RE: life extension advocacy plans (fear of Tithonus) --> worryingabout the brain

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Sat Jul 07 2001 - 18:56:50 MDT

Reason quoted Miriam

> > An odd thing though... all the stuff I read kept making, what
> > seemed to me,
> > a surprisingly simple mistake. You mention it again above: the idea that
> > the backup is a copy and is somehow distinct from a continuous "genuine
> > you". The mistake is in thinking that we are continuous. We aren't.

Then commented

>There is a difference -- see below:
> > exist in short, daily bursts. We lose consciousness each night -- more
> > often if we happen to drink to excess or have surgical operations or
> > receive traumatic blows to the head. There is no continuous me --
> > just the illusion of it maintained by my memories of what I did and felt
>on the
> > preceding day.
>Continuity is provided by association with the same body that you went to
>in. Given the ephemeral nature of intelligence, you have to place the
>continuity on the corpus. <largish snip>

>it wouldn't be you -- it would be a copy of you; a separate person
>associated with a different corpus who just happens to be very similar to
>the (now extinct) you. [Corpus in this case can just as easily refer to the
>specific memory hardware that an uploaded self is running on -- don't get
>started on how to kill an uploaded intelligence through use of the mv
>command :)].

Although I don't go back far on the list and haven't checked the archives, I
know how this debate goes round and round in circles. I think, in the end,
we're stuck with our deepest intuitions on this one, and I can't find a way
to break the deadlock. However, I've come to the conclusion over the years
that I am not prepared to jump substrate in the rapid way implied by most
conceptions of destructive uploading.

Miriam could probably find somewhere a copy of _The Year's Best Australian
Science Fiction and Fantasy_ ed. Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G. Byrne, which
reprints my 1997 story "Lucent Carbon". That story agonises over the
question and takes it about as far as I can take it now, four years later
(Miriam, I might even send you a copy of this in case you're interested).
The only thing that has changed is that my intuitions have firmed up even
more along the same lines as Reason's.

There's an excellent article on this stuff by Monash University philosopher
Aubrey Townsend in issue # 78 of the British sf-related academic journal
_Foundation_. Townsend introduces some of the main literature and poses a
test of our intuitions, developed from earlier examples due to Bernard
Williams and others. I can't help adding that I guest-coedited this
particular issue and that it also includes a long symposium with Gregory
Benford, Joe Haldeman and others, which touches on some of these same
questions. Haldeman, as I understand him, puts a position similar to
Miriam's at one point.

Ascend (one way or another)...


Russell Blackford
writer philosopher lawyer transhumanist
Active Member: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
Member: Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA)

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