Re: Uploading, info theory, and threads of consciousness

Damien Broderick (
Fri, 01 Nov 1996 11:41:28 +1000

James Rogers wrote:

>Suppose you hypothetically uploaded a perfect clone of your brain
>structure to an Acme Ultracomputer X-1000. This uploaded version of
>your brain is a conscious, very fast version of yourself running in
>As I see it, this would not be *your* consciousness that was
>uploaded. What was uploaded was your memories, thoughts, etc., but
>your thread of consciousness still remains in your brain. All you
>are doing by uploading is spawning a second thread of consciousness
>that thinks it is you

The gamut of variations on this theme is being explored by the brilliant
Australian sf writer Greg Egan in a series of stories and novels, especially
PERMUTATION CITY and the forthcoming DIASPORA. Many stories in his
collection AXIOMATIC deal quite rigorously (or at least inventively) with
versions of this topic.

My take: obviously a non-destructive copy of a functioning person is another
person. (There's a sense in which the passage of time creates a
destructive, updated copy of each of us.) If I were offered the chance of a
lethal injection in exchange for the creation of a perfect (or even
renovated) version of my phenotype, or ten or 100 copies for that matter, I
would mutter a very rude word and go home. Frank Tipler's most absurd
sophistry in THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY is his claim that a perfect
atom-for-atom emulation of you is continuous with you, hence *is* you, even
if it's built 100 billion years in the future. Oh dear oh dear.

Damien Broderick