Re: physics of uploading minds

From: Heartland (
Date: Sat Oct 29 2005 - 13:43:00 MDT

> On 10/29/05, Heartland <> wrote:
>> With that in mind, if we replace the word "identity" with "life and
>> identity/brain structure" it should be obvious why [brain extraction and
>> replacement] leads
>> to unsuccessful uploading (death of the original) while [a Moravec
>> transfer]
>> preserves
>> both life and identity/brain structure of the original.
>> The threshold in this case isn't the preserved percentage of the original
>> brain structure but whether the whole system comprised of old and new
>> substrate lost, at any point, the potential to generate single
>> mind-producing activity of matter in space-time. In the first case, the
>> system lost that potential (died) while, in the second case, that
>> potential
>> existed at all times during the transfer.
> I don't agree with this. You're saying that there's something special
> about a configuration of matter that has the *potential* to generate
> thought. But, even a rock probably has the potential to generate
> thought, with the proper reconfiguration. A computer, more obviously
> so. Even a freshly removed brain has the potential to generate thought
> again if the disconnected nerve cords are reconnected to some other
> form of input (and blood flow is supplied). This "potential" you speak
> of isn't binary, but a scale. Perhaps a measure of potential is in the
> number of man-hours of effort it would take to restore or create the
> mind activity?

My last paragraph mentioned "potential" to generate mind-producing activity
of matter in the context of uploading/mind transfer. When you say that,
"even a rock probably has the potential to generate
thought, with the proper reconfiguration," you are probably right in general
but if you examine the same statement within the context of mind transfer
then a rock doesn't have that potential. Let me explain.

Uploading must start with a functional mind to be transferred and finish
with the same mind at the end of the procedure. You cannot start with a rock
and upload it in a way that it becomes a mind. Even though a rock might be
reconfigured into a mind sometime in the future, the only thing that is
relevant to the procedure is the state of mind-producing matter before,
during, and after transfer ends and in this context the rock wasn't a
mind-producing matter before the transfer.

> Furthermore, the idea that continuity of consciousness--even with this
> "potential" complication thrown in--is a useful concept with regards
> to identity was thoroughly addressed by my earlier post. Do you
> disagree with my earlier post, or do you think that the "potential"
> concept works around the difficulties I presented?

I disagree with your views presented earlier because they assume that
successful uploading requires merely preserving identity which you seem to
ground in brain structure. (I hope this describes your views correctly).
While personal identity indeed depends, more or less, on brain structure,
treating that structure as the container that sufficiently captures the
essence of human existence, therefore, the only thing needed to transfer in
order to end up with an original mind when uploading finishes, ignores the
fact that life consists of something more than neuronal pattern. That
"something" is what I personally call "presence" (to separate from slightly
misleading terms like "consciousness" and "life") and define it simply as a
mind-producing activity of matter in space-time.

Why presence is so important? It's because that's the true essence of human
existence, the stuff that allows us to be, feel, hear, see and think. A
static record of brain structure that describes identity and which doesn't
engage in presence means subjective experience of nothingness for the owner
of that record, aka, death. The main objective for uploading transfer should
be then to do it in a way that preserves presence, not necessarily identity.
While preservation of identity is still highly desirable, it is optional
while preservation of presence isn't. If the priorities were reversed,
would-be uploads might fall victims to, what I call, a "silent holocaust"
where all the original minds that were ever uploaded would experience
subjective death.

Finally, to answer your last question, the "potential" I wrote about earlier
just an auxiliary concept for the main idea of presence in its relation to
identity and preservation of life during uploading. It is the concept of
presence, not the potential to generate a single presence, that IMO solves
philosophical problems that come up during similar discussions. The
potential is there simply to account for a situation where uploading process


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