X-Message-Number: 10358
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:18:47 EDT
Subject: "Self" defined by personality?

Thomas Donaldson (cryonet #10348) wrote:

>You also say something which quite bewilders me. Sure, others may know
this too. But just how do Tipler and Moravec believe that they can
resurrect someone on the basis of no information about who or what they
were like? 

Tipler didn't go into detail on this, but my impression is that he and Moravec
believe that the essential part of a person is his personality profile (and
the number of possible personality profiles is far less than the number of
possible personal histories). Thomas and many others believe memory is the
central feature of the individual. I don't completely agree with either, but I
can see a degree of merit in Tipler's apparent suggestion. (Incidentally, I
think Max More said the individual is defined by his values, which I think is
pretty far off base too.) 

How could a person be defined by personality profile, with memories immaterial
over a wide range? Easily enough, I think, if we are not rigorous (and I know
of no one who has offered a rigorous discussion accompanied by even a semi-
firm conclusion). 

First, there is no consensus whatever on criteria of survival. Of course we
want the person revived or reconstituted to be closely similar to one of his
previous selves, preferably (usually) to what he was when he last lost
consciousness. But if some memories are lost or changed, many would not regard
that as annihilation. Amnesiacs (of many varieties) are usually regarded as
the same people.

Let us suppose that a sufficiently detailed, fine-grained personality profile
can develop only through a genome and a life experience very narrowly
constrained. Now, suppose that (somehow) on revival or reconstitution your
memories are all changed--but changed only in immaterial ways, within the
aforementioned constraints. Your remembered relatives might have different
names, but they would have to be very similar people. Your remembered career
would have different details, but its psychologically important features would
be the same. If you were reunited with your historical family, after a bit of
initial confusion you would fit right in; both you and they would be happy.

No, I don't buy this; I merely point out that it has a degree of merit.
Neither do I buy the argument of Tipler and many others that a precise
physical duplicate is "you." I don't totally reject it; I simply note that it
remains an unproven hypothesis or plausible conjecture. Necessary and
sufficient conditions for survival have yet to be demonstrated--a central
unresolved issue of philosophy. (The "self circuit" or
anatomical/physiological basis of subjectivity is involved.)

As a practical matter, the obvious priorities are, first, to stay animate as
long as you can; and, second, to arrange to preserve your carcass with minimum
damage if you should be so careless as to croak before the anti-senescence

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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