Re: Uploading, info theory, and threads of consciousness
Fri, 1 Nov 1996 11:45:46 +0000

> On Thu, 31 Oct 1996 wrote:
> > I have one serious reservation regarding uploading
> > that appears to be a real issue. As far as I can tell, information
> > theory would prevent the possibility of uploading.
> I see your argument, but it isn't based in information theory, rather
> (information-) ontology.
> The big problem in this debate is that we always confuse numerical
> identity with ontological identity and personal identity. They do not
> need to be equivalent.

Yes, but I think that most people here want to *experience* the
upload, not generate a bunch of clones who *think* they were
uploaded. In a destructive upload, our stream of consciousness would
cease to exist. We would be dead and there would be a computer
program running that would swear it was us, and would in fact be us,
albeit running on a separate stream of consciousness. I don't think
too many people would terminate their own stream of consciousness to
create new independant ones. What would be the advantage?

> > The problem is that people are viewing information as though it were
> > physical matter. Information can never be moved, it can only be copied.
> > Uploading is the transfer of information. The inability to move
> > information (as opposed to copying) is a fundamental limitation of all
> > information systems.
> Actually, if I encode a message in something (say a disk or a hydrogen
> atom), I can move it around quite well without copying it. Information
> doesn't seem to be able to exist on its own, it needs to be encoded in
> something since it is a pattern.

You are only moving the substrate upon which the information is
encoded. Information itself cannot be moved because it has no
physical properties. When I say move, I mean move from one substrate
to another. The physical translation of information from one point in space
to another is meaningless in an information context.

The problem of saying that information can be moved is that it allows
the spontaneous creation of information. If this was the case, a cat
could "spontaneously" derive and understand the Schroedinger
wave equations without having the slightest concept of physics or

For information to exist it must be encoded. This *requires* that
information can only be copied or destroyed. "New" information is
only the reorganization of existing information into a format that is
meaningful to us. Even our imaginations are constrained by the limits of
our experience.

If I am not mistaken, the "Information can not be moved, only copied"
theorem has been proven mathematically. Unfortunately, this reflects
the strong entropic property of information.

> > It appears that uploading should not be possible for these reasons. The
> > best we might hope for would be to augment our existing systems.
> Even if we would accept your argument, it wouldn't make uploading
> impossible. It would just make some of us more reluctant to try it, while
> others wouldn't care.

I am not saying it is impossible to upload; it is impossible only in
the sense of uploading a single, existing stream of consciousness as opposed to
creating a new stream of consciousness.

> The big question I have, is information == consciousness? Or consciousness
> a property of information (processing)? Or something else? Big question,
> hard to answer.

This, of course, IS the big question. If consciousness is based upon
information and information processing, my above statements hold. If
not, then everything I said becomes irrelevant to the question.

Personally, I believe that consciousness is a result of the
architecture of our information storage and processing systems. If
this was not the case, we would be delving into the fuzzy world of

-James Rogers