Re: [nanotech] the core issue

From: Dan McGuirk (
Date: Fri Mar 31 2000 - 01:03:35 MST

It seems clear to me that there is an indexicality associated with
consciousness. Out of all the physical processes going on in the
universe, what _I_ experience is linked to how some neurons fire in this
one particular human brain. I don't know why this is the case, nor do I
know what other physical processes give rise to consciousness. I assume
it arises in other human brains, and in other animals with similar nervous
systems, just because the alternative seems unreasonable.

So, I buy the idea that if you gradually replace my neurons with
computerized equivalents, I will continue to have conscious experiences,
which will eventually arise completely from calculations taking place in a
machine instead of biological neurons firing. But I don't buy that if you
create a software simulation that matches my neurons firing, leaving my
brain intact, _I_ will ever have the experiences that the pattern of
simulated neurons firing would have caused if they were real neurons
firing in my brain. I can conceive that a new consciousness would arise
from the simulation, but it wouldn't be _me_.

It seems likely to me that my consciousness is attached to the particular
quantum state of my brain. Apply any continuous transformations that you
want to this quantum state, and my conscious experience will change, but
my identity will stay the same. Create another quantum state "out
there" somewhere that approximates my original one, and you may have
created a new conscious entity, but it's distinct from me.

I think this fits well with the fact that there is a "no clone theorem" in
quantum mechanics. You can't get all of the information out of a quantum
state without destroying it. So any copy you attempt to make of the
quantum state of my brain is either going to be inaccurate, or is going to
destroy the original in the process. Only in the latter case does it seem
possible that my identity could be transferred.

I haven't read Max More's paper-- I'll try that.

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