View Personal identity
In philosophy, personal identity refers to the numerical identity of persons through time. That is to say, the conditions under which a person is said to be identical to him or herself through time. In cognitive psychology, the term “identity” refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self. Personal identity is a particularly contentious concept as various longevity and mind duplication strategies are developed.
Some methods of life extension present questions about whether the individual is being preserved or only copied. Conceptions of identity would become particularly problematic in the event that Uploading technology was realized. In the more immediate future, while even Reproductive cloning would not duplicate the experiences that shape the mind, one of the objections raised to cryonics is that the person who was revived would not be the same as the deanimated individual.
IEET Advisor Martine Rothblatt’s mindclones project raises similar questions of personal identity. Rothblatt foresees mindfiles being collected from the extensive trail of digital information that people leave behind them, which would then be used to run mindclones on mindware (akin to what occurs in Caprica). Mindclones would be able to sync experiences with other copies. Rothblatt argues that even if two copies of the same mind existed at once, they would still be the same person. Many have difficulty with this concept, arguing that the copy cannot be the same person. Rothblatt points out the circular logic of their arguments, for their inability to conceive of a mindclone being the same person independent of their body hinges on their definition of personal identity as the body.
IEET Executive Director James Hughes writes that just as technology leads to the realization that self-aware persons are more important than their biology, it will also become apparent that the idea of a continuous and discrete personhood is false:
Neuroremediation technology and Brain-computer interfaces will erode the apparent boundaries and continuity of the self, and the autonomy of the individual and her decisions…control over the brain will slowly make clear that cognition, memory and personal identity are actually many processes that can be disaggregated. We will have increasing control over our own personalities and memories. Full nanorobotic replication of the mental process opens the possibility of identity cloning, distributing one’s identity over multiple platforms, sharing of mental components with others, and the merging of several individuals into one identity.
Concepts of self may be an evolutionary artifact. The brain could model its own processes just as it models others. The modeling makes the assumption that the model will continue to apply through time, and so assumes we are the same person we were yesterday. This leads to a sense of self that has also become part of language, concepts of responsibility, and some moralities.
The Buddha also attacked all attempts to conceive of a fixed self, while stating that holding the view “I have no self” is also mistaken.