Re: Continuity of Conscious

From: micah glasser (
Date: Fri Apr 07 2006 - 13:08:30 MDT

I've often thought about this issue and have had serious questions regarding
the possibility of 'uploading' because of it. This question, of course, is
nothing new. Philosophers have been discussing what constitutes identity and
the continuity of ego/consciousness since at least Descartes. John Locke
offers a particularly good discussion of it and, in more recent times, John
Searle has discussed thought experiments in which he asks what would happen
if parts of the brain were slowly replaced with artificial hardware. Also
Edmund Husserl spent his entire genius inspired life grappling with
questions of ego continuity and the nature of subjectivity.
For my part I think I have come to a conclusion about what would happen
given the validity of certain presuppositions. If we presuppose the
functionalist theory of mind (which stipulates that the kind of hardware
that runs the algorithms of mind is irrelevant), and if we presuppose that
there is such a thing as a conscious ego that experiences a continuity of
identity in time, then I think the following argument can be made:
If an exact replication of a humans nervous system was reproduced (either
physically or virtually) including all memories and every last nuance of
function then for a single moment there would be two identical individuals.
But not really because the very moment there existed two identical
individuals (which is, of course, a logical impossibility) there would be
two individuals who shared a common past yet now had different memories (and
subsequently different brain structures making them disernible) beginning at
the point at which the two individuals diverged. So the conclusion to be
drawn from this is that if an exact replication of a mind was fabricated or
precisely simulated then there would be two different individuals who share
an ego identity past yet were now two distinct beings. I don't think there
is any contradiction inherent in this. But if the original mind was
destroyed at the moment of replication/divergence then the remaining
individual would still be a legitimate ego heir, so to speak, which would
experience a continuity of ego identity and could be said to be the same
person that previously existed in another form.
Of course one may argue against my original premises and there is certainly
room for debate there, but I would argue that given the validity of the
premises the argument I present is logically valid.
I tend to think that the most questionable aspect of uploading is the
assumption that consciousness (or qualia if you prefer) is something that
necessarily emerges from the patterns of certain physical substrate
processes and cybernetics. I think it likely that consciousness does emerge
in this manner but it is an assumption that could be wrong.

On 4/1/06, Samantha Atkins <> wrote:
> Phillip Huggan wrote:
> > You are a different individual every moment, but your core brain
> > centers responsible for emerging consciousness are 99.9999% the same,
> > not 0% as you imply. I suppose you can represent consciousness
> > digitally just like you can model weather or any *physical* system.
> > If your representation is accurate (ignoring quantum and some
> > classical inaccuracy effects for the moment), you will get an accurate
> > future prediction of the system.
> How so? To go from even a perfect model of your consciousness to
> something useful for prediction would require first of all deciding what
> context or inputs you wanted a prediction for the behavior of this
> consciousness in relation to and modeling those environmental inputs
> with sufficient fidelity. Next you would need to run the resulting
> system at sufficient speed to get an answer in a time frame where it is
> presumably useful.
> > But a future model of the system isn't the actual future system
> > because those little binary ones and zeroes you are using for
> > modelling, actually represent real *physical* properties. Mass,
> > electromagnetic forces, gravity, quantum wavefront evolutions, etc.
> > That little sunshine button the cute weather girl points to when
> > referring to tomorrow's sunny forecast, isn't an actual star. The
> > physical properties our brains harness to give us awareness, are very
> > different than are silicon logic gates being flip-flopped by electrons.
> >
> > I am much more than a collection of data and algorithms. What you are
> > referring to is software. My brain is hardware. It runs off of
> > multiverse *physics*, not Windows.
> >
> At bottom it may all be seen as just interacting patterns, i.e.,
> information. Don't worry. No one here wants to simulate you on
> Windows. That would be truly EVIL. :-)
> - samantha

I swear upon the alter of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny
over the mind of man. - Thomas Jefferson

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