Re: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 08:29:28 MST

From: "Colin Hales" <>
> In copying you are disconnecting a sentience from it's I/O
> (sensors/actuators), keeping all its memories, copying it, and then
> reconnecting the copy to it's own set of I/O, in a different physical
> location. From that instant you have two sentiences on divergent life-paths.
> Of course they are not the same. For in-depth analysis of this phenomenon
> consult that prodigious journal of wisdom - Red Dwarf, where Rimmer and a
> copy of himself gradually diverge from total sameness to completely
> different to enemies. All in a half hour show.

Thank you (and Rimmer) for providing the definitive analysis of the Identity

> I asked the list a long time ago if anyone had ever 'graded' sentience. I
> never got any reply but I grow more concerned that we may need a system of
> licences to control the creation of sentience beyond a certain level. A true
> sentience, that knows that it knows that it knows - replete with experiences
> and values and relationships - should not be allowed to be
> copied/killed/mutated willy nilly.

Then again, what sentience, that knows that it knows that it knows, would take
it upon itself to dictate which beings should be allowed whatever? The
ultimate sentience transcends such petty decisions.

> The life of the sporadic holo-doctor on
> Star Trek Voyager is still a life - can you imagine the series without
> him/her/ve/whatever?

Of course a fictional story devised for children needs an immature character
to appeal to viewers. Can you imagine a world in which people fail to grow up,
so that they continue to need imaginary characters to complete their lives?

> There is a book - SciFi - Robin Cook...can't remember the name?? where
> humans live multiple serial lives in different bodies. When they've burned
> out a body they go into a machine. It makes a carbon mesh copy of the brain,
> they gestate a new body, and grow the new brain with the pattern of the
> original. Voila....immortality. Or is it?

Sounds somewhat like a parallel to real life, where children inherit the
genetic procilivities of their parents. Some (square) people think of families
as a kind of immortality.

> The only thing you can say for
> sure is that the original human went into the machine quite by choice, happy
> in the knowledge that something good was going to happen. A dead body came
> out. The rights of the potential sentience in the new body were not
> addressed in any serious fashion. Nor were the rights of the 'potential
> continued sentience' of the old body.

That sounds even more like conventional bio-reproduction. Humans have
rationalized the continuance of themselves through their children since humans
discovered that children are similar to their parents. The extreme
techno-extropic position is Hans Moravec's Mind Children, which are very
different from the parents, yet carry on the tradition of parents making
children which surpass themselves.

> Whilst in the machine the sentience could still be 'related to' verbally,
> although what they replace all the sensory and organ I/O with beats me.

This device of verbal relationship provides the magic element that
disconnected parent/child evolution lacks. Notice how intensely, almost
desperately, parents try to communicate with their newborn children.

> It'd
> be a weird experience. Imagine all those hormone secretion synapses in the
> pretend neuron mesh trying to 'squirt' non-existent hormones into ...what?
> I digress.

The digression is worthy of discussion. Hormone computing has only very
recently emerged as a feasible and potentially very powerful tool for creating
artificial intelligence.

Gotta leave now...
Perhaps we can go into this in more depth later.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience, SETI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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