RE: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Emlyn O'regan (
Date: Wed Dec 12 2001 - 17:30:34 MST

> Michael - Do you believe that computer programs can be conscious?
> This is not clear from your message.
> If you do, then imagine that you find yourself one day to be
> a computer
> program. Ignore the question of whether you are the same
> person as some
> human precursor, just consider the future. If the computer is stopped
> and re-started, are you the same person? If your program is copied to
> another section of memory, are you the same person? If two copies of
> your program are made, are they both you?
> I think considering the questions in this way is helpful as it lets us
> get past some of our intuitions and prejudices from our
> evolutionary past
> where one body == one mind. We can think more clearly and
> analytically
> about the problems by considering disembodied consciousness.
> That lets
> us focus on the role of information and its transfer.
> Hal

I always find this metaphor unsatisfying. Particularly because, even though
I might believe that we could create conscious intelligence from parts,
those parts might not be in the form of a von-neumann computer. It may be
the case that there are some quite stringent restrictions on the substrate
for intelligence+consciousness, including stopping/restarting, wholesale
copying around in memory (or whatever persistence mechanism was to be used),
etc. There might be restrictions which entirely preclude running
consciousness on a suped-up Pentium.


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