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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12

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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
The notion of “take possession of” new materials is arbitrary. We could mimic this in the copying process.
The problem with the above is that mimicking is done by another process altogether. No cells of the copy have come into being as a result of originals dividing or by being built by the original system. The only arbitrariness about that fact is that it is a truth that cannot simply be hand waved. If we cannot consider ourselves as us because our raw materials came from elsewhere, then nobody is anybody. We're all just part of the Big Bang.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Thought experiment two:

ufology contends that personhood stems from the biological substrate.

John is put into the machine, it buzzes and shakes and belches: a moment later our steps a human that looks nothing like John and has none of johns memories, personality, etc. however this person consists of all of johns cells/atoms.

in the next room, a perfect biological copy of John steps out of the chamber. He has all of johns physical attributes, mannerisms, memories, iq, personality, etc.

Which one is John the person?
The point I made above about raw materials answers this puzzle.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Before you answer!

A copy of moby dick is put into a chamber. Out pops a copy of les mis.

meanwhile a copy of moby dick is brought into the room by a man named John.

which book is moby dick? Moby dick or les mis?
The puzzle is solved by deconflating the concepts of books and stories. A book is only the means by which the story is carried. A copy of you might be able to carry on your original story, even if they aren't the original you.
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
The puzzle is solved by deconflating the concepts of books and stories. A book is only the means by which the story is carried. A copy of you might be able to carry on your original story, even if they aren't the original you.
And that’s the crux of what is import.

Is personhood identified with “the means by which the story is carried” or is identified with “the story.”

You are arguing that personhood is identified with the former. I think most people would agree with you. However this may be a folk understanding of personhood and identity.

I’m arguing that if/when copying of persons ever becomes ubiquitous, we would see that personhood is about the “story” not the vehicle of the story.

But so long as persons remain tethered to their “birth” bodies, we will continue to equate personhood with the body.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
And that’s the crux of what is import.
It's the crux with books. Not so much with people.
Is personhood identified with “the means by which the story is carried” or is identified with “the story.”
Personhood, as was outlined in the Why Afterlives Are Impossible Newsletter piece, makes it clear that with humans, our physical bodies constitute a significant portion of our identity, and by extension, our personhood. The role that our physical systems play in personality is also very substantial. Our physical selves are therefore highly underrated, if not offhandedly hand waved by believers in stereotypical afterlives. Our physical selves are the authors of our stories. In the book analogy, we are books that write themselves.
You are arguing that personhood is identified with the former. I think most people would agree with you. However this may be a folk understanding of personhood and identity.
The role our physical selves plays is more than simply the existence of our physical material. It is the role that the structures of our physical selves play in creating and moderating virtually everything that makes us who we are. The only thing it doesn't affect is our history.
I’m arguing that if/when copying of persons ever becomes ubiquitous, we would see that personhood is about the “story” not the vehicle of the story. But so long as persons remain tethered to their “birth” bodies, we will continue to equate personhood with the body.
There's a subtle difference here in the context of the discussion, and it's easy to let the goalposts unintentionally slide just enough for it to slip by undetected. I'm not contending that the sort of copy you describe wouldn't be a person. The sort of copy you describe would indeed be a person in almost every respect that you and I thinks matters.

However because of the break in continuity between the original and the copy, they would not be the same person. They would not have the same mother or father. Their birth parent would be a copy machine. There could be a lot of social and psychological consequences because of that. In my view, if we are to live and remain who we are, the continuity of all we are must be preserved.

And again, for the reasons already stated, the replacement of raw materials at the atomic level doesn't affect that continuity because it's our own systems that are creating and maintaining us, not some external device ( at least that we know of ). Perhaps we out to revisit that in further detail if you think there's some flaw in the reasoning there.
 
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Soupie

Paranormal Adept
However because of the break in continuity between the original and the copy, they would not be the same person.
They could be the same person, but two different bodies. Hard for us to see now, but in a universe where copying and modifying were ubiquitous, it would be easier to see.

You suggest (a) that personhood is identified with the body, and (b) the continuity of the body through time grounds this claim.

I suggest (a) that personhood should be be identified with the pattern embodied by the body at any given point in time, and (b) this is due to the fact that there is no continuity of the body through time, only the (dynamic) pattern.

The physical material of our bodies is constantly being recycled. Furthermore, according to QFT, our most rigorous and accurate model of reality:


Even particles themselves, like electrons, are just excited states of a quantum field. Every particle in the Universe, as we understand it, is a ripple, or excitation, or bundle-of-energy, of the underlying quantum field. This is true for the quarks, the gluons, the Higgs boson, and for all the other particles of the Standard Model.
This means that at the most fundamental level, there is zero continuity of physical substrate. Our bodies, as complex as they are, are akin to waves moving through a medium (in this case, a non-classical medium, but a medium nonetheless).

A wave has no physical continuity (in the sense we have been discussing); it is a pattern embodied by a liquid medium. To sharpen this analogy, we could imagine a wave moving through a water medium into an oil medium. The wave would continue despite being embodied in a different physical medium.

To your point about our bodies taking in external atoms and absorbing them; I could argue that there is a causal continuity between my body, the copy machine, and the new body. All connected causally, thus continuity maintained. Where we draw the line with such physical/causal continuity is arbitrary.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I suggest (a) that personhood should be be identified with the pattern embodied by the body at any given point in time, and (b) this is due to the fact that there is no continuity of the body through time, only the (dynamic) pattern.
I disagree. Given what you said earlier, I believe you are also still playing Devil's advocate, and are making some really good points, but I don't yet see them as sufficient to outweigh the situation as I've outlined it. Specifically, where original cells make copies of themselves or use materials that are ours, a very strong case for continuity can be made.

The alternative boils down to assuming there is never any continuity of anything other than the universe as a whole beginning with the Big Bang. In other words everything we're made of came from the stars, likely the products of some supernova. If at some point we don't claim those raw materials as ours, then we never become persons physically, and if we never become persons physically, there can be no pattern of a person to copy.

We can plainly see from this fact, that there are only two possibilities. At some point the raw materials either must become a person, or there are no persons, only the continuity of Big Bangs > stars > supernovas & planets. Given that we accept that at some point raw materials become persons, then we can trace when and where that happens all the way back to conception. However we cannot do that with a copy.
The physical material of our bodies is constantly being recycled. Furthermore, according to QFT, our most rigorous and accurate model of reality:
This means that at the most fundamental level, there is zero continuity of physical substrate. Our bodies, as complex as they are, are akin to waves moving through a medium (in this case, a non-classical medium, but a medium nonetheless).

A wave has no physical continuity (in the sense we have been discussing); it is a pattern embodied by a liquid medium. To sharpen this analogy, we could imagine a wave moving through a water medium into an oil medium. The wave would continue despite being embodied in a different physical medium.
All the above is taken into account with the preceding explanation.
To your point about our bodies taking in external atoms and absorbing them; I could argue that there is a causal continuity between my body, the copy machine, and the new body. All connected causally, thus continuity maintained. Where we draw the line with such physical/causal continuity is arbitrary.
I don't think "arbitrary" is necessarily fitting. There is a big difference between being causally connected by a common external situation, and being causally connected by an internal situation.

Perhaps here we can use the analogy of a torch relay. In such a race there is continuity of the torch throughout the time and distance of the race by the team that is in custody of the torch. All meaning for the race would disappear if the torch could simply be copied and handed to the team member at the end of the race.

Also, the importance of parentage was completely overlooked. The person who was given birth by the copy machine cannot possibly be the same person the original's mother gave birth to. There is no physical internal continuity or connection whatsoever. There is only a facsimile.

Perhaps however, and maybe you will find this interesting, if the copy machine was complex enough to create an original person, then we'd have a whole other scenario, especially if the copy machine was networked. Right? I would argue that such a situation would essentially be the creation of a new race altogether, and then I think your argument would be very difficult or even impossible to dispute. Great discussion !
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
This may indeed be the case. Personhood like so many things may simply be a human concept.
Indeed. But then that also makes it of value to humans, and we humans also tend to think some concepts are more important or carry more substance than others. I wonder how an alien might look at the situation. Would they even have any notion of individuality or personhood? This seems to be a central theme in Star Trek's battle with The Borg. In the Star Trek Universe, individuality and personhood are highly prized, even worth dying for, because to lose it, is seen as nearly equivalent to death. And yet they use transporters as if there's no consequences ( lol ).
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
The key to answering the concerns above is in the usage of the word "I". Its use implies a continuity of personhood when no such continuity has taken place. For example, when you say, "If I do 'wake up' on planet y, what I would know is that 'I' on planet earth was destroyed ..." The actuality is that you will not wake up on planet y because you are dead. The word "I" is not interchangeable, because whatever ( or whoever ) does wake up on planet y after your death, is not you.

Perhaps if your copy attended your funeral, and could see you lying dead in your casket, they would accept that they obviously cannot be you, and are only a very good copy. What's more, they can never know for certain just how good a copy they are. For all your copy knows, some clever hacker may have inserted some hidden patterns into his makeup that make him very different than you. How would he even know?
You have, as my high school history professor would say...a firm grasp of the obvious! ;-) The copy would know it's a copy as soon as it awakes on the planet, given that I (the original me) agreed to be "teleported" and assuming I understood the process, as the copy would know everything I do up until the point I lose consciousness.
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
Indeed. But then that also makes it of value to humans, and we humans also tend to think some concepts are more important or carry more substance than others. I wonder how an alien might look at the situation. Would they even have any notion of individuality or personhood? This seems to be a central theme in Star Trek's battle with The Borg. In the Star Trek Universe, individuality and personhood are highly prized, even worth dying for, because to lose it, is seen as nearly equivalent to death. And yet they use transporters as if there's no consequences ( lol ).
Leonard-Bones-McCoy-Star-Trek-DeForest-Kelley.jpg

The mad fools!
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
Do we grieve for our old self now?

I wonder if we would even have the intuition to grieve. I think for the copy it won’t feel (intuitively) as if the original died. You would feel like the original. As you say, like waking from sleep. Or as I said, it may even be smoother than waking from sleep.

no, I don’t think we’d feel grief. Grief wouldn’t seem appropriate. (But maybe intellectually.)
"Do we grieve for our old self now?" Yes, we do. I have and I know others who have. It is entirely appropriate. After all, a great guy is gone! What I would do now to have a friend like me! Seriously, the person who had the most in common with you is now dead...if nothing else it is the ultimate reminder of your own mortality ... by the way it is also entirely appropriate to grieve for your own forthcoming death. After all, no one will say nicer things about you when you do die.

LOL How in the world would you know how the copy would feel??

Over the short term it might well feel much as the original had. The copy would know, as I have said, in many cases that it was not the original, because it would know everything the original did up until it loses consciousness, so when the copy wakes up and finds it is on the planet the copy was to be transported to, it could make a reasonable guess it is that copy. It would also know it is however old the original was at the time of teleport and so could only expect to live a part of a normal human lifespan. You can argue that it has its memories but the instant it realizes it is a copy, it might well feel as though it is its own person, what do the memories have to do with the copy?? With all this new technology, I (the copy) want those memories OUT and I want a full lifespan, I had no say in my coming into being, my copy agreed to all of this, I didn't because I didn't EXIST at the time that agreement was made. And further, I'm not going to do that crappy repair job in planet y? Why? Because I want to be a POET! That's why!
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
?
I suppose the person/body planning to be copied (which would probably be for the purpose of star travel) could agree to be destroyed. But then it would be suicide, not murder.

And why should they? They could enjoy life on earth and their copy could enjoy life among the stars. Sure, some trickery could certainly happen, but there would have to be safeguards.
"And why should they?"

I don't know - you said the process involved destruction and that only one entity was conscious at a time. It's your hypothetical!

And no, you can't agree to be destroyed - you can't contract basic human rights away. I know this from:

1) law school
2) fighting in the Tough Man contest where you have to sign a waiver, parts of which, at the time anyway, wouldn't strictly hold up in court.
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
The issue of dying for your future self may not be entirely trivial. Afterlives of this sort may be the actual state of affairs. We don't know for sure. So as I said in the Why Afterlives Are Impossible thesis, it may be beneficial to treat ourselves well while we live, so as to give our afterlife copies a better standing. This leads into some interesting notions about the morality of self-destructive behavior.

Because nobody else has hit upon it yet, I'm also going to restate the the sort of loophole I had alluded to earlier in the thread. What are the ramifications for this subject if time itself is quantized? In other words if what we experience as analog continuity is actually more like Planck time, where every moment is discreet, like the frames of a movie film?

The upshot would seem to be that we are always copies, each one slightly different than the one before, which would seem to mean that the whole notion of originals and continuity goes out the window. After all, if ten to the 43 power copies of you just popped into and out of existence in the last second, why should more copies be of any concern? I call this a "sort of loophole" because I think there are still issues. Or are there?
I actually did mention that - in the reference to Buddhism above.
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
There is no continuity of substrate, either in the case of a normal lifetime or teleportation. The only difference is the time of substrate turnover.

Hell, if quantum fields are truly fundamental, and particles are akin to waves/perturbations in this non-classical substrate, the whole notion of substrate continuity goes completely out the window. A wave is a process, not a static, unchanging thing.

We don’t need this addition of the potential discreetness of time to have us question the continuity of the substrate embodying persons.

But there IS a continuity. What is continuous to a degree that matters, is the pattern of the person.

This isn’t really apparent now because we don’t have copies of this pattern running about (unlike books and films and paintings, etc) but some day we might. And the notion of what a person is will change accordingly.
How is the continuity of the pattern more continuous than that of the substrate? How is the "degree that matters" determined? I would say the degree that matters is much higher than that for a book...no one wants a bad copy of themselves running around.

In ordinary sleep and aging, the pattern itself is affected because the substrate is affected, even with error checking and correction.

If you say the copy is perfect, you claim either perfect knowledge, or a perfect error checking process, but if you posit a perfect error correcting process, you are positing error correcting, which allows error in ... if error is in, then it is in the error correcting process, so that throws perfect knowledge out, we can only have a certain level of confidence in the amount of error we have made. If we did have a perfect copy, we wouldn't know it. Therefore on both pattern and material, the person on planet y is a new person, not a copy.

So far, copying people doesn't seem to have any advantages, whether or not they are destroyed.
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
Thought experiment two:

ufology contends that personhood stems from the biological substrate.

John is put into the machine, it buzzes and shakes and belches: a moment later our steps a human that looks nothing like John and has none of johns memories, personality, etc. however this person consists of all of johns cells/atoms.

in the next room, a perfect biological copy of John steps out of the chamber. He has all of johns physical attributes, mannerisms, memories, iq, personality, etc.

Which one is John the person?
But the pattern depends on the material, the pattern determines the structure of the substrate which then determines the continuity of the pattern - both of which drift over time ... or do you argue the pattern is stored somewhere else? Chalmers argues substrate independence but structural dependence, so the organization matters, but we don't know, the silicone copy of me might say "I feel funny!"
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
Before you answer!

A copy of moby dick is put into a chamber. Out pops a copy of les mis.

meanwhile a copy of moby dick is brought into the room by a man named John.

which book is moby dick? Moby dick or les mis?
Trick question, neither. One is a copy of Moby Dick, the other used to be a copy of Moby Dick. I have no idea where Moby Dick itself is, probably in a museum.
 
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