Re: [UPLOADING] Is the original alive?

Hal Finney (
Thu, 16 Jul 1998 09:55:14 -0700 (Harvey Newstrom) writes:
> Hal Finney <> wrote:
> > A better example, based on my earlier discussion, is
> > that a program is running on a redundant system, and when you eliminate
> > part of the redundancy, the program continues to run.
> For someone who does not hold your conclusion as accurate, your
> statement above reads thusly: "A program called #1 is running on a
> system while a redundant program called #2 is running on a redundant
> system, and when you eliminate program #1 by removing its hardware
> platform, you will see that program #2 is still running, and by renaming
> program #2 to now be called program #1, you will see that program #1
> remains unaffected by its hardware shutdown."

Let me pursue my earlier examples, then. When we last left our discussion, I had described a set of computer systems.

In one, we had a computer built out of double-thick components. Each wire and transistor took up twice the area which would normally be used. You agreed, after we clarified the example, that cutting the area in half would not result in anyone's death or the loss of anyone's consciousness.

Now let me re-propose the system above, but with a divider down the middle of the double-width components, a divider which can be electrically switched between conducting and insulating states.

When it acts as a conductor, the two sides are electrically connected and we have effectivelly the double-width circuit example above. When it acts as an insulator, the two sides are electrically separated and the system acts like two circuits. However, due to the fact that the two halves are electrically identical, the two circuits stay synchronized at all times as they operate.

Now, what will you say happens as we switch between the insulating and conductive states for the divider which runs down the middle of each circuit? Would you view this as causing two instances of the computation to run when it is insulating, while one instance runs when it is conductive?

If the computation is a conscious program (an upload or AI), will this cause a switch between two individuals and one?

If you think so, suppose you learn more about the circuit and discover that the electric fields are such that electrons never actually cross the divider even when it is in the conductive state. They travel lengthwise down the wires but there is no electric fields pushing them sidewise, hence they never need to cross over the divider region. So actually changing between insulating and conductive does not change the behavior of any electron in the system. Their paths are unchanged.

Would you still think that making the divider insulating causes one individual to become two?

How about if we can vary the divider's insulation smoothly between full conductivity and perfect insulation? Does it make sense to say that it is possible for one person to _gradually_ become two?

Would these changes actually be perceptable to the person(s) involved? Would the consciousness feel any different as we switch between the two cases?