Re: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Smigrodzki, Rafal (SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU)
Date: Mon Dec 17 2001 - 14:02:35 MST

From: "Jacques Du Pasquier" <>

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
> as myself, just like a quarter is as good any other quarter for the
> 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.

### Maybe you will find it hard to believe me, but I would prefer to be
killed rather than to have both of my copies killed - assuming that the
copies would be set free, they would have a better chance of avenging my
death (by working together) than me alone. Lee Corbin, who used to post
here, asked the list the same question (in a slightly different thought
experiment), and I was one of only 3 persons who gave this answer. And I
really gave some thought to trying to imagine my emotional state in the
situation you describe, always with the same results.


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

### We should give this as an open question to the list members.


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)

### The basic feature which will shape the future will be the ability of entities to survive under the prevalent circumstances - this is no different from the way the world has been ever since its beginning.

Unbridled growth is under some circumstances a good strategy - e.g bacteria in a rich broth. In other circumstances it becomes self-destructive - koala bears on some small islands off the coast of Australia multiply until they devour all the eukalyptus trees and cause the death of all of them. In a society there have to be very stringent limits on growth of its components, and the more complex the society, the more stringent the control (the highest level of control is needed in organisms like our bodies, or else cancers develop).

Personally I would not see unlimited copying as an end in itself, instead it is a means of prolonging survival. The number of copies should be large enough to prevent all of them being killed in one accident but not too large to strain the available resources or dangerously reduce mental diversity.

Presumably, once copying becomes possible, the society will have to develop ways of controlling it - otherwise one entity could spawn to displace all other entities. Such an uncontrolled replicator would be dangerous to all other entities and the society would need to destroy vis or render vis incapable of copying verself. On the other hand, replicators with good mechanisms for limiting growth might be very useful for the society as a whole - e.g by providing standardized professional services without the need for laborious learning and monitoring.


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)

### Our arms initially evolved to help our ancestors crawl out of the ocean. Now they are used to transmit information about the mind's difficulties with understanding itself, as in typing emails. Sometimes the tail starts wagging the dog. It happens again and again that structures and processes are diverted to different uses in the course of evolution.

Once the apeman stopped knuckle-walking, it became possible to neglect this use of the the forelegs and new uses could develop. I do think that I will discard some parts of my mind which might no longer be useful to a copied or disembodied sentience. Soon we will be able to switch off and modify parts of our brains, see how the whole works in practice, and then revert to the initial design (if we miss what we got rid of) or try new changes,


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.

### I guess you need to make the CVS portable - adaptable to functioning in many bodies, perhaps wirelessly networked. This will be a whole new science of "autopsychoengineering". -----

Does "centralized nervous system" even mean anything outside of a body ?

### If you mean existence without a material substrate, then it doesn't (at least I think so). If you mean existence without direct access to physical manipulators, then yes - it means the ability to analyze and integrate available information and produce more or less useful thoughts. Beautifully explored by Greg Egan in "Diaspora".


Is it any use at all ?

### Use for whom? For the CNS itself - yes, as long as it wants to live. For others - yes, as long as it produces useful thoughts.

----- What will you DO ?

### Learn. Learn how learn more. Recursively self-enhance. Hog as much computational and physical resources as I can ethically gain access to. Listen to music. Return to my body for a nostalgic natural experience sometimes. The list is infinite.


Will you program into yourself goals not linked with your body ? Based on what ?

### I don't know the details now but I would imagine that the quest for knowledge, power, and beauty will play an important role. ----

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 ?

### God forbid, no! ;-/

I am moderately comfortable in my body as it is now but I do see its limitations and I want to transcend them (that's why I am posting on a Transhumanist list). I do not have a soul (at least I never talked to him yet), I have only my thoughts and the I/O data from the environment.


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.

### It is a fallacy only if you believe in an immaterial entity hovering above your brain and magically keeping it conscious. I believe that the subjective experience of being conscious is a natural effect of certain information processing tasks in my brain, and if the same tasks are materially analyzed and implemented in another brain, the subjective effect will be the same.


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.

### Is your own conscious self an illusion?? This statement really baffles me - I find it inconceivable that one could doubt one's own existence (if the word illusion is used here in the usual meaning - something that is not real, does not exist). The mind for me is the one thing that I cannot deny, under any circumstances, while I could imagine my body as nothing more than a few mathematical equations in a simulator.

---- You cannot separate it from the body it is part of.

### Not yet.


> 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.

### Thanks. I am sure that in the next 20 - 100 years both of us will have many opportunities to put our beliefs to the test (if we live long enough). ------

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)

### You actually touched on a very large and complex set of questions here. Our subjective feeling of a unitary personality is dependent on a large number of separate processes being coordinated. Signals propagate from visual cortex to the amygdala to be analyzed for emotionally laden content (as in the sight of a snake ready to bite), other signals go to parietal cortex to build and update a system of spatial maps (body-centered, eye-centered, observed-independent, and many others).

These data can be used for various motor responses, sometimes initiated with only parts of our mind fully updated - as in the startle response to the snake. Other responses involve the frontal cortex - as in the inreased apportionment of computational resources if a puzzle or an IQ test are analyzed.

It's a marvel that under most circumstances we have the feeling of all our reactions smoothly evolving in synchronization with others. This is not an illusion - it is a real neural network gathering data from it's subnetworks. Only the naive conceptualization of this reality as a "pinpoint", indivisible entity, the Cartesian homunculus, is an illusion. Continuity of personal experience does exist but it is not what the naive observer might think. And I do agree with you that continuity is not the same as survival.


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 :-)).

### Looks like we are not so far from each other after all. Good.

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

### Let's wait until each of us has a few copies - 10 minds will find the answer easier than the two of us.


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