Re: Stories (was Retro humor)

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 14:22:45 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 3 Dec 1999, Sean Stickle wrote:

>> I had commented on the importance of keeping stories.

> Actually, they don't. Make a copy of yourself that includes memories, and
> whadya got? Two of you, which is by definition non-unique. Big deal. The
> idea that psychological continuity somehow defines a unique person in rubbish.
I'd argue that the two of you with the same stories, constitute a single (unique) "being". The minute you let your stories diverge (i.e. run the copies separately, you become separate individuals with a large amount of shared history, i.e. identical stories). This is probably a few steps beyond people who have large amounts of "normally" acquired shared history (twins or prisoners come to mind).

What defines a "unique" person is a "unique" consciousness operating on the stories. From my perspective a "consciousness" without any stories is a pretty boring entity. If you could empty a minds of all memories (such as happens in some amnesia victims) and destroy that part of the brain responsible for retaining new memories (as occurs in other types of brain damage) you might have a very powerful "consciousness", but I question whether you would have a "person". If you did this with two minds, I would say you were getting pretty close to having non-unique consciousnesses (you have to deal with the genetic and physiological differences to make them really "identical"). If you did that I think you would have the rough equivalent of what you might get by buying 2 identical computers from Dell with a lot of pre-installed software sometime between 2020-2030.

Putting it in terms of applied mathematics -- is a Turing machine equivalent of a "unique person", the combination of the tape, read-write head, the spools that hold the tape, etc. or is the "unique person" the data on the tape?!?

> I can come up with half-a-dozen ways to create a psychologically continuous
> person that is not you (which I would steal from Derek Parfitt's devastating
> analysis in "Reasons and Persons") and yet, is you.

I'm not sure that I understand what you mean by "psychologically continuous person". I would suggest that a person cannot be both "not me" and "me". The statement makes no sense logically.

> If all you want out of uploading is immortality, think again.

First I want immortality, then I want to expand my intelligence, then I probably want to run "experiments" on copies of my self (maybe -- since the jury is still out on whether this is immoral).

> Hell, you aint even the person that you
> were ten years ago (and I don't mean that you've grown, I mean you are as
> different from that person as you are from me, ethically speaking).

Of course, the reason I'm different is because I have much different stories now than I had ten years ago. (Other than perhaps the more obvious factors like aging.)