Re: physics of uploading minds

From: Martin Striz (
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 14:06:58 MST

There seems to be an extremist view, originating in Eastern thought,
but growing in popularity in the Western academic world, that the mind
is a set of continuously evolving processes (which it is) that has
little or no relationship to its past states. These processes are
essentially a new consciousness from moment to moment. In this
extreme view, I literally am a new consciousness each day, having
merely inherited the memories of events experienced by other
consciousnesses earlier in time. Of course, my physical body and
brain were there for those events, but my brain was instantiating a
different consciousness than the one writing this e-mail. All my
friends are brand spanking new minds as well, having no relationship
to the people that my Yesterday's Mind talked to. We all live under
the illusion of continuous consciousness (or identity) simply because
it doesn't matter. As long as today's consciousness keeps my genes
alive for today, it has served its purpose.

However, in this extreme view, uploading is pointless. You might as
well build a mind sim and blow your brains out. You won't exist
tomorrow anyway, because it would just be another consciousness that
has inherited memories of your experiences today. So you might as
well build the mind sim, kill yourself and let it continue living your
life with your memories. It will quickly convince your friends (their
future instantiations at least) that it's you.

This is a very neat and sophisticated theory of mind. I also think
that it is profoundly and dangerously wrong. It arises when we
conflate "self" with "identity." Yes, there is no physical nexus of
the self. It is an abstraction created by the internal narrative.
The self, then, evolves as thought patterns and the internal narrative
evolves. However a mind can lack a self while having a specific
identity. A self is an abstraction, but a mind is physical system in
the universe and therefore, by necessity, has a unique set of
spacetime coordinates. A mind is a thermodynamic system constituting
both structure and function. A mind in general doesn't need to be on
a neural substrate, functioning through action potential patterns, but
it must (IMHO) be on some substrate, performing some thermodynamic

You can't just ignore that. You can't just make replicates. You have
to conserve some level of the original system or it isn't that system.


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