Re: physics of uploading minds

From: Michael Wilson (
Date: Sat Oct 29 2005 - 01:36:47 MDT

Phillip Huggan <> wrote:
> One's personal identity cannot float around to any space-time
> coordinates it pleases.

Why? What fundamental reason for there is this as long as the
informational/computational constraints are met? A digital sentient
AI can be losslessly moved from hardware to hardware and duplicated,
does a minute amount of quantum information loss for analogue
substrates, or none at all if the transfer is incremental in certain
ways, make any difference?

As far as I can see this is a case of human intution about people
and physical objects being misapplied (indeed, creating the wrong
mindset to proceed from) to a reality that is actually quite remote
from the everyday experience of a paleolithic human. This isn't
uncommon in science and is particularly common in cognitive science,
yet somehow people still expect their intuitive notions about
consiousness to be more accurate than their intuitive notions
about biology or cosmology. They aren't - they're worse, because
evolution expended a lot more optimisation pressure on producing
fitness-generating but reflectively inconsistent and objectively
wrong cognitive structre here. The results of trying to figure out
this mess, proceeding from the false assumption that it's absolute
truth that just needs to be formalised somehow, has historically
constituted the majort portion of what we call philosophy. How this
persists after so many cognitive science experiments have shown
conscious experience to be an unreliable and nonunitary post-hoc
confabulation I'm not sure. Ironically one of the possibilities
opened by the Singularity may well be for humans to redesign our
actual cognitive architecture to more closely resemble the cognitive
architecture suggested by our reflective intuitions (Egan's
excellent 'Schild's Ladder' had an amusing example of this).

> The abstract thought experiments equating identical patterns with
> identical identities are neat, but fall apart as soon as physics
> is invoked. In both scenarios below, your upload has a separate
> ontological existence.

You have yet to establish either the ontological primitiveness of
consciousness or how it maps onto physics. For example, you have
yet to establish a link between time-space co-ordinates or substrate
in general and 'youness'; if the cognition is similar enough to
produce indistinguishable objective and subjective results, how are
any other factors going to make any difference to the identity of
the conscious entity?

 * Michael Wilson

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