RE: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Dec 16 2001 - 13:11:30 MST

On Sun, 16 Dec 2001, Harvey Newstrom wrote:

> Therefore
> it may not be possible to duplicate every single atom in the environment.
> Random motion, carbon-14 decay, external radiation and the like will make
> the environments subtly different. If both copies flip a coin, I doubt they
> will always get the same result in all cases. Not only are these conditions
> rare and contrived, they are unstable to the point of unmaintainability.

Harvey, for any reasonably accurate copying to occur you will probably need
to map the brain to the synapse level (a few micron), perhaps to the protein
level (10-40 nm). I think when its all said and done we will find that
we will be able to abstract the thoughts up to a higher (multi-neuron)
level. At those levels the things you mention are going to be pretty
irrelevant. I think for your argument to have merit you have to make
the case that chaotic events at the molecular level influence how we
think. I really doubt that is the case.

Think about the force required to sustain a severe concussion or
cause brain damage (e.g. Muhammed Ali) -- the hardware is pretty
robust. Now there may be some critical paths that you can't
abstract up very much -- auditory and optical neuron functions
come to mind -- but you can replace those with hardwired devices
of a completely different nature and the individual will adapt.
We are already doing this with various types of hardware implants.

I think some of the examples I've seen are pretty contrived and
a huge amount of energy is being spent on definitions and thought
experiments rather than exploring what may be some of the more likely
scenarios. Here are 3 paths I can see.

a) Outloading -- a gradual offloading of mental function onto
   external hardware, followed by up-evolving such that our current
   brain, mind and identity concepts have very little significance.
b) Inloading -- a gradual replacement of neuron function with
   designs that are much more efficient, have built-in I/O port
   features that allow high bandwidth data sharing with equivalent
   copies. These utilize architectures like the Space Shuttle computers
   (majority logic among the different instantiations). So your
   extended mind "collectively" creates your identity.
c) Recreation -- using the fine-grained information about the
   brain structure to recreate the original identity on
   different hardware (or within a VR).


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