X-Message-Number: 14136
From: "Brook Norton" <>
Subject: survival and continuity, the present-moment self
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 13:17:55 -0700

I seems to me that "survival" has real meaning but does not necessarily
imply that some special quality or soul or absolute identity is continued
through time.  Survival, to me, in the common usage applied to living
entities, simply means that the entity is not changed in such a way as to
preclude further life functions (breathing, eating, etc).  Further, within
cryonics we often extend survival to mean that the changes in an entity are
not so great as to destroy memories.  But all of these definitions are
strained and have very gray areas.  For example, how much memory loss
constitutes loss of survival?  If I upload and stop breathing or eating,
surely I still survive, etc.  So survival really just becomes a more vague
idea that life and some specific, important qualities of an entity continue
over time (not that a soul or absolute identity continue over time).

Our consciousness and emotions and drive to be happy seem to only exist at
the present moment.  Our past and future selves are only important in that
we have memories of the past and anticipations of the future that affect our
happiness at the present moment.  Only in the present moment do we survive.
Beyond this connection to the past and future, I don't see any special
significance to our continuity over time.

I believe that evolution has conditioned our brains to cherish memories
(memories provide the information needed to live long enough to pass on the
genes to the next generation) and to feel happiness when working toward a
happier future (again, planning for a happy future is very helpful in living
long enough to pass on your genes).  And so through evolution, we find
ourselves very occupied with contemplating the past and future.  But again,
we only really exist at the present moment and to say that our future selves
are somehow a survival of our current self seems without meaning... a word
game.  We are who we are right now.  Past and future versions of ourself
will have their moment to be conscious and no more.

I believe that even though I can NOT survive in some meaningful way into the
future, I still participate in cryonics because it makes me happy NOW.  It
makes me happy now because my brain is a product of evolution that
stimulates the pleasure centers when I plan for a future that looks secure
for my future self.

I think this view takes some romance out of our visions of ourselves but it
seems logically consistent and it hasn't had more than a short transient
depressing effect on my personality and so acknowledging this state of
reality seems like the thing to do.

I agree with Bob Ettinger in nearly all his philosophy but am unable to see
how the self circuit can "bind time." I see no reason to believe that we
cannot simply live in the present moment.  Why complicate matters by
theorizing a way of binding time?  I see that there is a certain dynamic to
our consciousness.  But there is a dynamic in many physical phenomena.  A
baseball only moves through the air when you compare several time frames to
each other.  Movement is meaningless if you only look at the present moment.
But a baseball achieves motion without "binding time" and in the same way, I
believe we can achieve consciousness without binding time.

Brook Norton

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