Immortality: Consciousness Interruption Problem

Let’s talk about immortality. The concept of eternal life has been present in our fiction since the ancient times but in most cases it was the domain of supernatural being such as gods, faeries, spirits, vampires and etc. In most cases it is either an inborn trait, or a result of a magical blessing or a curse.

But immortality is not only the domain of fantasy. Science fiction has also developed different models of immortality. One of these models immortality via mind transfer. I think the best example of this technique is depicted in Cory Doctorow’s Down and out in the Magic Kingdom novel. In his fictional Bishun Society, people prolong their lives indefinitely by making electronic backup of their consciousness. In an event of death, the person is simply restored from backup in a cloned body. Similar technique is used by the biological Cylons in Scifi Chanell’s Battlestar Galactica series.

Let’s assume that this type of consciousness backup would be possible. You can back yourself up, and restore with no problems or complications. Once restored you are the same person, with the same stupid quirks, and pet peeves. The process is perfect and flawless.

Now imagine that you get into an accident, and you break your back. The doctors say that there is zero chances of repairing this damage. You will be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of your life… Unless of course, you choose to restore yourself from backup. The procedure is really simple.

First you do a backup. Once you are done, you get a lethal injection and your body dies. Minutes later you are restored in a clone with a clean bill of health. Question is – would you do it?

Me – I would probably choose the wheelchair. Why? Well, the whole concept of immortality via mind transfer sounds great on paper but there is one snag. For a lack of better name I call it Consciousness Interruption.

Let me put it this way – restoring from backup is nothing like falling asleep and waking up in a new body. It’s far from it. When the doctors kill your body, you die. That’s it – it’s game over for you. Sure, your clone will have the same memories, the same personality and be you in every possible way. But you – the old you will be dead. There is no link between you and your new copy – you are two completely separate entities. There is just no way you could die and then wake up.

So is this immortality? I would say yes and no. As far as your friends, family and the rest of the universe is concerned – you are immortal. You die, you get restored and you continue to exist unchanged. But from a very subjective point of view – the continuity of your consciousness is extinguished at the point of death. You cease to exist, and someone else with the same memories takes your place.

At least this seems to be true for Cory Doctorow’s model. Do Cylons suffer from this consciousness interruption? I would say yes. Feel free to dispute me on this. I would love to hear your theories on how their system avoids the interruption issues. Sure, their resurrection works slightly different – Cylons seem to remember their own deaths. They don’t really back up, but transfer their consciousness to the Resurrection Ship the moment they die. But as far as I’m concerned it is the same damn thing. The exact same rules apply – one mind dies, the other one is restored. End result: consciousness interrupted.

I leave you with this: Immortality via mind transfer is not true immortality. At least not in the way we sought it since the beginning of time. It is really just a rouse – a social lie, and a form of ultimate escapism. Restoring from backup doesn’t really do anything for the person who is restored – that person just dies. The real benefit of the restoration process is for this person’s loved ones. If you can restore someone after they die, you no longer need to mourn their death, or deal with their loss. It is really a feel good – happy pill for the masses. Nothing else.

Disagree? I would love to hear a counter argument!

[tags]immortality, mind transfer, consciousness interruption, cylons, bsg, cory doctorow, down and out, bishun[/tags]

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49 Responses to Immortality: Consciousness Interruption Problem

  1. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Get outta my head.. I have had the near-enough exact same thought before – however good a copy may be, its still a copy with all the same traits and characteristics as the previous you and doesnt do a thing for the person who just died

    If there’s an afterlife, that’d lead to some awkward parties…

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hehe… Great minds think alike :mrgreen:

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  3. It’s funny because they do this exact backup/restore/clone process in the movie “The Sixth Day” and I was thinking exactly the same thing, “the guy dies, the clone isn’t him, just some other person who inherits his memories”. If the mind/spirit can transfer bodies, that would be different, but just copying the information and writing it to a blank clone doesn’t equal a transfer.

    On the subject of immortality, this is where I believe God’s true genius shines through. On the surface it seems really cruel and mean that we should be so frail and that we die. But the Alias series finally really helped illustrate the downside of physical immortality. The main bad guy gets shot in the head but falls into the immortality liquid. He then heals, gets up and continues being the bad guy. Until a good guy who’s about to die blows himself up causing a cave-in (they’re in a cave) and pinning the bad guy under a huge boulder inside a collapsed cave. Down side? He’s pinned in there forever, unable to die, in the dark, by himself, forever. Kinda makes you think that maybe death in really adverse conditions is a good idea after all. Imagine sinking to the bottom of the ocean and not dying. Or falling down an ice face into a deep cliff off Everest and living to remain stuck there forever. Or some other equally bad situation.

    As far as my beliefs go, when man was cast out of the garden of eden and all of creation became fallen (where perilous situations now exist), we stopped living forever for a reason.

    Just my thoughts. :-)

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  4. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Wait.. Are you talking about this Alias series? I always thought this was a spy show akin to say 24 or Nikita. Granted, I never really watched it but I would have never thought that it would have an immortality liquid in it. 8O

    And actually death is an extremely important part of the nature. Without death there would be no natural selection, and thus no evolution. If organic cells would be indestructible and immortal we would all still be single cell organisms floating in primordial soup…

    But yeah – physical indestructibility would kinda suck if you didn’t have some sort of super powers that would let you get out of cave-ins, mountain chasms, and etc…

    If you sing down to the bottom of the ocean though you might be ok though. You just swim up – or if for some reason you can’t – you just walk. Sooner or later you will reach the shore. :P

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  5. Yeah, Alias had this ever running storyline where they were searching for these “Rombaldi artifacts” which when put together and decoded would reveal the ultimate… thing. Which turned out to be an immortality liquid.

    Walking the ocean, yeah, kinda like Highlander. :-)

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  6. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:

    Okay, Luke . . . your getting a little too deep . . .

    *read blog title again*

    Terminally Incoherent
    Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings…

    Never mind . . .

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  7. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Ara – oh, so that was in highlander… I couldn’t remember where I got it from, but I know I either read or saw something where someone walk the ocean floor at some point. :P

    Craig -LOL! If you browse the musings category you will see that I do that every once in a while :)

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  8. Luke: Come to think of it, Wolverine would have the same problem. If he ever fell down a chasm… it would really suck for him.

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  9. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    hmm.. even if it meant being stuck in a chasm or on the bottom of the ocean, I’d still be hard pressed to decide that non-existence would be preferable (give it a few decades and let the insanity set in and maybe I’d feel differently)

    If youre patient enough the mountain would erode around you, or the sea bed would hit a continent :wink:

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  10. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Well, I think Wolverine could be killed – I think you could drown him or freeze him to death.

    If he fell down the chasm, he could theoretically climb it using his claws. Since they are made out of the strongest metal known to man, he might be able use them as climbing tools or something.

    In addition he does have super human strength and indestructible skeleton which could help him in digging himself out of a cave in…

    Conversely if he fell into the ocean off a boat he would most likely sink like a stone and drown because of the weight of his skeleton…

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  11. Matt: Nothingness vs. Insanity at the bottom of a chasm. I wonder what comes after insanity, you’d live long enough to know. I pick the 3rd option, kiss the world goodbye and go to heaven–of course that’s if you believe in heaven. :-)

    Luke: But he wouldn’t drown, that’s the kicker. ;) At least, not if he lived forever. But his soft tissue would be crushed at the bottom of the ocean. He might even be gobbled up by some ocean creature, though he could theoretically fight his way down and then walk/swim to shore. The Atlantic is kinda big though.

    Isn’t there something that says that we can’t properly discuss things of this nature because we lack the fundamental frames of reference?

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  12. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I thought he can drown. He has super healing and all, but if you cut the oxygen to his brain his cells will eventually die.

    Also, Wolverine does not seem to be immortal – he just ages really slow because of his healing powers.

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  13. Paul Robinson UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    While there is something nagging about the perceived difference between waking and being uploaded to new body (or even one’s own), I don’t think you’ve quite hit upon it. My question is, what is the difference between sleep and “consciouness interruption”?

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  14. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox SuSE Linux says:

    Very good question, and one I don’t really have an answer for.

    Our minds don’t really deactivate during sleep. Our brains are still very active, especially in the REM phase – so there are cognitive processes going on. We also have dreams. We really dream every night, it’s just that most of our dreams do not get committed to long term memory.

    Even if we consider say cryogenic freeze – the brain activity doesn’t stop completely – it just slows down considerably…

    So I guess the difference is the continuity of the biological function of the brain. Once it stops, you cease to exist.

    Of course there is no way to ever find out if I’m right or wrong because what I described is a completely subjective experience for the person whose body dies. The clone with the uploaded mind will of course think he simply woke up in the new body either way. There is no scientific method that would prove my thesis. So maybe my point is moot because the net result is the same in either case…

    I guess the real question here is not really scientific – but metaphysical one. What happens to you when you die? Is there afterlife?

    Or perhaps: do we have souls? And if we do is the soul bound to your body, or is it bound to the unique information pattern that is your mind?

    If you die and upload yourself to a new for the third time, does that mean that there are 2 copies of your spirit hanging out in the afterlife, or does the same one follow you from body to body?

    Once again, it all depends on the definition of soul, the nature of afterlife and the belief system you subscribe to.

    I guess Ara hit the nail on the head here – we don’t really have the frame of reference here…

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  15. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    What if you could upload yourself into a computer, then talk to the uploaded you?
    Then you’d quite definitely be 2 separate entities and if you died, the “backup” wouldnt be you

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  16. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I 2nd what Matt said. This is actually a very good counter argument to Pauls rebuttal.

    I take it one step further – what if for some weird reason the doctors fudge the lethal injection and you don’t die. You wake up the next day and you find out that they already uploaded your mind into the clone and activated it.

    So now there are two of you – you both share the same DNA, same memories and etc. You are perfect copies – but that other dude is just not you. And as the time passes you both are going to diverge into two different individuals as you accumulate different experiences.

    If you die, you won’t magically “jump” to the other body, or merge with that other consciousness. You will just die.

    Ok, we off the metaphysics and back in the realm of science with totally measurable variables. Thanks Matt!

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  17. Guys, I really think we’re missing the point here. Whether you believe in the supernatural as I do (i.e. you have a soul) or you just believe that we’re just a highly complex organization of matter, the fact remains that in the end you recognize yourself as being distinctly “you”.

    If we look at it from scenario #2 where you’re a complex organization of matter, you need to realize that you aren’t static. That organization is ever changing and at any given Planck time that organization of matter is distinctly you. If “you” were copied then one Planck time later that copy becomes another person because the organization will begin to differ from the way you’re organized and you’ll progressively diverge to the point that you’ll end up recognizing the difference in the macro world.

    On the other hand, if you look at it from scenario #1, where you have a soul, then this is all nonsense because “you” is no longer defined by the complex organization of matter (which the physical “you” that your soul inhabits is composed of) but by the very being that is your soul. In this scenario, even if you were copied the copy would either have a new/different soul (I’ve got no clue on this point vis-a-vis the religious point of view) or the copy would have no soul. Either way, your identity is intact.

    In both scenarios, if you get killed off and the backup is “started up” what you consider to be “you” is dead.

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  18. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    You guys can defend my point better than I can. :mrgreen:

    Ok, here is another philosophical question. What would it actually mean to be soulless? What does that condition entail? Let’s say your clone would have all your memories, feelings, convictions but no soul of it’s own… What would that mean for that clone (other than no prospects for afterlife)?

    Then of course is the question of what triggers creation of the soul. Would a clone have it’s own soul? And what would be the relationship of that soul to the uploaded memories?

    Would the soul conform to the memories, or would it conflict with them causing the clone to eventually develop it’s own unique personality that would be very different from your own?

    Btw, holly shit – this discussion is awesome. Mind transfer, Wolverine, Alias, metaphysics, religion and science! Wohoo!

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  19. Luke, I’ve got to be completely honest with you. I haven’t the faintest idea. :-)

    But it’s fun to speculate, so I guess since by my definition “you” is the soul and since we know memories to be the stuff of chemicals stored in the gray matter in your head, then the soul is what accesses those stored memories and basically interacts with your body to give you “life” (not just biologically alive, but alive like you and me). I suppose a soulless living person would be like someone in a vegetative state.

    Of course, that’s mere speculation. Like I said earlier, I haven’t the faintest idea. I don’t know where the soul begins and the physical body ends. Nor do I know what faculties of our existence belongs to which of the two. I mean, we’ve cloned animals and they’re not vegetative. But do they have souls? Are the clones given souls? Or do animals not have souls so the rules are different for them? Like I said, it’s all speculation :-)

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  20. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well, it’s universally known truth that all dogs go to heaven so I guess they do have souls. ;)

    Either way, we did clone them and they did seem to be fine. So I assume it would be the same case for humans. Probably the effects of soullessnes would be more psychological than physical in any way.

    I mean it could be that the soul is the loci of the human conscience so perhaps a soulless individual would simply have no moral inhibitions? Then again, what we understand as conscience is pretty much just a set of social rules that define morality, and which are learned. Different cultures across the globe and throughout time had different ideas on morality, good and evil so perhaps it is not inherit to some metaphysical conscience.

    There is another thing that always bothered me. The pro-life people seem to claim that soul is created at conception. But if it is, then what happens to identical twins? At the time of conception, you have a single sperm and a single egg. The division into separate entities usually occurs some time after that.

    So it can’t be conception. It is probably at some point during the development when the fetus stops being an undefined blog, and develops distinguishable features of it’s species or perhaps when it develops a conscious mind. But in that case we could theorize that a clone could get it’s own soul because i does not depend on .the DNA or method of conception but on the development of a brain capable of thought…

    Interesting stuff…

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  21. I’ve got to say, I really don’t know. Though I have a hard time imagining that God would allow a fully sentient being a chance at life without a soul. Of course if he does, then there’s the possibility that the soul is what allows us choice above and beyond instinct. And choice is what leads to sin. So if you think about it, a cloned soulless person would be an instinct driven being without free will. But of course this is nothing more than speculation.

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  22. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    For me all discussion of a soul is moot because I don’t believe in souls…
    All that is “me” arises from the electro-chemical soup inside my brain and the infinitely complex web of neuronal connections, and I don’t see how that can be transferable to another brain, or another form of storage (i.e. uploading). There is a feeling of there being something beyond just the physical fact of a brain in a head that makes you “you” and a copy of you not “you” but its hard to pin that down in non-metaphysical form.

    Although, if it is possible to replicate a brain then having another me hanging around could be kinda cool, a little creepy maybe, but I could get over that

    Or if you took my DNA, switched the Y chromosome for another X then somehow accelerated the growth of the clone – then you have someone of the opposite sex who’s a perfect match to you (in so far as genetics determines personality.. which it doesnt, but its a start)

    But then again, that would be more like a sister than girlfriend material (Instant inbreeding too)…. and now the whole thought just got really really sick and I’m going to stop talking about it

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  23. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Matt – Having a female clone of me would be really, really weird.

    Here is another question – if that clone got a copy of all my memories uploaded to it, which gender would it be attracted to? Would it like women, because I do, or would it’s biological gender override that and create some bizarre gay version of my personality in a female body? And how would such an individual feel about the memories about my past relationships with women?

    I guess that experiment would probably show us if sexuality is determined more by biological or psychological factors. But holly crap, this would be so messed up!

    Ara – free will is another whole set of weirdness that I have yet to grok. How do we reconcile the omniscience of God and free will. If we assume that god is omniscient (as Christianity does) then the world must be completely preordained. God already knows everything that will happen from now, till the end of th universe. And if he does, then free will is just a subjective illusion – we think we are making choices ourselves, but in the end it’s all part of the greater plan.

    I posted about this some time ago.

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  24. Luke: I think that the mistake is to think that omniscience is diametrically opposed to free will when nothing can be further than the truth. Just because God can stop you from doing something doesn’t mean he will. Also, just because He sees all of time in an instant doesn’t make your choices for yourself any more or less real than if He didn’t. Think of it like watching a pre-recorded football game. The outcome of the game wasn’t known to the players nor was it predetermined but you’re able to go back and forth over the footage. Similarly (though the example isn’t very good) God exists outside of space/time and so it’s trivial for Him to see what happens a thousand years from now even if in the course of time it hasn’t been determined yet.

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  25. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Ara – Ok, I guess omniscience and free will could work. At least subjectively. From out viewpoint, free will is the ability to do as we damn pleas. From god’s point of view, it is the fact that he allows us to condemn ourselves on our own accord even though we were destined to be condemned in the first place anyway. Or something like that.

    Here is another one: does an omniscient being have free will?

    If you are omniscient you know ahead of time what will be your future choices and decisions. So I would say no… But I might be wrong.

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  26. Luke: Sure God has free will. But there’s a bit of a problem with the question. God is not only omniscient, but he transcends space and time since He created them. Thus, His existence isn’t constrained by what he created and so the question kind of self destructs because you can’t then posit that he would “know ahead of time” because time is no longer a part of the equation.

    As for being destined to be condemned in the first place, I believe that the statement is made under the false assumption that because God knows ahead of time what will happen that He is therefore the architect of everything we will do, thus planning our condemnation without our free will playing a part. In fact, if you look at it from the point of view that God sees the whole of time in one shot because His existence is outside of it (kind of like looking at a self-written book from the outside as opposed to being a part of the story) then it makes sense that He’d know the outcome ahead of time and state it as such while still giving us the free will to do what we want.

    Plays with your head huh? :)

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  27. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I think we are essentially trying to say the same thing, but with different words.

    I’m gonna try to steer this discussion back to the original topic.

    We sort of established that the clone with uploaded memories would be a separate person. Let’s go back to my example where doctors botch the lethal injection and you stay alive. There are huge ramifications here.

    From the legal standpoint which one of you is the “real one”? Which one gets the car, the house, and the money? And once we establish that, what happens to the other one that is not recognized by the legal system?

    Would they just kill you? Would they force him to get a new social security, and a new drivers license? Or would they just kill him?

    And what are the rights of the digital copy of your memories in storage? Would deleting your backup be considered a murder?

    Finally, back to the beginning. I think that Startrek style teleportation falls into the same category here. Your body is destroyed here, and then reconstituted at another location via some quantum entanglement crazy physics stuff. It’s the same exact principle as mind transfer though. It’s just here instead of uploading into clone we simply build the exact replica of you, including all your neural connections.

    So same issue applies. Let’s say that the teleporter on Enterprise breaks and it fails to dematerialize Capitan Kirk. However it does send the structural data down to the planet and it materializes a second copy of him. Now we have two Kirks.

    Thank god that this never happened, because I don’t think the world would be able to handle two William Shatner’s singing as a duet. 8O

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  28. The legal issue is really interesting, but I really think that you’d be creating a distinctly different person. Because the cause for which you’re undergoing the process in the first place never occurred to the clone (accident, illness, etc…) so right there it’s a different person physically. Second, you aren’t just the sum of your memories. The very configuration of each molecule in your body contributes to your being “you”. A copy is exactly that, a copy. It’s like saying this iPod looks exactly like mine and has exactly the same songs in it, but it still isn’t mine. I guess that’s more outward assignation of value rather than having it be derived from it’s contents. Very tough to work with these concepts.

    LOL. In the case of the Shatner example, I think that they’d be better off wrapping the whole process in a transaction block like in SQL. That way, if any part of the thing fails, you just roll it all back and automatically kill the copy. Sounds crazy huh?

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  29. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Transactions! I think you’ve got it. I vaguely remember watching some episode in one of the Startrek shows where the teleporters malfunctioned a exactly that happened. They started disappearing, and then they were just rolled back when the thing failed…

    Or I think that’s what happened. I’m not very much into trek so who knows…

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  30. You’re thinking of the first Star Trek movie where the new science officer and another person try to transport over to the new Enterprise and the transporter malfunctions but the pattern gets lost so they don’t reassemble properly. They reform as something “not human” and don’t last long before they die.

    But that brings up a good point. In Star Trek, they actually transport the person after they disassemble them. In modern transport theory they don’t. They use quantum entanglement to reassemble the person on the other end. That’s copying, in Star Trek it’s actually transporting.

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  31. Josh UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I think that if your body is cloned exactly (including, obviously the brain, wiht memories) you will be the same person. Why not?

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  32. Josh: What if what makes you, “you” is somehow inextricably a part of the very fabric of spacetime? You couldn’t clone that. :-)

    Besides, I’m positive that the very moment after the clone comes to life, it will be someone else due to a divergence in the life you live from that moment on and the life it lives from that moment on. The difference may be infintessimally microscopic at first, but with time you’ll become two different people.

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  33. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Josh – also consider Matt’s previous example of talking to your own perfect clone. For everyone else, that clone will be you – initially there will be no difference between you two, and it will be impossible to distinguish you in any way.

    But, when you talk to your own clone you will be talking to a separate entity that is like you in every possible way, but is not you.

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  34. Brian UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’m researching for a book on this subject, and found your discussion to be a wealth of information.

    I’d point you to another work of fiction on the subject – Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.

    One thing to note: human beings already believe in transference of consciousness for thousands of years. The idea that “when i die, i’ll go to heaven or hell” is a notion that consciousness can be mutable, and can leave the body to exist elsewhere. This is echoed by the Law of Conservation of Energy, which stated “energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes form”.

    So the hard part to grasp isn’t the notion of transferring consciousness, but the commonly-help belief that consciousness is unique (I know, I’m not adding anything new, just summarizing what I’ve read above).

    Thus most lean to the side of the argument that supposes that, in order to transfer consciousness (from life to afterlife, or from one human body to another, or from human body to a digital backup), consciousness must LEAVE the origin in order to ARRIVE at the destination.

    So, it may be more feasible to say that consciousness could be backed up digitally, but not duplicated.

    By backing up consciousness, the substrate changes, but the pattern remains unchanged (whether the substrate is a human body, angelic wings in heaven, or a collection of bits in a server somewhere).

    Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment with your opinions on copying consciousness:

    The idea of “talking to your clone” supposes that you’ll have a conversation like two unique beings. But what if that didn’t happen. What if you cloned yourself (or backed yourself up to a virtual world). You look at “the other you”, and you begin to speak… at that precise moment so does he. You both pause. Look at each other funny. Then, gradually, you get the sensation that you’re looking into a mirror… every action you take is taken identically and immediately by the clone. You both have a simultaneous though that you want to puke, so you both run to the restroom. Due to differences in position you have to navigate slightly differently to get there, but you keep colliding along the way, choose the same toilet, and blow chunks all over the same dirty bowl.

    Sure, there are tons of holes in this possibility, but consider it. Though each body may need to adjust itself to a unique perspective, the mind would issue the same high-level commands simultaneously. To get Freudian, each body would have a unique id (“the part of the psyche, residing in the unconscious, that is the source of instinctive impulses that seek satisfaction in accordance with the pleasure principle and are modified by the ego and the superego before they are given overt expression.”). However, there would be only one ego.

    Food for thought…


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  35. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Interesting. But I think we would eventually diverge into two very different people. Let’s say I live my life as normal, but my clone for some reason ends up on the street. He’s homeless, penniless and alone.

    When we meet two years later, he will likely be a very different person than me. So the question is – were we really the same person to begin with?

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  36. jambarama UNITED STATES K-Meleon Windows Terminalist says:

    Not to bring an old thread up from dead, but have you looked into quantum suicide & immortality?

    Basically it is this. When you look at a proton, to determine its actual affect you can’t simply look at the path it took, but at the average of all possible paths. This suggests that each time a choice, each one happens, reality is the average of these options. In a certain way the future affects the present. That is a portion of quantum mechanics, and some prominent theoretical physicists recently suggested this phenomenon could prevent the LHC from ever functioning at top power level. Paper is here.

    Quantum suicide & immortality is a sci-fi spin on this. Basically that each time something could’ve killed you, it probably did in another universe of sorts. You will go on living forever until you’ve been killed in all possible situations, because if you’re killed in a universe you’re gone – you are only aware of what goes on in the the universes where you survive.

    Ok that doesn’t do justice to it, but check it out.

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  37. Luke: Your dual Captain Kirk idea was actually done in a TNG episode with Will Riker. His transporter beam reflected and made two Rikers. The one they decided was the copy took on the name “Tom Riker” and went off on his own thing. Cool episode.

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  38. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Chris Wellons: This idea was also explored by Farscape where the John Crichton got “twinned” – the problem was that both copies considered themselves to be the original. To make the situation easier on the other crew members (and the viewers) one of them agreed to temporarily wear an ugly green shirt. Hence it became canonical to refer to them as “The Black-T Crichton” and “The Green Shirt Crichton”

    The writers then split the crew for almost half a season with each of the copies following their own path. One of the copies found love, inner peace and eventually died as a hero. The other became more jaded, and tittered closer and closer to insanity.

    It was interesting, but most of us considered it to just be an elaborate ploy to mercilessly tease the shippers, and to be able to kill off the main hero of the show and shamelessly milk it for all the melodrama and angst without actually pulling off one of these “it was all a dream” bullshit moves.

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  39. katoxidl CZECH REPUBLIC Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    There are worse things in life ;) – just play with your smartphone or whatever and don’t pay attention. They’ll get there eventually.

    I actually suffered more when _a programmer_ fired up his Norton Commander (yeah, a bit dated memory but as you can see it stuck badly) and then copied a bunch of files like

    … lets see (selects a file here and there using a mouse)
    … ook (navigates to menu)
    … copy…. (unbearably slowly goes rolls down through the menu)
    … and here… it seems to be alright … ah no, the target directory is wrong (manually corrects the mistake by retyping the correct dir name)
    …. ook (circling his mouse towards OK)

    and that was it! Done! As easy as could be.

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  40. katoxidl CZECH REPUBLIC Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Of course such comments happen due to interrupted consciousness problem. I guess matrix will sort it under the proper blog post.

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  41. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Imagine other scenario.
    Assuming you remove 1 brain cell and replace it with identical artificial brain cell. You would still be you, 1 brain cell does not warrant death. Then repeat that process until there’s only artificial brain cells left. Would that mean consciousness interruption?

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  42. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Liudvikas:

    Thanks. That’s actually exactly the scenario I proposed here. Gradual process could work. :)

    @ katoxidl:

    Heh… I’m guessing you were trying to post it here, no?

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  43. PeterH UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Liudvikas wrote:

    Imagine other scenario.
    Assuming you remove 1 brain cell and replace it with identical artificial brain cell. You would still be you, 1 brain cell does not warrant death. Then repeat that process until there’s only artificial brain cells left. Would that mean consciousness interruption?

    Beat me to it :) I love this subject and the short story review you linked to was brilliant.

    I don’t have a comprehensive knowledge on any of the following but they’re all things that float around in my head when trying to work out things such as: “what makes us human?”, “how to create AI from very fundamental building blocks that mimic evolution from single celled organisms” and “what is God?”. All these things are closely linked from my point of view and I like Bhudist philosophies that God is everywhere, in the same way that everything is (alegidly) made from energy.

    I simply think that the thing that makes us human, that gives us that edge that makes us try the seemigly futile sollution rather than face defeat, is some really small entity that’s in everything (probably including non biological things such as computers or rock just it doesn’t have the interface to be conveyed to us in those things)

    Anyway, The main thing I’d like to throw in, which has already been touched upon, is the fact that The body you or I had 5 years ago doesn’t exist today due to a dynamic turnover of molecules and atoms that make up your body. Not that the body you had has changed somewhat but it has infact gone. Every atom that was in your body 5 years ago has been replaced whether it made up flesh, bone, blood, hair, etc. What was my heart 5 years ago may now be part of someone else, or part of the land, or who knows, and visa versa my consciousness and soul remains firmly with me though. For a little more on that the first thing I found on google was this (which I pretty much copied verbatum from)

    I have no conclusion here, I simply wanted to air some thoughts, but as a final note, what if we’re all part of a larger consciousness but don’t realise it, perhaps the planet is an organism in itself? Even with our apparent flaws such as killing each other and polluting the planet these may simply be neccesary for the planets evolution (OK I know, technically they are…)

    My apologies for the disjointed and spurious post, I’ve written inbetween doing something else, was just to excited about the whole thing to leave untill I’m not busy! :)

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  44. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Mozilla Firefox SuSE Linux says:

    Luke Maciak wrote:

    @ Liudvikas:
    Thanks. That’s actually exactly the scenario I proposed here. Gradual process could work.
    @ katoxidl:
    Heh… I’m guessing you were trying to post it here, no?

    Nice post, will have to subscribe to your blog :) But I’m already a century behind on my reading list, so immortality and increased brain capacity would help a lot :)

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  45. Coherent Bob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    “Disagree? I would love to hear a counter argument!”

    A good chunk of your memories are not actually stored in your brain – proven, but the science behind this is pretty new though. They are stored with your soul – unproven, but highly likely if the first sentence ends up being true. (Your soul is located in another dimension, but that is way beyond the scope of this counter-argument). The problem then isn’t “can you clone your memories?” But rather, “can you establish a viable link with the new body to the same soul?” You’ll lose some memories, sure, but it won’t be more than a few hours worth of data. Nothing you couldn’t re-learn from watching a (probably dull) video replay.

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  46. Matt` Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I think I want to change the line of argument I took way back when in … 2007? Seriously? Holy bugfuck I have deeply lost track of how long I’ve been reading this blog for.

    Anyway, the thing most people (old-me included) seem to get stuck on is the idea of a mind as a distinct object to be preserved, like a fluid sloshing around in amongst your neurons, and go to elaborate lengths to dream up ways to slowly pour that imaginary fluid into a computer architecture without an abrupt switch, ship-of-Theseus style. Taking a different view, a mind is a thing that an object ‘does’, not an object in itself. The arrangement of atoms in my brain gives rise to a consciousness that includes ideas like “Hey, I’m Matt” and if you created a computer emulation of my brain then the arrangement of atoms in the computer would give rise to a consciousness holding all the same ideas (and memories, and the rest).

    You could see this equivalence and conclude “It’s all okay then, the emulation is as much me as my brain ever was, euthanise the meatsack and I’ll carry on in cyberspace”. Or there’s the alternative view of “The consciousness I call my own is a non-transferable thing this particular brain is doing”.

    Hmm, I didn’t really get anywhere, my problem now is that I think they may both be right – there isn’t really anything special about these particular atoms in this particular brain, but they’re my atoms. But they don’t have little “part-of-Matt`” tags glued to them anywhere and could be traded for other atoms without effect. Man, our intuitions really aren’t set up to cope with “mind” not being an actual physical thing.

    So, taking a view of everything that exists being a result of physics in discrete timesteps, and glossing over the hard problem of consciousness… brain-at-t1 produces mind-1, brain-at-t2 produces mind-2 with memories of being mind-1, we say that mind-1 and mind-2 are the same person. If we insert computer-at-t3 which produces mind-3 with memories of being mind-2, is that really any different from using brain-at-t3 to produce mind-3?

    Personhood as continuity of memory/continuity of ‘pattern’, rather than of body or brain or specific physical substrate, anyone? Am I even making sense any more?

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  47. Chris UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    I’d suggest having a read of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. He provides a means of consciousness transference without interruption, which I would also apply to the Cylon model (but not to Doctorow’s backups). The Cylon model has a continuous consciousness which is transferred to the mothership, kept there (either in stasis or in a large IF space a la Banks) and then resumed when the next body is ready. I would only really accept that model, not one where my current body / mind duality is extinguished only to be copied elsewhere.

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