X-Message-Number: 12039
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: comments about what deRivas said: our sense of self is important
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 23:40:07 +1000 (EST)

Hi everyone!

This message is touched off by deRivas' message in the Cryonet to which
I am responding. In his message deRivas seemed to think that the concept
of "self" is not important to cryonics.

Here's why I think it is very important: when we are suspended, certainly
with present methods and quite possibly for future methods of some time
yet, we want OURSELVES to be revived. Since irreparable damage may occur
to some parts of our brain, it's natural to ask whether or not (even if
we learn how to revive that damaged brain) the person in that brain will
believe that he/she has actually revived.

There is actual scientific work going on now to try to work out by
experiment the brain locations involved in selfhood. My own guess is that
our sense of self involves interaction between particular centers in our
lower brain and the rest of our cortex. Those centers may or may not
be individual to us, but probably are not (if so, then their destruction
just MAY mean nothing at all for our revival as individual selves: just
replace them before revival). 

Just how many centers in the cortex are needed to make us feel that we
are the same person as before remains an open question, and the exact
centers may differ with the individual. For instance, if I am a pianist
and lose those centers in which my abilities with the piano are stored,
I may feel that I have lost something so central to my selfhood that
I am no longer the same person. Someone who is not a pianist might lose
the same centers (though they are probably not so large or extended)
and feel that he or she has been completely revived. In one sense our
memories (of all the many kinds of memory we have) are vital to our
selfhood; but some may be more vital than others.

Note that the pianist may lose his/her SKILLS with the piano without
losing his/her memory of being a pianist and playing many complex pieces.
This could happen because we do have several different kinds of memory,
and loss of one kind does not imply loss of the others. And unlike the 
cases of brain injury happening today, the necessary brain centers might
be completely restored --- but such a pianist would still have to relearn
how to play the piano.

And all these considerations are important, both for someone who chooses
cryonics and for the problem of reviving someone. Whatever else we might
do, we want to revive as much of the brain cortex as possible. And not
only that: it turns out, strange to say, that our CEREBELLUM deals not
just with coordination but holds some kinds of memory too. So that revival
of as much of our cerebellum as possible also may be needed. Our
hippocampus, on the other hand, may not play a lasting role in
preservation of any kind of memory, and thus its complete loss may mean

And so, if we wish to repair those already suspended, and probably many
who will be suspended in the future, we'll need to understand just how
our brains create a self and how to do as much as possible to restore

I don't wish to bang drums here, but this one just begs to be banged:
scientific work on how our sense of selfhood works is one of the issues
just philosophical musings. The idea that we could only do philosophy 
on this subject disappeared with Skinner.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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