore, the ideas Chris is basing his premises on are factitious. The central concepts on which his conclusions rests, i.e. “copies” “identical” and “behavioral evidence”, are made up things (mere Folk Psychology), they have no real analogues in Nature, they are not supportable by physics (non-physical) and are nothing more than abstract words humans use to loosely categorize similar subjective appearances. There are no identical things in nature, in fact such a thing is a physical impossibility. Similarity and approximations on the other hand is the perception of an abstract relationship, one that reductive behaviorists often mistake as something more than it really is, perhaps they sleep better at night believing so. In the real world things don’t become “the same” simply due to appearances or abstract relationships, no matter how many other things are incapable of perceiving a difference or will accept another in its place.

In short the whole essay can be accurately summarized as:

If it grunts like Chris, walks like Chris, wheres silly T-shirts like Chris and posts radical behaviorist essays like Chris, it must be Chris.

Chris, next time why don’t you show some respect to alternative views. Not everyone fits in your black and white philosophical world. This neutral monist doesn’t find your essay the least bit insightful. 

Very good article Chris! I couldn’t agree more.

re “[you can ignore] this essay if you fall into any of the following three categories…”

I could have skipped reading after your initial advice. In fact, I am and always have been in category 2.

re “[dualists] believe that consciousness exists outside/independently of the physical brain (and to some, beyond the fathomability or scope of science),”

Of course “outside/independently of the physical brain” and “beyond the fathomability or scope of science” don’t mean the same thing. I believe nothing is in-principle beyond the fathomability of science, but I would accept the “brain as a receiver” idea if it were supported by scientific evidence.

I don’t see such scientific evidence at the moment, so I follow Occam and assume that the reductionist/materialist hypothesis, that the totality of our consciousness is an emergent property of the complexity of the brain, is correct. This hypothesis is conceptually simpler, and it is supported by current science.

But even if the “brain as a receiver” hypothesis is vindicated by future science, and the brain is recognized as a just an antenna for vibrations originating in a weird quantum neverland where consciousness resides—- so what? We will be able to engineer suitable alternative receiving substrates with the same properties, and develop uploading just the same.

The identity problem always confuses people.  Compared to the universe, we are virtually exact duplicates of one another.  Thou art god.  The problem is that we aren’t occupying the same time/space, so are separate.  Do you think all of humanity share a soul?  Do you think all conscious beings share a soul?

Are you in love with your image in the mirror?  Do you think that you are the best possible, and ought to be copied?  Some people favor their children over themselves, thinking they are improved copies of themselves.

My position is that when I look into your eyes I see myself, but there is no way that a virtual copy of myself is really “me.”  Furthermore, I don’t think that I am the best origional to make a copy of.  Finally, I would personally think of a virtual copy of myself as more of a “brother,” than myself in another body.  We might cooperate to win at team sports, but would I think that “I” am somehow surviving if “I” die, but “he” lives?  No, “he” would just be an artifact I leave behind, like a picture or a movie or an identical twin.

It might be interesting to quote what the philosopher Gualtiero Piccinini has said regarding this issue.  He outlines a thought experiment involving the teleportation and replication of individuals.  In his paper he argues:

“imagine that teleportation is invented. A teleporter disintegrates your current body, extracts precise information about the location of each particle that constitutes you, and makes an exact particle-by-particle replica of you in another location. To go from New York to Paris, says the advertisement, you can take a plane, which takes seven hours and costs $1,000, or take the teleporter, which takes only a minute and costs $100. Which one would you take? If you are in doubt, consider a more advanced teleporter. It makes a copy of your body by scanning your present body without destroying it. Now it should be pretty clear that after you enter and exit the teleporter in New York, you are the person who is still in New York, while the new body in Paris is a mere replica distinct from you. Regardless of how many replicas are made and whether making replicas requires the destruction of your current body, your replica is not you. No one can make your replica numerically identical with you—not even god (contra Baker 2011)”.


Unfortunately this is simply inconsistent with naturalism/physicalism/materialism, or indeed any position which holds that mental states are produced by brain states and are tightly correlated with them. Under naturalism there is no distinction between numerical and qualitative identity.  At that instant when the replica is created the replica necessarily must be you if it is physically identical. To deny this is to affirm that what “you” are is something over and above the totality of your physicality.

But let’s press this further. The replica will look the same, share the exact same character traits and in general be absolutely psychologically indistinguishable from the original. Moreover this ostensibly teleported person will have memories of her life before being teleported—she will remember standing in the teleportation booth, experiencing a sudden shift in perspective, and finding herself in the destination booth. In every way this newly created person will feel herself as being simply a continuation of the original and that she has merely instantaneously transported from one place to another.

So to deny that the replica is the very same person is not only to deny that ones total physicality fixes identity, but also that the totality of ones psychological states, including memories, fails to fix identity too!  Of course under any materialist based metaphysic the former will entail the latter, but it is pertinent to stress this point.

So how does the materialist escape the seeming paradox the author alludes to? Imagine the following scenario. Imagine that every infinitesimal fraction of a second you are getting teleported from place to place. Obviously if you keep your eyes open you’ll just see a confusing blur. But you could close your eyes, and everything would seem to be normal. You could be thinking of a problem, daydreaming, or whatever. Nothing would seem different as compared to when you have your eyes closed normally, except in the teleportation scenario you are continuously being killed and spontaneously coming into being every infinitesimal fraction of a second!

Now if we suppose that precisely this is happening in our second by second everyday existence then there is no paradox.

What this means then is that the materialist has to reject the notion of a persisting self. That’s all an illusion. There is only the sense of a self, but that sense corresponds to no real self.

Let me try to be more clear about this.  If the original body is killed at the precise moment of replication then, from the perspective of the person being teleported, she will seem to “jump” to the remote destination.  But of course there’s no reason at all why the original should be killed at that particular instant.  Perhaps we might delay the termination of the original; by an hour say.  But then this creates the interesting scenario whereby it seems to the person that at the precise moment of replication she will have a 50/50 chance of either suddenly “jumping” to the remote location, or simply remaining where she is with the unpleasant prospect of being killed in an hour’s time!

If you think this represents a paradox then you haven’t understood what I’m saying.  Should naturalism/materialism be true then, even in our apparent day to day existence, we do not even survive from one second to the next.  The overwhelming feeling we are persisting selves is all a horrible illusion.  The original person will die in an hour’s time.  But intellectually, and as a good naturalist/materialist, this ought not to perturb her in the slightest since she is effectively “dying” every infinitesimal fraction of a second anyway.  Of course psychologically she is likely to be very frightened indeed!  This reflects the fact that we are all instinctively strong dualists, or at least that we are persisting selves i.e substantial selves.  It is overwhelmingly counter-intuitive to suppose otherwise.

@Purpose

Well, since this essay was first published over two months ago on http://immortallife.info and after many Facebook discussions, you win the award as the most angry, emotionally-charged response so far…and by a LONG shot…even going so far as calling my NUMERO-UNO favorite t-shirt, “silly”?!?!?! Now that was downright hurtful. wink

I can understand your reaction to some degree, and I actually expected more of it than I have received so far. After all, I’m offering an alternative viewpoint to some fairly standard ideas and did poke a bit of fun at “philosophers” in the story. And more than merely offering an alternative viewpoint, I am implicitly, and often EXPLICITLY, rejecting some viewpoints and suggesting that, rather than representing a strong philosophical “truth,” these viewpoints and premises may be the result of a quite natural human bias.

Here’s why I had the temerity to dabble in such philosophical heresy: [Be warned, you may be offended again.] Because, at our current stage of comprehension of the neurology underlying concepts like “consciousness” and “identity,” we are ALL engaging in little more than made-up BS thought-experiment philosophizing [some might call it “folk psychology”] based on our subjective biases, so I have no hesitance to throw my equally scientifically-unsupportable ideas on the pile as well. Granted, all arguments are not created equal. Some are more logically coherent than others, but WE ARE ALL just proposing hypotheses, which can not even be put to an empirical test until a time when we can do things on the order of mind-uploading, or at least have much more neurological understanding than we have today.

While I have been studying ideas about consciousness and A.I. since the early 1980s—not comprehensively, just whatever was interesting to me—I think it’s safe to assume that I haven’t run across absolutely every relevant idea/theory on these topics, but I am aware of the problems with some of the ideas and terms I’ve used. And, it may horrify you to know that I PURPOSEFULLY didn’t do a thorough exploration of absolutely ALL the latest and classic ideas/thought-experiments surrounding consciousness and identity, again, because I know that we are currently unable to do much more than offer up opinions based on guesses, unverified-assumptions and biased-premises, so I need not feel constrained by any other mammal’s ideas when presenting my own ideas, given our current underdeveloped, monkey-brained conceptions of our own consciousness.

“We understand human mental processes only slightly better than a fish understands swimming.”—John McCarthy, A.I. pioneer and creator of Lisp.

Note that I am offering a proposal that we force ourselves to adopt a counterintuitive point of view and its implications and not that I have discovered some “truth” about consciousness.

Yes, subjective things like “behavior” are deeply unsatisfying to we who would like something MUCH more substantial and quantifiable to hang our hats on, but we don’t yet have a reliable consciousness/identity-metric to tell us whether a mind-upload is complete and equivalent to the original bio-being…YET…

However, while I emphasized, in the story, the subjective opinions of family and friends to verify the validity of the uploaded-person, we must realize that the technicians have access to MUCH more satisfying information. The “behavioral” aspect is only contributory to the overall picture in the evaluation of the success/failure/accuracy of the upload. It’s more like the last step, final-check, once the more quantitative info checks out.

Once the structure of the brain, at an EXTREMELY fine-grained level of resolution, has been turned into a data-description/specification, it then becomes subject to all of the advanced information-processing shenanigans that can be applied to it to perform the future equivalent of “check-sum” verifications and various kinds of comparisons of the scanned-data with the bio-brain, all kinds of things are enabled once the bio-brain has been turned into processable data. Knowing the way computer-geeks think, cuz I used to be one full-time, you can be assured that they will run this data through quite a rigorous series of tests to verify its accuracy. They also have the benefit of having done this for a few years and found nothing to be amiss in the process.

I would purpose further that behavior…as subjective and ill-defined as it is…is actually what we use now, and may still rely upon in the future to some degree, to determine the status of an individual. We only know if a person is “alright” or “themselves” or even “conscious” by their behavior. It is their behavior that is one of the strongest clues that tells us when something isn’t quite right with a person. Right now we don’t have a non-behavioral metric to determine consciousness or identity, but in a future age of uploading, we will have more direct access to the brain/mind and maybe we can discover a quantitative measurement that will be much better than relying on “mere” behavior.

If everything the uploaded synth-version says and does confirms that they are the same as the bio-version, on what basis are you going to deny that they are NOT the same? Based on some philosophical premises that were sprouted in the pre-upload era? This is why I ridicule the philosophers in the story: because they are holding on to outdated ideas about identity that neurology can now show to be inoperative.

Bottom line: Someone disputing the poly-being-ness of an upload will have to propose what it is that they think was missed in the uploading process that failed to carry along the bio-being’s “sense of self” into the synth-version and why it was missed. They could propose that a sense of self doesn’t reside in the brain, but, until they can prove that, their idea will just remain a philosophical viewpoint.

As far as this “pompous git” [very classy, in a philosophical discussion, BTW] telling you that you are “either a reductionist/materialist or a dualist.” I mentioned to the reader that those are two philosophical categories of people who might not have an interest/need to read my article. I didn’t impose those labels on anyone. Yes, since there are different “flavors” of both dualism and monism, it is a bit of a continuum, rather than a binary-polarity-thingy. I didn’t include your preferred self-identifying terminology in my description. You mentioned on Google+ that you are a “neutral monist,” which puts you on the “reductionist/materialist” end of the spectrum, so I accept your rebuke on grounds of imprecision. grin

@AlonzoTG

While I don’t know the answers to all your questions, I do have one idea that may be helpful. People who call themselves “futurists” or “transhumanists” tend to be extremely drawn to new ideas and creations. They also tend to abandon older ideas quite easily, in favor of new ones that they like better. Some of the old ideas may still be valuable, for some purposes or for some people, but for someone looking toward a future with extreme amounts of change, they will automatically choose the newer idea if they see it leading to the kind of future they hope for. I suspect this may be the reason you find people uninterested in ideas that they see as “old fashioned.”

@rmk948

Thanks!

Wow, a Flatland analogy, far out! I love that book. I got into that and also Sphereland back in my old A.I. days in the 80s. Yes, Flatland is a very valuable tool to help us to see how hard (nearly impossible?) it is for us to jump out of our own intuitively ingrained perspective to a viewpoint that might be 90 degrees away from all the dimensions we currently see…as in the difference between a 2 dimensional world and a 3 dimensional one.

Yes, leaving the bio-being unconscious after the uploading process DOES avoid “complications.” Of course, I had the luxury of creating a best-case-scenario between the synth and bio-selves. There’s no disagreement between them. The protagonist in the story accepts the death of her bio-body fairly easily, which I attribute to the influence of the zeitgeist of the time she lives in. She has seen a LOT of other people undergo this procedure before her and has heard all the philosophical debates and has known people who have done it and she has seen people come through it completely intact and free of any issues that the philosophers had worried “their pretty little heads about.”

In her time, many issues surrounding poly-being-ness are continually being hashed-put and the concept is becoming almost “normal”…at least with the younger generations. Bottom line: her experience and research relieved her of any old-fashioned “skin-bag” bias. Plus she had a conversation with her new synth-self and she convinced her bio-self that SHE would still be there in the synth-version of her. 

It sounds as though you really “get” what I was proposing. I haven’t heard from that many who have. Usually, they just can’t let go of their mono-being bias.

@Giulio Prisco

Thanks Giulio! I’m glad you liked it. It means a lot to me, coming from such a groovy and knowledgable member of our transhumanist-tribe, such as yourself.

Sure, I too would accept the brain-as-receiver idea, as I would ANY idea if it were supported by scientific evidence.

Yes, I see it the same way: If the brain is a receiver and we replicate a brain, we will have replicated a brain that is a receiver…assuming that its receiver-ness is a property of the structure of the brain. I seem to remember that Kurzweil has a similar response to the quantum microtubule enthusiasts who mention them as something that may be a problem for mind-uploading. If I recall correctly, Kurzweil assumes that a high-enough resolution brain scan will capture these structures as well, so, if they’re important, they’ll be there in the uploaded brain. In my story, I throw a bone to the quantum people when I mention scanning, “all relevant neuronal micro-structures.”

I, as you have mentioned elsewhere as well, leave the door open for future developments in the direction of “quantum weirdness” and things we’ve yet to consider and things we don’t even know that we don’t know about yet. I have no doubt that we will develop future understandings of physics that break what we currently view as fundamental laws of the universe. It is inconceivable to me that, at our current ape-level of understanding of science, which we’ve only had to a functional degree for around 200-ish years(?), plus or minus, we have a complete fundamental understanding of the workings of the universe and are only refining the details.

@dobermanmac

You asked:
“Do you think all of humanity share a soul?  Do you think all conscious beings share a soul?”

For all I know, the answers may be Yes and Yes, but at this point I would answer No and No.

For the record: I think various religions/spiritual-traditions have used the the word “soul” as a nickname to describe the complete essence of a being, absolutely everything about the unique (or universal) personality of a being…including any unspecified x-factors that we have little to no understanding of currently. I suspect that what I have called a “consciousness pattern” in my essay, is possibly the same thing that religious/spiritual people mean when they say “soul.”

“Are you in love with your image in the mirror?”
No. 
“Do you think that you are the best possible, and ought to be copied?”
Certainly not the best possible, however I don’t think that is the criterion to use to decide someone’s copy-worthiness. I see no need to be the best possible. Beings will be copies with all their strengths AND their flaws. Maybe they can tweak their flaws much more easily once they’ve been scanned as data and uploaded into a whole body prosthetic or virtual world.

Yes, I can see that you embrace the mono-being idea, as most people do, and reject the poly-being alternative viewpoint.

Who knows? You may be right.

@ Chris T Armstrong

“It sounds as though you really “get” what I was proposing. I haven’t heard from that many who have. Usually, they just can’t let go of their mono-being bias.”

The thing is you both “underestimate” the importance of Individualism and mind-body duality, (the core motivation for mind-uploading goals), whilst at the same time “overestimate” this notion of exactness between transfer of original and clone? Both “are not” the same, nor will they continue as the same, as you then attempt to reconcile ultimately?

You must accept and confront the fact that whether transfer utilized for “One” or as two or many, the “sacrifice” and “suicide” of original is in utility of perpetuation of mind/Self which comprises both memory and values, yet these are still as “separate” and distinct from the original as two minds? And moreover, it helps to “quantify” what you actually “think” comprises “you” from the first - you may then reduce further this composition and its relevance?

Biological Human entities are not cakes you can cut in two like worms?

To reconcile this dilemma, you do require to be “philosophical” and weigh consequences, beliefs and ideology. In fact, any uploading scenario may dismally fail without it, (ie you may die if you don’t have faith and belief of success, or in fact will do for your ideology)?

So I also find strange these derogatory remarks regarding “philosophers” as your whole opinion is based on philosophy?

I think you would be more convincing to admit that one version of “you” has to die and sacrifice for the perpetuation of another version of “you”, and let folks wrestle with that? (Yet you most likely still do not believe such and are blocking?)

Can you really sacrifice your-Self for your mind-clone - the proof of pudding is at the “real” moment when you are facing demise and Self-preservation reigns supreme?

Only through lack of fear of death can you be free to contemplate rebirth, (so Buddhism and dispassion regarding life/existence helps “greatly” - kinda rubs against the grain and ideology and purpose of uploading goals?)

I am a protagonist for uploading by the way.

 

@Jennings

“…the materialist has to reject the notion of a persisting self. That’s all an illusion. There is only the sense of a self, but that sense corresponds to no real self.”
According to the point of view in my essay, the “sense of self” exists within the complete consciousness-pattern of a scanned being (person) and wherever that consciousness-pattern is accurately instantiated (housed within some “platform”), that sense of self will reside, regardless of whether it is put into one platform or multiple platforms. In the poly-being conception, it’s not something uniquely attached to only one platform at a time.

…the advanced teleporter:
“the new body in Paris is a mere replica distinct from you.”
If by “mere” is meant something “less-than” the original, I would disagree, according to the poly-being concept.

“replica distinct from you”…Yes, distinct from you, in the physical sense, but exactly the same as you in every other sense at the time of its materialization in Paris. And from that moment on will begin to have different experiences and become more divergent from the original, BUT it will initially have the EXACT same sense of self as the New York version.

According to the poly-being concept, as soon as the “you” appears in Paris, it would make no difference which one you killed, YOU would still be alive because YOU, your sense of self or identity, resides in your consciousness-pattern and not “merely” in one particular physical instance of that pattern. YOU exist(s) in every one of your consciousness-patterns. This is the logical conclusion of the FULL acceptance of the reductionist/materialist/functionalist/emergent-ist hypothesis.

“Regardless of how many replicas are made and whether making replicas requires the destruction of your current body, your replica is not you.”

This is a rejection of the reductionist/materialist/functionalist/emergent-ist hypothesis based on the mono-being intuition that there can be only ONE you existing at any given time. This is exactly the unspoken intuition that the poly-being concept is challenging. Most people aren’t even consciously aware that this is what their “feeling” is based on because it is SO instinctively natural to us mono-beings to feel this way.

“No one can make your replica numerically identical with you—not even god (contra Baker 2011)”.

In the various versions of the replicator scenario, the idea is that we are scanned and information “about the location of each particle that constitutes you” is collected and used to make “an exact particle-by-particle replica of you in another location.”

In this scenario, I don’t how the above quotation follows, since th premise of the thought experiment states that a “numerical” or “particle-by-particle replica of you” is created. I it means something about the imperfection of making any to physical things be exactly the same down to the most extreme level of fine-grained resolution, OK. In the mind-uploading scenario, we’re not talking about such a perfect, idealized, Platonic isomorphism since where scanning a brain and then implementing the “functionality” of that brain structure in a different, but supposedly, sufficient medium. For some people, this is a fatal flaw in the uploading conception because they view the biological brain as integral and not replicable in this way, or that all that is “us” just ain’t contained in (or produced ONLY by) the brain.

The whole beauty of the mind-uploading proposition is that we’re finally gonna have a way to test all these issues of materialism/monism, dualism, functionalism, identity, etc., and we can stop all this, much less satisfying, philosophizing from positions of ignorance, speculation, and belief, “informed” by our own idiosyncratic intuitive-bias-thingys.

It doesn’t matter if you’re identical. If you have separate consciousnesses, then you are separate people. If I cannot experience consciousness through my duplicate, then he is not me. I cannot see through his eyes, nor he through mine. Consciousness is singular. The original girl in your scenario would loose her experience of consciousness upon her termination, and this is in no way mitigated by the fact that she has a duplicate. How could it not be obvious as they conversed with each other that they were separate people, that their minds were separate and it made no difference that they were identical?

@Armand

Yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it?

The difference between the situation in the story and EVERY situation we, and every other human being who has ever existed, has ever experienced is that, in the story they are not only two separate people, but they are EXACTLY THE SAME person as well. Each of them has the exact same consciousness-pattern, so it wouldn’t matter which one of them died, that unique consciousness-pattern that makes her HER, would still exist in the universe. However, in any other situation that we mono-beings have any experience with, it really WOULD matter which one was killed because each of us are separate people AND we’re completely DIFFERENT people with different senses of unique identity. If your consciousness-pattern is destroyed, you and your ONE AND ONLY sense of identity are destroyed. Game over.

Yes, as mono-beings, “consciousness is singular” as you say. We have no other choice.

But, if you have 5 poly-beings each with exactly the same consciousness-pattern, it doesn’t matter which one or how many are killed. As long as one still exists, that self still exists. You and I are DEEPLY attached, physically AND psychologically to this one location that houses our identities, our body.

As painfully counterintuitive it is for us to wrap our mono-being minds around, I’m proposing that our sense of self is contained in our consciousness-pattern, which is in turn contained in (or a product of) our brains. If we faithfully copy the structure of a brain, you will also copy that sense of self and wherever that sense of self exists, YOU exist.

Of course, either the bio-version or the synth version in the story could balk at being killed, which would be natural for anyone who didn’t accept the poly-being perspective. But in the bizarre world of poly-beings, regardless of how scared one of them is to be killed, if one IS killed, SHE (her consciousness-pattern) will persist and SHE will still exist…it doesn’t matter if it’s the one of “her” standing next to me or the one standing across the room, SHE’S still here. Everything that was her is still here. The only difference is that there’s only one of her now. 

The key idea is that we ARE our consciousness-pattern, regardless of where or how many places it currently resides. As long as our consciousness-pattern exists, WE and our (“unique” AND duplicated) sense of self will still exist.

This doesn’t seem right to us because, in our mono-being experience, this kind of thing is an IMPOSSIBILITY. There’s no way for us to be, both killed AND still exist.

Of course, everything I’ve said can be disregarded if you absolutely reject the idea that everything that we are, including our sense of self, can be captured in our consciousness-pattern. However, if you DO accept this materialist proposition, I submit that the logic of it compels us to loosen up on our psychological hold on the idea of our uniqueness…that there is something “special” about each particular “copy” of us. As mono beings, we ARE each unique, with individual egos and senses of identities, but as poly-beings, EVERYTHING that is you is in ALL copies. EVERYTHING…nothing special, no unique essence is in each copy…only YOU and the SAME sense of identity as every other copy. Whichever one is the last one to remain functioning, will be ALL you…unlike our past and present, evolved mono-being experience.

I know, it probably STILL doesn’t feel “right” to you…well, me neither, we’re mono-beings…what can we do? But regardless of how we may feel about it, poly-being-ness and all the identity-weirdness it implies, may actually be right ANYWAY.

Chris I don’t have any disagreements with you.  You’re mainly not quoting and arguing with me but rather the philosopher Gualtiero Piccinini whom I quoted.  My own argument is from the 3rd paragraph onwards in my post.

@CignusX1

“The thing is you both “underestimate” the importance of Individualism and mind-body duality, (the core motivation for mind-uploading goals)…”

I wouldn’t say that I “underestimate” the importance of mind-body duality and much as I TOTALLY REJECT the idea…until it can be proven through science/experiment. I’m sure when we are able to achieve mind-uploading, we’ll get some real answers about a lot of issues and we can all stop speculating based on our “beliefs.”

As far as “individualism”…if you mean, individuality, our unique identity…yes, the poly-being concept could be viewed as a diminution of these things when viewed from our current mono-being viewpoint. If you look at my responses to Jennings and Armand above, you may see what I mean about this issue.

“‘overestimate’ this notion of exactness between transfer of original and clone? Both ‘are not’ the same, nor will they continue as the same, as you then attempt to reconcile ultimately?

OK, you’ve made some categorical statements with nothing to back them up or explain them, so I’ll just say that I think you may be wrong on both points.

The things you mention in the next couple of paragraphs are also addressed in my responses to Jennings and Armand.

“…I also find strange these derogatory remarks regarding “philosophers” as your whole opinion is based on philosophy?”

As I mentioned in my response to Purpose, I make a bit of fun of the philosophers in 2045 because, in my story, they are still holding on to old ideas about identity and consciousness that are from an earlier when we didn’t know as much about neurology and hadn’t been doing mind-uploading successfully for several years. So yes, those philosophers are very silly, but some people like to hold on to old ideas way past the time that they’ve bee replaced by much better ones.

“I am a protagonist for uploading by the way.”

Well, we all have different ideas about how it may be done and we have no way of determining which ideas are more correct until we get there, but it’s interesting to philosophize about it. At least it “keeps us off the streets.”

@ Chris T. Armstrong

Thanks for your reply.

It seems you have taken some time to reflect on my points, and also attempted to answer them in the comments to others, yet you still appear to be missing the points that I made.

Yes.. you now seem to acknowledge “individual” instantiations of Self as separate at least, and this is important if you wish to “convince” others that uploading is worthwhile. Therefore these mono-being notions you are attempting to dissuade can be used more constructively to come to terms with the requirements and commitment/sacrifice required for participants of uploading?

The useful analogy in your thought experiment is where both original entity and mind-clone have some time to converse, as hopefully this will help the original entity relinquish existence and accept demise, knowing and “comforted” that their thoughts and feelings will persist, (yet, be aware, it also may not - it depends on the “individual” and their “Philosophy” and outlook upon life and death - yes?)

Yes.. you now seem to acknowledge that it is this “ideology” for the persistence of “Self” in the Universe/existence that is the driving goal, and that this “philosophy” is crucial to strive for success for uploading, and as part of this, the “Original” entity has to accept death and demise and even possible suicide/destruction in transfer?


“I wouldn’t say that I “underestimate” the importance of mind-body duality and much as I TOTALLY REJECT the idea…until it can be proven through science/experiment.”

Yet what is there to prove by science? Science can never “dismantle” this notion of Self as “entity” within mind, and supported by function of biology of brain. To say that you totally reject mind-body duality is irrational and churlish? For what reason are you then promoting uploading, other than to “hope” to perpetuate this false illusion of Self and mind-body duality? All scientific observations rely upon the “conscious” observations of entities, you cannot separate your own consciousness and objectively observe consciousness as exclusive, as we are all as immersed in this sea of observations?

We can all rationalize and gather much pertinent information from the likes of Google regarding materialism/physicalism/emergentism/Behaviourism and without even this, rationalize that without a brain, the mind could not exist at all - this is just plain good “common sense”

“OK, you’ve made some categorical statements with nothing to back them up or explain them, so I’ll just say that I think you may be wrong on both points”

It matters not whether you think this is wrong, but you still cannot challenge or make effort to point out what you think erroneous in what I have stated? You do actually “overestimate” the future of “exactness of transfer”, because this premise is crucial to support your argument. Yet where this “checksum” you mention is useful to validate data transfer in systems, it cannot be attributed to shortfalls in “measurement” and “transfer” of computational states across biological to non-biological substrate?

What if there were some holes in memory and thoughts leading to confusion or “change” in the mind-clone through inefficiencies in “measurement” of brain states or other. The checksum does not correct inaccuracies in transfer/transmigration, only validates the accurate transfer of “measured” data - would grandpa be happy still? Would he quiz and have second thoughts? Yet more importantly, would he still be “able and willing” to accept such discrepancies and still embrace and learn to love the mind-clone as his own offspring?

“As I mentioned in my response to Purpose, I make a bit of fun of the philosophers in 2045 because, in my story, they are still holding on to old ideas about identity and consciousness that are from an earlier when we didn’t know as much about neurology and hadn’t been doing mind-uploading successfully for several years. So yes, those philosophers are very silly, but some people like to hold on to old ideas way past the time that they’ve bee replaced by much better ones.”

Ah I see.. I didn’t quite get the point regarding “philosophers in the future”. However, regarding old ideas, I think you rather rely and place too much emphasis on the link between “identity and consciousness” - as opposed to “identity and mind”? Do you not feel/think and especially as related to materialism/physicalism that process of mind is the arbiter of identity, and that consciousness is terminology for the awareness of brain states that support “mind”?

In fact I customarily go as far as saying that “consciousness” is merely a fancy term for “awareness”, and that Self-reflexivity may be expressed more fundamentally as “awareness of awareness”? So is it really “consciousness” that upholds identity - I think not? Qualia can also be readily expressed as mechanism for “awareness of feelings”, not merely as consciousness? All of this may even be reduced to memory in individual neurons and electrical signals/stimuli between communication of these neurons?

This is still yet debatable, and this has also been a contested argument between eastern philosophies Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries now. Yet I would place bets on “mind” as representative of the computational pattern for identity, not consciousness, and that in fact, consciousness is a “given” and not a hard problem at all, (nothing to fret about if the computation of brain states eventually proves successful)?

“Well, we all have different ideas about how it may be done and we have no way of determining which ideas are more correct until we get there, but it’s interesting to philosophize about it. At least it “keeps us off the streets.”

Yeah, I guess so, for some of us that have the time it may even turn it into a full time day job?

Chris I am glad to see my post got your attention. I figured your essay’s antagonistic writing style deserved a response in kind =).

Since most dualist are (in general) ill equipped to defend against this type of logic assault, I figured a neutral monist needed to take up this challenge on behalf of all heathens everywhere. Of course by heathen I mean all of us who do not accept the popular notion that reality is reducible to a discrete set 0’s and 1’s or alternatively reality is equal to a finite set of behaviors. What is humorous is that many in our transhumanist community are still unaware of the fact that recent evidence in the last decade has begun to cast serious doubt on this discrete view of nature and yet even those who do know this, seem to fall back on the assumption an exact copy isn’t required, just one that is “good enough”. This of course is the key issue, good enough for what?

On one hand the behaviorists will claim that it is the pattern that is important and that the substance/substrate is unimportant. Yet on the other hand when the behaviorists are challenged with the fact that the substance/substrate/spacetime/etc… affects the pattern, especially as it evolves, the behaviorists will say: Oh but that isn’t important because we don’t believe it will affect it “enough” to be a “real problem” nor that anyone should be concerned about these differences, indeed if anything these differences will result in improvements! When you ask them to qualify what “enough” is the behaviorists say, well no one would notice the unintended and unaccounted for differences thus those differences shouldn’t matter to you either. When you point out however that Nature notices the differences and that what really is important is not what others believe but what is true and whether or not it is still your presence that continues experiencing these enhancements! At this point the behaviorists throw their hands up and say what are you a dualist? Of course it is still you, if we ask your doppelganger it will even agree with us! If you say, but if I was there when you asked my doppelganger these questions I won’t be the one responding! The behaviorist response is: Well of course, but that is only in the event we didn’t first decide to turn your original self into worm food. If you weren’t around then no one would object! Furthermore, if you be good and learn not to object then we won’t have to feed you to the worms at all! This is of course where you begin to get irritated and ask what type of magic hat trick these behaviorists are trying to play on you. But it is at this point where the behaviorists unleash their secret weapon, to which they believe there is no non-dualist response and indeed it is on this point that heir entire belief system rests, they say:

Well consciousness is after all a kind of illusion, even your existing self doesn’t exist moment to moment, because you see my little dualist, all of your atoms are constantly being cycled out over time…. so you don’t really exist as a continuous presence moment to moment now anyway! Furthermore, you change overtime and are very much different than when you were a child and yet it is still you, right? The behaviorist smirks and thinks, behold my wisdom!

At this point most heathens are ill equipped to respond and end up either hiding under a rock, gnash their teeth or resorting to nonsensical rantings. However what they fail to see is the paradoxes on which this final behaviorist dogma rests. Is it really true that there is no relevant difference between a physical object (in this case a human being) who is evolving/transforming through spacetime, as mediated by the natural laws; vs a separate physical object that was independently configured to mimic some particular aspect of the original entities physical pattern and only to some arbitrary degree? It is at this point where a particularly clever heathen will ask the behaviorists a critical question: On what grounds do you make this assertion? Why should Occum favor you?

At this point the behaviorist must step back in bewilderment…. they ponder this new question and then again begin to smirk… and they say: Well, since no one would know the difference anyway what does it “really” matter?

Why yes, we have finally come upon the circular argument. But it turns out that we can push this contradiction yet further. We can point out that since Nature knows the difference and since a circular argument is not supported on anything but it’s own claim, we can safely dismiss the entire claim as flawed and incompatible with Monism. Indeed we can now logically and systematically deconstruct the entire behaviorist argument as I have done here:

https://plus.google.com/106694876525799464234/posts/7KzSSQAo8C7

Furthermore, we can also point out that the apparent fallacy is in fact also tied to a number of unproven philosophical assumptions and that if any of those assumptions fails, empirically, so to must the entire dogma:

1) The universe is reducible to purely finite/discrete statements or at least all that is important to humans is so (recent evidence casts this assumption into serious doubt).

2) The continuum hypothesis is either false or physically irrelevant.

3) The human brain is equal to a classical Turing Machine (recent evidence casts this assumption into serious doubt).

4) Zf-Set theory is complete (controversial).

5) Nature (e.g. perhaps entanglement) plays no meaningful role in maintaining continuity of a mind’s singular presence, indeed in exactly he same way it does for the “physical” entity evolving/transforming through spacetime.

6) The Paradox of the Heap is resolvable in favor of the behaviorist view.

7) Among others…

I will end by saying I view myself as a singularitarian who believes it is indeed possible to transform (not upload) my current Presence (aka phenomenal consciousness) to an alternative substrate. I however reject the argument “the mind is what the mind does” and as a result reject the notion that an upload would contain my Presence, even though I grant (assuming it was built properly) it would possess a Presence of it’s own and that this Presence would retain my memories and behaviors. 

@Chris
I’m not sure if this has already come up in the comments above, but the concern I have with your concept is as follows.

In your story, the newly-uploaded “friend” has become a different person to the one she was before she was uploaded, not because of the uploading procedure but in the same way we all “become different persons” all the time: because she has had new experiences (for example the exchanges with the sceptical uncle, or simply the exhilaration and relief of realising that “it worked”).

So, when her “original” is woken up and they start to talk, they really are two different people. Each with an equivalent claim to be “the real her” - I fully agree with you on that point - but nevertheless different, because since the uploading procedure they have had different experiences. I’m not saying it is totally implausible that they would conclude that they were essentially “one”, and that the “original” could safely be terminated without any tragedy having occurred, but I am saying that this is *not* the most natural, likely, or accurate interpretation.

Much more natural, likely, and accurate in my view would be that the would simply accept that they were indeed separate, albeit almost identical, persons, each with an equivalent claim to be “the real her”, or perhaps - they might decide - her successor (well, perhaps the original has a somewhat greater claim seeing as how she is *not* the product of any procedure and is still living in her original body, but I don’t think they’d take this to be particularly significant), and while the “original” would be envious of the “copy”‘s new body, she would still want to live in hers, at least until it started to decay to an extent that made life unbearable.

If I’m right, then some immediate implications for this would seem to be as follows:

- any termination of the original will be assisted suicide, so will need to be agreed on in advance and specified in a living will, and the original will of course need to have the right to change her mind (because it concerns *her* life, not the copy’s);

- more generally, her undivided, pre-procedure self will need to have specified who inherits assets, and perhaps also the original legal identity. The other(s) would then acquire new legal identities (this would be obligatory: no-one can be allowed to create copies of themselves that won’t have basic human rights, nor can such rights be taken away from the unenhanced original), while retaining certain basic legal responsibilities/liabilities (e.g. criminal record, time to be served etc: such a procedure cannot be used to create a version of yourself that no longer has to answer for your past actions).

Great article.  But your idea of poly-selfism is going to throw up some unacceptable paradoxes, I think.

Imagine that 1,000 versions of a person are made, but one of them falls out with the rest and disappears.  Ten years later she commits murder.  If all 1,000 versions remain the same person they are all guilty, no?  I doubt they would agree to collective punishment, though.

It seems to me more likely that our concept of personhood has to change and become, in some respects, like our concept of, say,a river.  A person can split, or be copied, and the result is not one person but two.  Both are descendents of the original, and either might be sufficient for the original to believe she has survived.

In your story, by the way, I just don’t believe the meat original would have been so happy to be terminated, even if she felt that she would in some sense survive via the prosthetic newcomer.

@Jennings

“You’re mainly not quoting and arguing with me but rather the philosopher Gualtiero Piccinini whom I quoted.”

Right. I went for that because I’ve seen that argument a lot…even a cool animated cartoon version…and had disagreements with some of its premises. My brain was getting a bit fatigued that day after dealing with several comments, so I just left it at that…hoping I covered enough points. I’ll look at your comment again now…

All this fractionally being destroyed and being created again scenario seems a bit “Zeno’s-paradox”-ish to me…and a bit of an unnecessary contrivance to make a, I suspect, much simpler point. One thing that strikes me is that I doubt that there would be this one, continuous, uninterrupted consciousness…between the one in New York and the new one in Paris…if that’s what you were saying. If the original wasn’t immediately killed in the process, I don’t see them as being connected in some way. So, the original one will just seem like she stood in the transporter and “nothing happened”, while the new one will have all the memories of the original, PLUS, she will have a new experience of suddenly being in Paris. They are both the “same person”…due to having the same consciousness-pattern…but they are beginning to diverge because they are now having different experiences. I’m saying that they are both the same (as far as the full-content of their consciousness and their sense of identity) AND they are multiple-beings…and not extensions of a singular consciousness…they are two of the same…for any purposes of treating them as both valid people…and both the SAME valid person…they are the same, though multiple…i.e., poly-beings.

I’m not 100% sure if you and I are agreeing or disagreeing on this point or not. Either we are…or this last point of mine you may STRONGLY and fundamentally disagree with.
So far, I have a certain perspective on identity and how it works in the poly-being concept, but it seems that I’m not totally mentally flexible enough with it yet to absorb all the minute variations of the scenarios you are presenting and be able to know for sure how they all affect/interact-with/contradict/comport-with my perspective, but I’ll do my best to respond.

Onward…

“Now if we suppose that precisely this is happening in our second by second everyday existence then there is no paradox.”

Is this referring to some idea that our cells are continually dying and being replaced at all times throughout our lives, or something along those lines? If not, I don’t understand it, nor do I see the need to “suppose” this.

“What this means then is that the materialist has to reject the notion of a persisting self. That’s all an illusion. There is only the sense of a self, but that sense corresponds to no real self.”

I run across references to the “persistent self” from time to time online, but given my recently adopted idiosyncratic poly-being viewpoint, I’m not always sure if it fits with my viewpoint or I disagree with it. Let’s see…

The question is often asked, “Am I the same self I was 20 years ago?” Well, I am NOT literally the same physically nor is the content of my mind the same as far as beliefs, values, goals, attitudes, etc. In my case I have changed A LOT. I think there are other people who hold on to particular ideologies and social-structures who are MUCH MORE similar to their past self than I am to mine. But, it certainly DOES seem that a certain baseline core of my personality…or something to that effect…is the same. People I have known over this period can recognize my differences, while still having no trouble recognizing the current me as still me…even people who hadn’t seen me at all during those intervening 20 years. So, today I am what an evolving Chris became after 20 years of new experiences.

But, if this idea of persistence is being used to apply more narrowly to these strange thought experiments we’re proposing…between an original self and a newly created duplicate self…perhaps my poly-being concept gives me another spin on the idea…I’m not totally sure…

“There is only the sense of a self, but that sense corresponds to no real self.”

It seems that my poly-being proposal would cause me to say: Our sense of self is part of our consciousness-pattern, which is contained in, or arises from, the processes of our brain. And our sense of self is not necessarily constrained solely to one instance (platform, body), but could reside in multiple platforms simultaneously if that same self-containing consciousness-pattern is put into multiple platforms. So it seems like I’m saying something like:

“There is a sense of self, but that sense corresponds to no particular, singular platform.” Not sure if I’ve given you an answer that you’re looking for, but that’s what I’ve come up with.

“Should naturalism/materialism be true then, even in our apparent day to day existence, we do not even survive from one second to the next.”

If this is referring to the “cells dying and being replaced” point and that has some actual impact on whether our selves actually persist, then that just seems like some hyper-analytical, abuse-of-logic, philosophy-porn that is unrelated to any real experience that any human being actually has. In the same way that Zeno’s paradox is a cute little mathematical diversion and all, but arrows, in the real world, actually DO reach their targets and don’t get hung up in some fantasized continual halving of the distance to the target, thus never getting there.

I don’t think this has any bearing on whether our selves persist…as I understand it.
Maybe there’s some other reason for doubting persistence, but that one ain’t convincing me.

@CygnusX1

One thing in my story may have caused some confusion…

Although the girl in my story eventually decides to terminate her bio-body, that is not a “requirement” of the uploading process. That was an option that she chose.
The technician explained: “She has chosen this option. Some people DO choose to live along side their bio-bodies, or copy their consciousness-pattern into multiple synth-bodies.”

“knowing and “comforted” that their thoughts and feelings will persist, (yet, be aware, it also may not - it depends on the “individual” and their “Philosophy” and outlook upon life and death - yes?)”

I don’t think a person’s philosophy and outlook on life and death have any bearing on whether their thoughts and feelings will persist if the bio-version is killed. They either will persist or won’t persist based on whether my poly-being idea is correct or not—meaning: if the universe and conscious work this way or not—and is not dependent on their philosophy.

“Yet what is there to prove by science? Science can never “dismantle” this notion of Self as “entity” within mind, and supported by function of biology of brain.”

I think we would be on very shaky ground if we said that science “can never” do something. There is wisdom in Clarke’s First Law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

We also need to be sure that we are talking about the same thing when you mentioned, “mind-body duality.” If you were referring to “dualism,” that is the belief that our consciousness does not arise SOLELY from our brain and, rather, there is some mysterious x-factor or soul that cannot be found by looking in the physical brain.
Some of your statements make me think that you are using the word “duality,” (dualism) but you really mean, “monism”: that the totality of our consciousness is an emergent property of the complexity of the brain. If you mean this, then we agree, but this is not “mind-body duality.” That is monism…materialism.
Dualism is the idea that I am currently rejecting, until there is some scientific evidence for it. I think it is EXTREMELY premature to conclude that the brain doesn’t completely produce our consciousness. We still know FAR to little about how the brain and consciousness work to conclude that at this time. Currently, dualism is a belief and not a settled scientific fact. I prefer this reasoning that Giulio Prisco used above:
“I follow Occam and assume that the reductionist/materialist hypothesis, that the totality of our consciousness is an emergent property of the complexity of the brain, is correct. This hypothesis is conceptually simpler, and it is supported by current science.”

A mind-uploading experiment may shed a lot of light on this question and I hope we will be able to finally speak about brain, mind, consciousness, and identity from a point of view of scientific understanding rather than from our hypotheses and beliefs.

“It matters not whether you think this is wrong, but you still cannot challenge or make effort to point out what you think erroneous in what I have stated?”

If you look back over what you originally said, all you did was state that I underestimate one thing and overestimate another. And you stated that they would not be the same, as though these were all obvious and established facts, without giving reasons or examples or evidence to back up your assertions. So I didn’t bother arguing with your “non-evidence” and just said I disagreed. “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”—Christopher Hitchens

“What if there were some holes in memory and thoughts leading to confusion or “change” in the mind-clone through inefficiencies in “measurement” of brain states or other.

Good point, but all you’re doing is expressing doubt about how accurate the uploading process is in my story. But, you are forgetting that this is MY story and I get to define things the way I choose to. I set my story in 2045, at a time when: “mind-uploading has just recently become a routine, safe, and successful way to copy one’s consciousness to a “platform” other than the biological one in which it was born.” In my story, mind-uploading has been perfected as far as accuracy is concerned.

You are quite right to point out what a monumentally difficult thing this will be to do accurately and you are free to express your doubts that these difficulties will EVER be overcome…if that’s what you believe. But, what you DON’T get to do is ignore the fact that this is MY story and I set the context and parameters of the story and I CONVENIENTLY set it in a time when the issue of accuracy had been solved and mind-uploading is an accurate and routine procedure. I did this purposefully so that I could deal with the issue of poly-being identity clearly…as a philosophical proposition…and could remove the complaint of any reader that: “I just don’t believe it can be done accurately” as you brought up. The accuracy-issue has been solved in this story, so we are free to deal with the poly-being concept on a philosophical, “in principle” level.

“I think you rather rely and place too much emphasis on the link between “identity and consciousness” - as opposed to “identity and mind”? Do you not feel/think and especially as related to materialism/physicalism that process of mind is the arbiter of identity, and that consciousness is terminology for the awareness of brain states that support “mind”?…In fact I customarily go as far as saying that “consciousness” is merely a fancy term for “awareness”, and that Self-reflexivity may be expressed more fundamentally as “awareness of awareness”? So is it really “consciousness” that upholds identity - I think not? Qualia can also be readily expressed as mechanism for “awareness of feelings”, not merely as consciousness?…I would place bets on “mind” as representative of the computational pattern for identity, not consciousness.”

These are all fair issues to bring up about terminology and their subtitles. If this were a formal technical paper, I would have taken more care to define these things more precisely. But, since this is a very informal essay I just used the term, “consciousness” to mean: the totality of a person’s mind…everything you brought up above, and more…memories, beliefs, their unique personality, knowledge, information…the entire scope of their mental, internal life…absolutely EVERYTHING that makes you, YOU…all of that, including your sense of identity, is completely captured in your consciousness-pattern. So all those things you brought up are a part of the complete consciousness-pattern of the person’s scanned brain. I guess I’m using the term consciousness-pattern kind of like the term “universe.” Whatever you name, I say, “Yep, that’s what I meant. It’s all in there.”

In this essay, I’m not dealing with anything on the level of mechanisms or implementation or anything about HOW this is all to be accomplished. All of that is very vague in my story. All we need to know is that the scanning process works accurately and captures everything that is relevant about the structure of the brain to achieve a “whole brain emulation.” I accept that all this technical stuff works and I just deal with the implications regarding identity, etc., of such a process.

Another point to make here is that well before we have come close to figuring out how to upload minds, and possibly quite soon, we will have developed the technology to massively increase the bandwidth of communication between individual human brains (and other forms of intelligence). So the merging of our identity with others will be the result not of a supposed equivalence between two or more versions of our future selves, but of the actual physical/informatic connection between two physical people. I guess this might then look something like Chris’s “poly-being” concept - one (merged) mind operating more than one body - but the process by which it happens will be totally different.

Without such a high bandwidth connection between the uploaded self and the “original”, I see no prospect of the kind of merging identity envisaged in Chris’s story emerging. Sensitive dependence on initial conditions will rule. The two people will very quickly develop their own distinct personalities, albeit sharing a common past.

I think Peter is right.  Our future may include mind uploading, and it may include the pairing and subsequent separation of whole minds and parts of minds.  In which case our notions of personal identity will come under extreme pressure and will doubtless evolve in ways which we cannot foresee today.

But as Peter says, unless two minds - or components of minds (sub-minds, if you will) are in constant intimate contact (which can be geographically remote, of course) they will probably cease to be considered one person.

@ Chris T. Armstrong

I think we are still talking at different levels here. I am certainly not talking of Monism, as this is for a completely different discussion.

I take your points regarding your story, yet you presented this as a thought experiment, which is customarily a “tool” for discussion and debate.

I do understand your position on the state of technical competence in your story, yet my points were to highlight where errors in “consciousness pattern” transfer and the consequences need to be evaluated on a “philosophically” level, (ie can we still accept errors and discrepancies, can grandpa?)

Regarding my statement..

“Yet what is there to prove by science? Science can never “dismantle” this notion of Self as “entity” within mind, and supported by function of biology of brain.”

I used the word “dismantle” intentionally. As no matter what progress science uncovers for purposes of mind-uploading, understanding of mind/consciousness, the goal is still to “uphold” this sense of identity and “entity” within the “mind”?

It is important you accept this, for what other purpose is there to pursue longevity through uploading? Do you not wish to perpetuate your “own”  and “individual” mind-body/substrate independent sense of “duality”?

Objectively we can debate that both mind and consciousness are emergent from brain physiology, indeed we both subscribe to materialism/physicalism, yet you cannot deny that your own sense of “mind-body” duality, (Dualism), is WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT to preserve? Therefore it is REAL and of paramount importance?

This is a trap that most proponents of mind-uploading fall prey to, that through “deconstruction” of Self and identity for engineering purposes, that mind-body duality cannot then be qualified - yet as I continually point out, “then what is the point?”.


@ Peter

Some good points regarding “poly-beings” and merging - will also comment further on these later.

Contradictions of the Enlightenment: Liberal Individualism versus the Erosion of Personal Identity

ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20111119


How can a mindclone be an exact copy of a
person’s mind?

ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/rothblatt20110127

 

 

@Purpose

“all of us who do not accept the popular notion that reality is reducible to a discrete set 0’s and 1’s…”

Paradigms that rely on “a discrete set of 0’s and 1’s” are just what we’ve had in the first era (70+ years) of digital computers. There’s nothing sacred about the digital paradigm and I have no doubt that we’ll move past that to future “processing platforms/media” that are wildly different from what we think of today. We should always be vigilant not to project current technological and scientific limitations onto our conceptions of what may be possible in the future.

And this goes for any historical or current proposals to equate intelligence/consciousness with the performance of abstract Turning Machines and things of that nature. There may be some aspects that are analogous between them and useful, but anything that is not applicable will be dropped as soon as we get to a point when technology and understanding will let us see these limitations via empiricism rather than just by bandying about our favorite intuition-driven bias du jour hypotheses.

“On one hand the behaviorists will claim that it is the pattern that is important and that the substance/substrate is unimportant.”

The substance/substrate is certainly NOT unimportant. A bowl of pudding, for example, will almost certainly not do for our purposes. wink I have no doubt that the properties of whatever we choose as an alternative medium to house the specification of the structure of a scanned brain will be VITALLY important. It will have to be something with the full set of properties that will enable all of the requisite functions that a biological brain performs to be likewise performed in this synthetic counterpart.

I set no ideological constraints/expectations on what kind of “processor” or “media” or “level of resolution” (or whether or not these are even the right kinds of conceptions) are deemed to be “close enough.” Whatever is necessary is necessary, and I believe we’ll eventually figure it out.

As annoying as a subjective-behaviorist method of determining the success of a mind-upload is, at this time, there is no quantitative/objective test to verify identity/consciousness even in a human being, so behavior is what we use everyday to determine these things. If we have some kind of test in the future, which I tend to think we will, we can settle the issue and won’t need to rely solely on the behavior of the synth-upload and our philosophical assumptions.

Possibly, the reason some people may start to suspect your point of view is leaning toward dualism, is because it seems that this point of view sees some special x-factor in the human brain/mind. And views the brain as something so special that it can’t be replicated in something that isn’t wet and squishy and doesn’t “squirt neurotransmitters,” as Kurzweil is fond of saying.

It seems that this viewpoint makes you just KNOW that a true identity can’t be captured in something “artificial” and you are compelled to posit that no matter how much the behavior of the uploaded-being confirms its identity to everyone else’s satisfaction, it is actually nothing but an identity-less “zombie” that is fooling the other gullible people. And you will offer no evidence to support your contention other than that you “just know” because your philosophy tells you so. Further, your accusers may quote something like this, in an effort to show you that the brain, while amazingly complex, is still a human organ that is susceptible, eventually, to human understanding…

“The brain is a tissue. It is a complicated, intricately woven tissue, like nothing else we know of in the universe, but it is composed of cells, as any tissue is. They are, to be sure, highly specialized cells, but they function according to the laws that govern any other cells. Their electrical and chemical signals can be detected, recorded and interpreted and their chemicals can be identified;  the connections that constitute a brain’s woven feltwork can be mapped. In short, the brain can be studied, just as the kidney can.”—David H. Hubel, neuroscientist

However, while there may be some of the above assumptions/intuitions lurking, even unconsciously, in the mind-uploading-doubters, your argument has more to do with your lack of confidence in the premises underlying the idea of mind-uploading as it has been presented up to this time.

“Is it really true that there is no relevant difference between a physical object (in this case a human being) who is evolving/transforming through spacetime, as mediated by the natural laws; vs a separate physical object that was independently configured to mimic some particular aspect of the original entities physical pattern and only to some arbitrary degree?”

The key here is that it is not “to some arbitrary degree.” It may seem arbitrary, because we don’t give precise specifications, but it is more like, “unspecified” or “undefined” rather than arbitrary. No, not to some arbitrary degree, but to precisely the degree necessary to replicate, not “mimic” the functioning of this human organ. We can’t say how finely grained the resolution will need to be, but we will find this out by actually performing uploads into a substrate that is also capable of instantiating a complete brain specification that is ALSO capable of “evolving/transforming through spacetime, as mediated by the natural laws”…such as physics and not necessarily biology, although some cleverly engineered bio-substrate can’t be totally ruled out…whatever it takes.

Yes, at our current stage of technology and embryonic understanding of the brain, we have very unimpressive “machines” and “theories” of mind, at our disposal, particularly from classic A.I. researchers. But the question is: Are you proposing that this “mere” human organ, the brain, will remain outside our understanding and ability to emulate even as we will be able to emulate other, admittedly less complex, human organs in the future?

I would also quibble with “mimic some particular aspect.” You use language that purposefully diminishes the scope and intent of mind-scanning/uploading. Those of us who realize the MONUMENTAL complexity of this undertaking know that an uploaded brain will need to emulate ALL relevant aspects of the functioning of a brain. We are not putting any ideological limitations on what is relevant. People do speculate about what may and may not be necessary to copy EXACTLY, but this will all be up for amendment once we get to the point of actually doing this as opposed to just talking about it.

And that is really the key to it all. Whether or not all the current ideas of A.I. theorists, neurologists, mind-uploading enthusiasts are correct in all their details, given their biases, they WILL adjust them when necessary or be doomed to failure. It’s basically a self-correcting mechanism, unlike our current philosophizing about consciousness, in the absence of clear, settled neurological evidence. If mind-uploaders discover that some premise is wrong, they’ll abandon it and move toward the discovery of the correct information.

Mind-uploading is quite different from previous A.I. theories of mind in a very important way. Contrary to A.I. implementations of the past, which put forth some, usually high-level, symbolic/conceptual, world-model to be manipulated via rules of inference and logic about certain domains of knowledge, brain-uploading assumes no world-knowledge nor even a detailed understanding of the brain, mind, or consciousness. It merely intends to treat the brain as a human organ that can be emulated to whatever level of detail necessary and, when this is done, and substantial success is realized, we will have a synthetic brain that will be much more amenable to scientific probing and discovery than a human one is. And for those, unlike you, who worry that this synth-brain is a real person who shouldn’t be treated as a living cadaver to be dissected at our whim, we could ask for volunteers who will allow such examination for the benefit of our understanding of the brain.

It is entirely possible that all your current objections/problems listed above will be resolved or abandoned as we move to successful mind-uploading. And we will also be able to see if the identity, personhood, etc. of the synth-brain is more like your conception or mine or something else and all this opposing jibber-jabber between us is nothing to get worked-up and “offended” about. That makes it all sound much more like a religion than what it is: speculation under uncertainty and incomplete information.

One final bit of clarification…

You said: “I however reject the argument ‘the mind is what the mind does’…”
That is a useless tautology. I assume that you meant to use the quotation from my essay: “Minds are what brains do.” from AI pioneer, Marvin Minsky. If so, I don’t see how a non-dualist can reject that. Where ELSE, for a non-dualist, does the mind come from if not from the “doing” of the brain? Since I regard the brain as just another human organ, I see the expression, “Minds are what brains do” as uncontroversial as the expression, “Insulin is what pancreases do.” Insulin has a chemical structure and the mind has a structure made up of electro-chemical patterns of activation facilitated by neurotransmitters…or something like that…as best as our chimp-brains can recon…until we learn more that will reinforce this view or alter it or overturn it…and so it goes…

Nothing to get worked up about…it’s a freaking evolved, mammalian organ, for Pete’s sake, and none of our fellow mammals currently fathoms enough of its “mysteries” to justify any kind of indignation over differing under-informed guesses about its true nature. But, I’m sure we can both agree that there will come a time in the future when we will be able to understand the brain/mind-complex MUCH BETTER “than a fish understands swimming.”

@Peter Wicks

I agree that the bio and synth versions agreeing fairly easily that the bio-version would be terminated was not necessarily “the most natural, likely, or accurate interpretation.” It was, however, the best outcome for my story. wink

But seriously,

I, conveniently, attribute the ease of this decision to the zeitgeist of the time she lives in. She has seen a LOT of other people undergo this procedure before her and has heard all the philosophical debates and has known people who have done it and she has seen people come through it completely intact and free of any issues that the philosophers had worried “their pretty little heads about.”

In her time, many issues surrounding poly-being-ness are continually being hashed-put and the concept is becoming almost “normal”…at least with the younger generations. Bottom line: her experience and research relieved her of any old-fashioned “skin-bag” bias. Plus she had a conversation with her new synth-self and she convinced her bio-self that SHE would still be there in the synth-version of her. 

Also, something that is only hinted at in the story is that the bio-her has significant health issues that she’d like to get past. This also plays into the bio-her’s (who has fully accepted the sameness of both of them) decision to abandon her meat-bag flesh-coffin that is suffering from “accelerated decrepitude.”

Yes, I mentioned in the essay that: “New conceptions of “individual” and property rights and many other legal and social “entanglements” will need to be resolved in order to deal with the novel implications of this “expanded identity-matrix.” And the issues you bring up are obvious examples of that. We’d have to modify nearly ALL of our laws, social norms, mores, etc., to handle such a “brave new world” of ubiquitous poly-beings.

Everything would be so much simpler if people would just upload, terminate their bio-body and make no extra copies of themselves. But, if it’s possible to do, some people are gonna do it, unless some authority can successfully forbid and prevent it.

@Pandora

You said:
“…unless two minds - or components of minds (sub-minds, if you will) are in constant intimate contact (which can be geographically remote, of course) they will probably cease to be considered one person.”

Exactly…and I said this in my essay:
“…if they are not linked, we have to accept the idea that, yes, they BEGAN as many duplicates of one-self, but if they travel off somewhere and have different experiences, learn different things, and make new relationships with other consciousnesses, they will begin to diverge and become more and more different from the original and become truly autonomous variations on the original theme.”

@CygnusX1

“…my points were to highlight where errors in “consciousness pattern” transfer and the consequences need to be evaluated on a “philosophically” level, (ie can we still accept errors and discrepancies, can grandpa?)”

Yes, even though in my story uploading has become safe and accurate, there is always the possibility of errors in any human endeavor (and even in processes of nature that aren’t under human control). If errors are detected, they will attempt to fix them or abandon that upload process and start over. If there are errors that aren’t detected in time to be corrected, just as with any medical procedure, those will cause big problems and they will need to develop procedures to deal with the consequences of those errors. An uploaded being with lots of errors would not be a good duplicate of the bio-original and should not be considered to be equivalent to the bio-original.

But, those kinds of errors will always happen. They don’t have any impact on the philosophical principles that we are dealing with for the vast majority of the times it works correctly. People may not want to upload if they discover that a lot of errors sneak through. But that’s a practical problem and I am only interested in the implications of the process when it works as well as possible.

“I used the word “dismantle” intentionally. As no matter what progress science uncovers for purposes of mind-uploading, understanding of mind/consciousness, the goal is still to “uphold” this sense of identity and “entity” within the “mind”?

I see my poly-being concept as an expansion of the concept of identity and not dismantling or diminishing it. So, I think we’re in agreement on that. However, my current viewpoint doesn’t recognize a mind-body duality (the idea that they are two different kinds of things). I seen the mind as something that arises from the functioning of the brain. I think that thoughts in the mind have real, physical patterns in the brain. I don’t see a duality…in the way that that word is usually used by philosophers and cognitive scientists. But it seems that you may be using it in a slightly different way.

I’m not trying to be difficult, but some of the syntax of your English makes it not always so easy for me to be sure if I’m understanding you correctly.

“Possibly, the reason some people may start to suspect your point of view is leaning toward dualism, is because it seems that this point of view sees some special x-factor in the human brain/mind. And views the brain as something so special that it can’t be replicated in something that isn’t wet and squishy and doesn’t “squirt neurotransmitters,” as Kurzweil is fond of saying.”

Let me be crystal clear I do not think consciousness is caused by a non-physical x-factor.  At least it is no more nonphysical than fundamental physics is.

However we need to be clear about what we mean when we say consciousness.  If by consciousness we mean “access consciousness” then I fully expect this to be explainable in a manner similar to what is described as an interactive recurrent neural network with environmental advice:

http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=hava_siegelmann

If we are talking about “phenomenal consciousness” then things become less clear, as few direct correlates exists to judge by.  With that said perhaps the best speculative evidence we have to date suggests it is a by-product extracellular ephaptic coupling, perhaps something much like what is summarized here:

http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/763034/1/mcfadden_JCS_2013(a).pdf

While the above is definitely a physical phenomena, a fundamental one at that,  it is also not something you are going to be able to re-produce using transistors and logic gates.  However it is definitely reproducible via other means. 

“I would also quibble with “mimic some particular aspect.” You use language that purposefully diminishes the scope and intent of mind-scanning/uploading. Those of us who realize the MONUMENTAL complexity of this undertaking know that an uploaded brain will need to emulate ALL relevant aspects of the functioning of a brain. We are not putting any ideological limitations on what is relevant. People do speculate about what may and may not be necessary to copy EXACTLY, but this will all be up for amendment once we get to the point of actually doing this as opposed to just talking about it.”

No here is where you are dead wrong and where your thinking goes far afield.  I do not object to the the possibility of creating an entity that has the full range of access/phenomenal consciousness.  I think that is absolutely possible and within our capabilities of achieving.  What I object to is the fallacy that you and many others in our community advocate, a fallacy that mistakes the map for the territory.

You and every other thing in existence possess but one Presence (call it existence if you prefer).  Your doppelganger may possess all of the same memories, behaviors and experience all of the same Qualia states but that physical entity does not “share” your Presence.  Physics is the the only arbitrator over this and not the behaviorist’s inability to subjectively discern a difference between the two.  This is where the behaviorists fall into idealism, where they believe their inability somehow translates into a physical causality where somehow the many become one.

Likely they do this because they believe the Ship of Theseus Paradox either has no resolution or that it is resolvable in their favor.  However they are wrong and mistake the Map for the Territory.  Nature knows the difference between an original and it’s doppelganger and so do those of us who are true Monists.

As it would happen it appears we are just now beginning to understand the physics of how wholes and their parts come into being.  It turns out that it is nothing like Sorites Paradox would suggest, where there is no clear way to separate the grains of sand from the heap itself.  Indeed it would seem there is a natural law that dictates exactly when the many become one and vice versa (decoherence by physical interaction):

http://phys.org/news/2013-05-einstein-spooky-action-common-large.html

“They found that, in systems in a random state, two subsystems that are each less than one-fifth of the whole are generally not entangled. Two subsystems that are each greater than one-fifth of the whole typically are entangled. In other words, in a system of 1,000 particles, two groups that are smaller than 200 each typically won’t be entangled. Two groups larger than 200 each typically will. Further, the research shows, “the change is abrupt when you reach the threshold of about 200,” Szarek said.

The team also calculated the threshold for positive partial transpose, or PPT, a property related to entanglement. If the property is violated, entanglement is present. “From these two perspectives, the calculations are very precise.” Szarek said. Harsh Mathur, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve whom Szarek consulted to better understand the science, said, “Their point is entanglement is hard to create from a small system, but much easier in a large system.”

“And the thing that Einstein thought was so weird is the rule rather than the exception,” Mathur added.”

Which I find quite interesting.  But even if the above was totally wrong, it is still true that it is Nature alone that determines the Map from the Territory, not the behaviorists.

@ Chris T. Armstrong

I think we are closer to an agreement to differ with the acceptance of mind-body duality, (as with these illusions/delusions of both identity/Self and autonomy/Free will - we still need to “uphold” these illusions and accept them as a part of our reality as “entities” within our “mind” - and I think you get my point here). I respect your position also.

I guess my “train of thought” has pulled into to Searle’s Chinese room platform, and is residing there presently, (I blame Rick Searle, (no relation?) for this - *winks* @ Rick).

Analogy: pictures on a movie reel are worthless snapshots frozen in time. Albeit, Colours/shades/shapes/contrast are accurately portrayed and recorded. A “machine/mechanism” is required to provide motion and order to the thoughts/sensations/images, (process/processor of thoughts). So far we can speculate that all of this can be reduced and reproduced/transposed and transferred.

Problem: What is then missing from the movie and the machine projector - “you” the entity and “mind” that is watching and making sense of it all? You the “Self” that is reflexive and watching/reasoning your own Self watching the movie, (3rd person).

Solution: The instantaneous mapping of any complexity of “thoughts” also comprises the overarching computation pattern of the “entity” watching, (neurons), that is in parallel and processing these same thoughts? Can you map all of this together, compound and data crunch it, and then transfer it? - on (mental) paper, perhaps you can?


@ Chris and @ Peter, and concerning “poly-beings”..


“Everything would be so much simpler if people would just upload, terminate their bio-body and make no extra copies of themselves. But, if it’s possible to do, some people are gonna do it, unless some authority can successfully forbid and prevent it.”

Yes indeed. And this seems to be easier to reason/accept. That the “destructive transfer”, (either works/does not), yet the entirety of “mind” is transferred not unlike the transporter analogy presented by Jennings. Thus the dilemma of “separate Selves” is not a problem at all - there is still only “one of you” any faults and flaws readily accepted?

This negates all of the legal and associated problems/dilemmas - yet as Chris implies in his statement, the “destructive transfer” may be overcome/not required for various reasons, and used legitimately or not? And the aim of the article is to promote open-mindedness regarding poly-beings, be they by-product or not.

Sure enough, this idea that Human mind-machine interfaces can help lead to advances and the future acceptance of poly-minds, both connecting and disconnecting, seems rational. Martine has also written about this, and in presuming some near-future “cloud” based technology can connect us in “real-time” with a mind storage-clone which can also become disconnected, and yet perpetuate this “mind” gathering its own diverging experiences and information/data - once reconnected there should be no real problems with acceptance by “either party”, as the similarities and past history are strong enough to overcome any differences.


2113 (part one) – Immortality and Taxes
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/suntzu20130317

 

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