Re: immortality

From: Jeff Davis (
Date: Mon Dec 11 2000 - 22:14:01 MST

Good job, Harvey!

Usually I look at this oft returning thread, swiftly and confidently
dispose of the conundrums, and move on. But you made me think just a
little longer than usual.

Harvey writes:

>To further expound on this copy-question, try this thought experiment
>resulting in six different copies.
>Number 1, dubbed "the original", is a total amnesiac with no memory
>whatsoever, but fingerprints indicate it is you.
>Number 2, dubbed "the copy", is apparently you, looks exactly like
>you, and has your exact memories and behavior mannerisms.
>Number 3, dubbed "the youth", is physically better off than you were,
>but otherwise has your exact memories and behavior mannerisms.
>Number 4, dubbed "the simulation", is a computer-generated simulation
>of you. It is a projected picture on a computer screen that claims
>to be you, and seems to have all your exact memories and mannerisms.

Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are copies. A copy is a copy. It is preceeded by an
original. That's what makes it a copy. That the copy may think it's the
original, or that the world may think it's the original, simply means that
they are mistaken. The fact that 2 and 3 are human, gives them full and
undiminished human rights. But that can't alter their status as copies.
Get over it.

Number 1 is all that remains of the real you. The amnesia however, compels
a redefinition of the status of your existence in the sense that the
original has been 'damaged' or 'altered'. Your body remains, but "you" are
gone. Absent the material foundation of the old real you, and the
behavioral manifestations that authenticated the same, said 'you' is
history. The fact that your old body is almost certain to provoke those
who once knew you as its occupant, to mistake the old package for the old
you, is merely a case of reasonable but nonetheless mistaken presumption.
(They'll soon realize their error if they get to know the new you and
compare with the old.)

>To carry this even further, imagine that the scientist loads your
>memories back into your meat brain,

This restores the original you,

>and then replaces each neuron of
>the original's brain with a machine neuron. This is done one neuron
>at a time, and your brain keeps functioning while this is done.

If you participate in this willingly, then the new you is the real you
regardless of how different the new you may be. This is a transhumanist
event. A voluntary self-transformation.

>Eventually, the original brain is completely replaced with mechanical
>neurons. Strangely, the mad scientist's assistant has reassembled
>the neurons into a completely functioning meat brain, and has
>transplanted it into a monkey. We now have:
>Number 5, dubbed "the android", with a completely mechanical brain,
>with all your exact memories and mannerisms.
>Number 6, dubbed "the chimp", which looks like a chimp with a large
>brain pan, which seems to have all your exact memories and mannerisms.

If the gradual androidization is forced on you against your will, then the
result is--if your meat brain is destroyed--a damaged version of you,
or--if your meat brain remains, or is recoverable--the real you, in fact or
potential, plus an unauthorized enhanced synthetic copy. Kidnapping and
forced androidization is, in my view, violative of personal rights, and
both of the victims of the act, the original you (now in chimpish form) and
the android you have some serious complaints against the perpetrators.
Luckily the nature of the offenses seem to suggest that the options for
technological remediation are substantial and the prognosis good.

If the androidization is voluntary, then the android you is, or should be,
contractually satisfied with his physiological enhancement, but the the
existence of the chimpish you creates an unexpected and undesired dilution
of identity rights. The new you and the old you are equally desirous of
being the real you, but the old you has precedence. The new you has been
deprived of the exclusive possession of the "you" persona, to which
exclusive possession he had had a reasonable expectation going into the
procedure, ie when he WAS you. Now the old you is still the real you and
the new you is a 'mere' enhanced copy. Bad break.

>Which entity is "you"? Any of them? All of them? Some of them?

What I became aware of in this little exercise was that the issue of "Who
is you?" seems to separate in a rights issue and an identity issue, with
(if you don't rigorously segregate the two) the latter subordinate to the

First you 'own' the rights to your identity and to choose whatever that
will be. In the absence of personally-asserted first-person identity
rights, third-party-assessed identity authenticity is materially-based, and
a matter of degree. Originality defines the highest degree of
authenticity, the original you in the original body, sliding gradually away
through amnesiac, comatose, brain-wiped, deanimate frozen, deanimate
decayed, the various permutations of copies, to urn of ashes and fading
photograph, and finally to a last fleeting wisp of memory.

Thanks, Harvey. That was fun.

                        Best, Jeff Davis

           "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                        Ray Charles

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