X-Message-Number: 11053
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 1999 11:46:07 EST
Subject: questions

Michael Schepps (#11046) has questions on uploading and criteria of
survival, in particular the case where your stored version has not been
fully updated when you die.  

This is only one of many thought experiments which produce questions but
not answers, and which frequently thrust in opposite directions.  

Many people currently would probably say that you "survive" (more or less)
if a reasonably accurate and reasonably updated copy of you is produced,
either in meat or in silicon; and also if you are alive after cryostasis
and thawing. This is plausible, but far from proven.  

1. The whole "information paradigm" is plausible but unproven. Isomorphism
is not necessarily everything. Your "information" could in principle be
recorded in a book on paper, but it is surely a stretch to imagine that
the existence of that book would equate with your survival.  

2. We don't even know yet whether it is possible in principle for silicon
to have feelings. Until we understand the anatomy/physiology of
subjectivity, we will not know whether the essential aspects of the
mechanisms can be duplicated or instantiated on an inorganic substrate.
After all, for example, there is (apparently) nothing whatever that can in
ALL respects substitute for a carbon atom. Neither is there any assurance
that, in an inorganic medium, ALL of the essential functions of
life-as-we-know-it (LAWKI) can exist.  

3. The Turing-test arguments are total nonsense. It is easy to show that
passing a "Turing Test" is neither necessary nor sufficient to prove
humanity or awareness.  

4. Would even an exact physical duplicate of you "be" "you" and would its
survival constitute "your" survival? Various thought experiments provide
"proof" either way. But you couldn't get me into a beam-me-up machine.  

5. Suppose you die in an accident, and somehow a "duplicate" of you is
later created--not as you were, but as you might have become, many years
later, had you not died in the accident. Have "you" survived?  

6. Suppose, after your death, a duplicate is created--not as you were at
time of death, but as you were as a child. Would you say that the child
has survived, but that "you" have mostly died?  

7. Some of the "paradoxes" of continuity have not been solved. As Mike
Perry recently noted, if time is quantized and we "live" as a succession
of separate and distinct (even if slightly blurred) states, it is somewhat
unclear whether the existence of a successor constitutes "your" survival.
Surely survival involves time-binding in some sense, and so probably does
awareness itselfCould a system in a fixed and unchanging state feel
anything? It hardly seems so; but if feelings must span intervals of
time--more than one distinct state--then again many questions are raised
that we are not yet prepared to answer.  

8. Our motivation apparently is entirely future-oriented, since the past
and present are (probably) beyond our influence. Yet again uncomfortable
questions arise. In the distant future, "you" may resemble your present
self less than you now resemble a fish ancestor, and you may have
jettisoned your ancient memories as trivial and irrelevant. We want to
improve without limit, but to what extent improvement is compatible with
"survival" is far from clear.  

9. Quantum questions are relevant and highly uncertain. (!) If we really
do live in a "multiverse" with vast numbers of near-duplicates of
ourselves, questions proliferate almost as fast as the variations. (I hope
the "multiverse" proves false, because the implications seem grisly. If
"anything" and "everything" actually happens--to you!--this is surely a
tragedy beyond imagining, because only a tiny subset of the possibilities
are happy ones, Omega Point notwithstanding….Of course, the universe need
not be user- friendly; almost all species, and almost all individuals,
have come to miserable ends; and arguably most of them have experienced a
preponderance of pain over pleasure.)  

All this, again, just scratches the surface. My present book in progress
attempts to clarify the picture. I am still guardedly optimistic, and
still think cryostasis offers a very good chance for life and the pursuit
of happiness.  

Robert Ettinger Cryonics Institute Immortalist Society

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