RE: IDENTITY- What it means to be 'me'

From: Dickey, Michael F (
Date: Mon Dec 03 2001 - 09:22:49 MST


"I believe that if the copy has all your thoughts and experiences, and
a continuity of consciousness, then he (not it) feels like " the
original you" has perceived a waking up sensation. I would say that
this statement is identical to "the original me perceives a waking up

I dont see how you can logically say a copy waking up is the same thing as
me waking up. It seems more like something people on list really want to
believe then something that logically or scientifically makes sense.. The
key point is the copy is not the original me, so the copy waking up and
experiencing a continuity of conscioussness is different from the original
me waking up and experiencing a continuity of concioussness. The difference
lies in an external vs internal verification. From all other viewpoints,
this copy would indeed be me, as it would go on to do the thing I would have
done. But internally, the subjective experience, it is not me, I died when
I crashed into the telephone pole or the meteorite fell on my head. Copying
my neural pattern would have no external measurable effect, but it would
certainly have an internal one, as I would never wake up.

>In reality, unless the copy of me is
>identical at the quantum level, theoretically a test could be made to show
>that this is not indeed the original me and is a copy.

"IMO this depends on how you define "the original me"."

If the root of concioussness is the pattern of atoms in the brain, then
copying that pattern would copy the conciousness, as I mentioned in my
article. (This is likely the most plausible scenerio) If the root of
conscioussness lies within the quantum realm (as Roger Penrose argues) then
'me' is defined by this pattern and placement of these atoms that make up my
nuerons and these small quantum structures. Given definition A, if an exact
copy can be made at the atomic level (via, say, passive scanning and
nanotechnology) then at the atomic level it is indistinguishable from the
original *except* fort he fact that the original me still exists. Given the
observation that we can both exist at the same time, it is quite obvious
that there is no continuity of conscioussness for me. You may be content in
a copy of you living on, but if you desire subjective immortality this is
not the way to attain it.

"Of course the statement above is true if you include your physical
properties in the
definition. But it is also true if I wake up in the hospital after an

But an amputation of a limb does not affect the physiological mechanisms
responsible for your concioussness. That is, your brain and neo cortex and
the arrangement of atoms that represent you. Likewise sleeping does not
affect this nueral pattern either, so making the analogy that sleeping and
waking up is similiar to a copy being made of you and the original destroyed
is illogical, as the copy is never made and the original never destroyed.

"Here the common sense view is that I am still me after the amputation. I
believe this common sense view still holds if part or
all of the physical brain is removed, provided the "identity" encoded in the
brain is preserved. And after a lot of thinking and reading on this issue, I
am more and more convinced that the simplest working definition of
"identity" is consciousness and memory. In other words a conscious being
with all my memories is me."

Or, more specifically, a *copy* of you. If we copied your nueral pattern
and created a duplicate of it, while still keeping you intact, and woke you
both up, what would happen? If we took your copy into another room, would
you be experiencing subjectively what your copy was? I doubt it. Therefore
the copies 'waking up' and continuity of concsiousness is different and
isolated from yours.

>There is no doubt in
>my mind that this copy is a sentient being, but there is a doubt in my
>that it is *me* Sure, my thoughts hopes dreams and fears and any
>contribution I may bring to the world may live on in this copy, but I do
>wake up and live on.

"I think that if the copy feels continuity between the original you and
himself, then you wake up and live on. Unfortunately there appears to
be no way to establish an operative difference between this position
and yours. "

Sure there is, make a copy without destroying the original (an easy though
experiement) and place them in seperate rooms after waking them up, ask them
to describe what the other sees. If you can describe what your copy sees,
then I would grant a continuity of conscioussness that is linked via the
pattern that was copied. I doubt you would be able to describe what your
copy sees however, which establishes clearly that this is a seperate and
unique consciouss entity, and should we terminate you, then you die.

"But to continue the argument, how can you be sure that you don't die every
night when you go to sleep and that the conscious being who awakes the next
morning is not a copy with the same memories?"

I cant say for sure, as I can not prove something that by definition can not
be tested. How can you be sure there isnt an invisible dragon living in
your garage? You cant prove negatives or things that by definition exist
outside the realm of testability. But science offers an answer in the form
of Occam's razor. When I go to sleep, by nueral pattern and atomic
arrangement is not destroyed, then copied and placed into a similiar body.
If my nueral pattern is not destroyed or affected, then it is reasonable to
assume that I am the same me that went to sleep the night before. How do I
know I wasnt destroyed and recreated? How do I know that the very passage
of time is not a continual process of destruction and copying of me? You
cant, but there is no evidence to suggest either as the simplest
explanation. At the plank length and time, as I mentioned in my post, space
time exists in no smaller intervals and transversing thus means that sub
atomic particles are continually quantum teleporting through these energy
barriers. If part of concioussness is rooted in a quantum effect, this may
definately deserve some consideration. Likely though it is rooted in the
patter of the microscopic atoms, and not the sub miscroscopic particles.
Changing the sub microscopic particulate makeup of an atom through quantum
passage through space-time has no bearing on the atom or its effect, let
alon the patterns of millions of atoms formed into a network of billions and
billions of nuerons.

If, every night, people could be observed to spontaneously dissapear then
reappaear a few moments later, such philosophical musing might require
consideration, but since people do not do such things, it is reasonable and
scientific to assume that the person who went to sleep is the same one who
woke up.

"Well of course I also wish to continue living in my body, at least as long
as it provides me with a reasonable quality of life. But when this option is
not on the table anymore, and of course copy/upload technology has been
developen in the meantime, I believe I would be willing to try."

An alternative to consider would be what I laid out in my original post.
That replacing only a few nuerons or atoms at a time in an overall nueral
pattern could not be said to effect continuity of conscioussness like
destroying and copying ALL of them simaltaneously would be. Keep the number
of nuerons being replaced low, and the question becomes worthless. The
human brain loses numerous nuerons every day and grows a few every year. So
to me this would provide a good guideline to follow, and in the interim
(while waiting for these nuerons to be replaced) one should take diligent
care to protect the physiological housing of thier conscioussness.



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