RE: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Fri Dec 14 2001 - 10:40:23 MST

On Fri, 14 Dec 2001, Dickey, Michael F wrote:

I've mostly stayed out of this conversation, but I'll toss a ball
in for a swing or two...

> 2) Sentience and continuity of perception is reliant upon the atoms that
> make up the pattern

Sentience, from my perspective, is based primarily on my ability
to be aware of myself, to have perceptions, understand that I am
having perceptions and to be able to imagine myself having perceptions,
taking actions, etc. So long as a pattern of atoms is able to achieve
those same capacities it doesn't matter how it is implemented. My perceptual
abilities do not scale down to the level of knowing when specific neurons fire.
So long as the perceptions that result from those neurons firing are
identical, I don't care whether it is wet neurons or dry cellular automata
that are producing them.

> Then is it reasonable, logical, and scientific to assume that a 'copy' is
> subjectively not me, but in fact a unique individual of its own.

As soon as its experiences diverge from yours it is a unique individual.
However, *you* diverged from yourself as soon as the copying process
was completed. So one can argue that there are *two* unique copies,
derived from the "original". They have an overlapping shared history
that started diverging the minute the "fork" caused by the copying

> To me, this argument is pretty sound, if someone feels otherwise, please
> point out the fallacy in this line of reasoning. If we are primarily
> concerned about subjective immortality, then we should be concerned with
> making a reasonable and logical assumption based on the scientific method as
> to the best way to achieve this goal.

As I pointed out at Extro3, the only way to achieve subjective immortality
is distributed replicated intelligence. Single entities will always be
subject to accidental failures. Let us say that copying can only be
done by destructive readout, but in so doing, 4 precisely identical "copies"
(at the sentience/perceptual/consciousness levels) are created and
positioned equidistant from each other 35 AU from the Sun (between Neptune
and Pluto). Sensory inputs and the virtual worlds the copies inhabit
are carefully structured so as to remain synchronized with each other.
This is one way to achieve subjective immortality.

Alternatively one could evolve oneself such that there is only 1/4 of
your mind at each location. Then losing one part (due to a comet,
asteroid, etc.) is like losing an arm or a leg. Painful but survivable.
One can obviously partion oneself across even larger distances and use greater
numbers of "hardware instances" that support smaller fractions of ones mind.
This is another way to achieve subjective immortality.

Any strategy that is based on retaining ones mind in hardware not engineered
for distributed repliction is, I believe, doomed to be mortal.


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