Re: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Jacques Du Pasquier (
Date: Fri Dec 14 2001 - 18:20:21 MST

Smigrodzki, Rafal wrote (14.12.2001/16:33) :
> The second is distinction between distinct objects, possibly similar
> (and in fact possibly, at least in theory, identical), which is
> somewhere in the very basic layers of common sense --- and routinely
> used in science, too, of course.
> ### This distinction is irrelevant to our discussion - I do know that my
> copy is a distinct physical object, not identical to myself, but for the
> purposes of my survival this copy is as good (a subjective value statement)
> as myself, just like a quarter is as good any other quarter for the purpose
> of buying a can of Coke.

Suppose a scientist analyzes your body, and makes two identical
copies, Rafal #2 and Rafal #3, while you are re-named Rafal #1.
Suppose he is very evil (« science sans conscience », you know), has a
gun and tells you « I will now kill, either you Rafal #1, or the two
others #2 and #3 ; you choose. » What will you choose ?

The position you just stated seems to imply you must choose to be
killed ; while I rather think you will choose to survive and have the
two copies killed.

> Proper names like "Lee Daniel Crocker"
> designate a singular entity, not a class, not a design. It is not a
> common name, it is not an abstraction.
> ### I do hope that when copying technology is perfected I will multiply to
> hundreds or thousands of copies. Each one of me will be able to offer my
> professional services as "Rafal M. Smigrodzki, copy# XXXX". My proper name
> will stop being a name used to describe the 154 lb of flesh where I am
> housed now - it will be a brand name for all of me. Employers will hire
> them, maybe saying, "Let's get a few Rafals and a couple Lee Daniel
> Crockers, they seem to work well together".

I think most people now would not think like that and would not try to
make numerous copies of themselves, in fact.

But on the other hand, it seems obvious that a few will -- like the
one who wrote the message I am answering now :-) If they happen to be
able to do so (because the technology exists, and because it will be
allowed, or its forbiddance will not be enforced), then they will be
like the first self-copier molecules (replicators) that started life.
They will quickly overnumber the other ones, as all copies will
themselves (as they are identical and so have identical desires)
strive for such self-copy. If you are the only person to do so, very
soon we will have more Rafals than anything else in this universe. You
make thousands copies of yourself, each one makes thousands copies of
himself, and so son. With nanotech generations could take one day,
until there is not matter left (or until Rafals prefer to respect some
patterns of matters over using them to make self-copies).

Should we imagine that ? Should we keep the parallelism and imagine
mutations arising in the copies, so that the desire to be copied
becomes more and more natural, and people in the end become MAINLY
concerned with self-copy as we have long been with procreation ? How
do you see a future with this technology available ? (this is by the
way, not as an objection to your position of course)

> If you introduce the "you/me" pronoun, and the fictional
> unity that this imply, then you must say that YOU ARE THAT LUMP OF
> ### No, I am not - I am an information processing pattern housed currently
> in that lump of flesh. I am software. You might construe your own identity
> as hardware - it's a personal value judgement.

This I find very weird indeed, Rafal.

The brain emerged and evolved to coordinate the body. For you to
identify now with your information processing ability seems
problematic to me, and I suspect you are victim of an illusion there :
you identify on a conceptual level to this, but this may be because
you neglect other aspects of yourself that you would quickly miss. (to
say the least)

How come does one get to the stage of an animal with a centralized
nervous system to help him to adapt to a stage where the animal IS the
centralized nervous system. Does "centralized nervous system" even
mean anything outside of a body ? Is it any use at all ? What will you
DO ? Will you program into yourself goals not linked with your body ?
Based on what ?

You're not a "dualist", thinking that you really are a soul
trapped in a body ? « Soma sèma » [the body is a grave] ? Back to
Descartes, or in fact Plato ?

The very phrase "an embodiement of me" that you use in your message
seems wrong to me, it is the kind of fallacy made by people believing
in reincarnation. You are a body (with information processing
abilities among others), not something embodied. You are given to
yourself, in introspection, as a mind. But that is not what you
actually are. This mind is just a useful illusion to help the body
take care of itself. You cannot separate it from the body it is part

> I still hope that if I use the mantra "personal value judgement", or "a
> matter of taste", I will be finally able to convince people not to try to
> force me to accept their "objective" ideas of what is me, R.M. Smigrodzki.

I definitely do not want to force you to accept anything. What I want
is to see if you keep believing what you say after you develop it
more; and to see if I keep believing what I believe in the same time.

Some more thoughts :

I don't believe in continuity of consciousness being a condition for
individual survival, because I don't believe in continuity of
consciousness at all. Wheter you have taken 250 micrograms of Propofol
per minute or not seems irrelevant to me. Continuity is a fable for
everyday people, too. At each moment we have the ability of recalling
who we are, and this is what produces this notion of continuity, but
it is an illusion. It is a bit the same illusion you have with the
visual field : you think you see much more than you actually do,
simply because when you want to check that you see something in your
peripheral visual field, then you look at it and you see it, and so
you never get conscious of any hole in the visual field (in the same
way as you are able to recall what's your name, where you live, what
you do for a living, etc.) You need an experimental setup to
indirectly realize that there really are holes in you visual field.
You can never SEE the holes. (an absence of perception doesn't produce
the perception of an absence)

I have no difficulty either in understanding that someone would be happy
to have copies of himself made. As I said, it is after all something
like that that happens with procreation, which tends to the survival
of copies (of genes and corresponding features).

I don't have children, but I may have some. If the technology is
available, I may also make a few copies of myself to make sure that
the Jacques-adventure goes on, and that the destruction of one of us
doesn't prevent it to go on. So in this I think I understand your
desire and actually share it (though maybe not to the point of wanting
to make thousands of copies of myself, with many of them working in
the same company, with or without Lee Daniel Crocker as a colleague :-)).

But I still think you are saying more than you can afford to believe
by giving the same value to yourself and your copies.


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