Re: Consciousness/Uploading

Bryan Moss (
Mon, 6 Jul 1998 18:04:08 +0100

David Bradley wrote:

> I will share my thoughts, doubts, and ideas on
> the subject for any who wish to respond. Any
> previous discussions I could search for in the
> archives would also be helpful (i.e. specific
> thread topics).

If you search through the archives for threads with cryptic names like "Uploading" and
"Consciousness" you'll find that this conversation has been had many times before.

> All of these assume that:
> 1) consciousness exists
> 2) the brain is the carrier/supplier of
> consciousness

I think it might be easier to think of both of these as simply, "consciousness is a
function/product of the brain."

> 3) the brain does so through chemical and/or
> electrical means

There is zero evidence to think otherwise.

> 4) we have the ability to somehow manipulate
> this process to our benefit.


> If two bodies share the same original
> consciousness, they are for the purposes of this
> discussion, the 'same.' For example: My
> original consciousness is gone when my total
> consciousness was uploaded into a new
> body. That new thing is not the 'same' as me,
> since "I" am now dead, even though it has my
> personality, memories, etc. "I" am no longer in
> control of it, or aware of it's presence.
> However, if "I" can control it, and am aware of
> it, it is still me.

The distinction between "original" and "copy" is not a useful one.

> 1) If the cells are all taken away and the new
> system is implanted, that the original
> consciousness *is* lost. There should be no
> more reason for the original consciousness to
> exist than there would be for a person 'a' to
> still be living in an apartment after 'a' has
> been replaced by person 'b'. The apartment may
> still be a home (or the body may still have a
> consciousness,) but there is a new 'tenant.'

I think Daniel Fabulich did a good job of disputing this with his CD Player analogy. This is why I said, "consciousness is a function/product of the brain." It's best to think of it as music, rather than an instrument.

> 2) If the cells are replaced one by one (or
> slice by slice) the o.c. *may be* lost. Either
> the individual must sit there and slowly die, or
> the individual will sit there and notice nothing
> (perhaps some odd, temporary effects, but
> nothing serious).

If cell replacement was performed gradually it's possible the patient would feel nothing. Not because the consciousness has died or is being destroyed, but because it is maintained. As I said, the distinction between "original" and "copy" is not a useful one.

> If the consciousness arises because of the
> actions of the brain's cells, and is then
> contained within, there is no reason why it
> should live in a computer. A computer is, after
> all, just a processor of information, at least
> until some drastic design change is made.

You say, "the consciousness arises because of the actions of the brain cells." With that in mind, a computer that simulates only these "actions" (and not even the cells themselves) would produce consciousness.

A common statement made on this list is that we cannot know if other people are conscious. This is then used to assume that if it walks, talks, and sounds like you - it is you. Our only option is to assume that consciousness *is* simply produced by our brains. There is absolutely no data to prove otherwise, and it's disputable that there ever will be.

> [...] Perhaps we could change around some x and
> y chromosomes and create an opposite gender
> version of oneself... I don't know what kind of
> laws written or unwritten will be around for
> thing type of thing, but you know someone is
> going to try it. The o.c. controlling both a
> female and male version of an individual would
> be.. odd, to say the least. How would any
> offspring be setup? I would assume there would
> be the problems that inbreeding would cause, or
> would it ‘transcend' even that?

I'm not sure but I get the feeling that you believe there will be some sort of paranormal "connection" between the two cloned minds. There is no reason to think this.

Inbreeding causes problems because of hereditary disease, so if we were uploading with advanced nanotechnology it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to correct any problems. You could always give the two people completely separate genomes but correctly engineered brains.

> That's a topic for thought. Either way,
> something tells me that experiencing the act
> from both sides at once would be ostracized
> socially, as masturbation is now, though.
> Besides that, it's also adding the taboo of
> incest.

To experience it from both sides, both minds would need to share the thoughts. If that were possible (perhaps through memory transplants) then it would make for a truly interesting experience. But I don't think this would require a mind cloned transgender version of your self.

> Off of that subject though, is a serious topic
> of debate. If genetic rearrangement, ala the
> previous example, is possible, would it be
> permissible to augment one's appearance in an
> upload? Most people here would probably say
> yes. Some would probably say that is required,
> at least if one wanted a certain level of
> advancement (Two legs? You must be kidding!)

You can augment yourself without uploading, so I don't see a problem here. Saying that the mind is a very volatile thing and in order to upload we must make sure everything is perfect is an easy argument to make. But look how we treat our minds just going about everyday business - sleeping, getting drunk, learning - these all cause dramatic changes. You can even loose large chunks of your memory without creating a national emergency.

> Consider also, though, that if this type of
> multiple consciousness is possible, then someone
> could also have multiple personalities.

Multiple personalities (or more rightly
Disassociative Identity Disorder) is a mental illness. It would no doubt be a mean feat to upload one of those "personalities" (the reason we now call it an "identity disorder" is simply because there are not actually multiple
personalities). Likewise it would be *impossible* to get two people into one brain without extra hardware (as you said yourself, they are defined by the hardware).

> The older an individual is, the less any memory
> changes what they have believed since age 10 or
> so. I.e. between birth and age 10, every day
> could possibly trigger a totally new way of
> thinking of the world, but after age 15 or so,
> almost nothing will make you believe that a
> certain race really *isn't* inferior to you, or
> that, if you think about it, there's really
> nothing *wrong* with wanting to live forever.

I don't know the figures behind this, but from personal experience all my life-shattering realisations have happened from 16 onwards.

> However, there is the possibility. Many people
> here probably had such an experience with
> Newtonian physics when relativity was
> introduced.

You don't literally mean the date when relativity was first introduced do you?

> It probably caused you to literally think
> totally differently about your world and how you
> perceive it. So, if one of my bodies was on a
> planet around Proxima Centauri, and the other on
> good old earth, and the one on P.C. talked to a
> real life extraterrestrial, wouldn't that cause
> a severe clash in my mind's rendering of my
> bodies?

Brothers often move apart, family shattering maybe but hardly great science. I still get the awful feeling you believe there might be some psychic connection between the cloned minds.

> So, if these nanomachine cells can emulate the
> original cells, then shouldn't that mean that
> consciousness isn't technically in the
> chemicals? Yes, this is pure speculation here,
> but so is the second of our assumptions, that
> the cells are the cause/holder of consciousness,
> actually all four are.

More precisely you originally said consciousness is cause by the "actions" of the cells, not necessarily the cells structure. We've already had success in recreating certain brain functions with artificial replacements for synapses, etc. Since there is no reason to suspect consciousness comes from anywhere but the brain, it stands to reason that a simulated brain would have all the functions of consciousness. The fact that we cannot yet prove this is more food for
philosophers than lost sleep for scientists.