X-Message-Number: 11095
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 22:27:45 EST
Subject: too fuzzy

Joe Strout has again given us a thumbnail of the "fuzzy logic" or quantitative
approach to the question of criteria of survival--a sufficiently close
duplicate of you "is" you, and a version of lesser fidelity is partly you.
Another comment or two on the weaknesses of this view:

(A preliminary aside: the uploaders, of whom I get the impression Mr. Strout
is one, go further. They claim that you are essentially an abstraction, your
essence being in information and its processing. Although a physical
instantiation is necessary for implementation, any medium will do; isomorphism
is everything. Thus "you" or partly-you could "live" in countless forms
simultaneously. [Aside to the aside: David Deutsch claims a Turing "universal"
computer is not really universal, because it is classical rather than quantum,
and would take longer than the age of the universe to do quantum computations.
This suggests (cf. Penrose) that a classical computer could not be a person,
even if the other objections did not exist.])  

First, the fuzzies need to spell out WHICH qualities or quantities are
important for duplication of essence. As far as I can tell, there are only two
serious candidates. One is memory, broadly understood to include such things
as personality and habits; everybody recognizes this. The other is the self
circuit or subjective circuit, the part or aspect of the brain or its
functions that allows or constitutes feeling (qualia); few recognize this as a
separate consideration.

Second, if they agree with Mr. Strout that duplicates are me, but nevertheless
feel I need not ever make any sacrifices for those other instantiations of me,
they should explain why. I am constantly making at least small sacrifices for
my future self--why not even major sacrifices, if necessary, for a possible
host of other selves?

Third, we can go back to the most obvious problem--an instant show-stopper for
most people, as someone on this list recently remarked . "I am HERE; that
person over THERE, no matter how similar, must be someone else. If a bee
stings him, I will not feel it, even though I may empathize. If he dies, I
still live and do not feel diminished. If I am about to die, the prospect of
him living on will not console me."

Mr. Strout apparently would answer that this reaction is born of ignorance,
cultural inertia, lack of experience with duplicates. But we have plenty of
experience with partial duplicates. Every other person--indeed, every dog and
cat--is pretty similar to me in many ways, so aren't they all "partly" me,
despite the sometimes very low fidelity?  (Some Oriental philosophers say yes,
you share identity with every living being.)

Philosophers of antiquity thought they could unriddle the universe just by
cogitation--a few years of observing life, plus a few thousand man-hours of
deep contemplation. They underestimated the problem. We needed--and probably
still need--trillions of man-hours of work plus quadrillions of dollars worth
of new gadgets, at minimum. That is not a cause for pessimism--just a reminder
that we can simply acknowledge that we are temporarily stymied in the search
for reliable criteria of survival, and press forward on both experimental and
theoretical fronts, meanwhile placing our bets and doing the best we can. The
mark of maturity is serenity in the face of uncertainty.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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