X-Message-Number: 14224
From: "Brett Bellmore" <>
Subject: Personal identity
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2000 16:16:12 -0400

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Hi, there! Brett Bellmore here, thought I'd join in the conversation after a 
long layoff.

My personal opinion is that the use of the term "identity" in this context is 
counter-productive, in as much as it smuggles in attributes of the logical use 
of the term. We don't aspire to be "identical" to our past selves, forever 
unchanging. That's death, not life!

What we are seeking is to be unending, in the sense of being a process which 
neither terminates nor endlessly loops, while continually elaborating itself. 
What we're seeking, I think, would be better termed "causal continuity"; A dense
weave of causal links with our previous selves which continues unbroken.

Notice that this makes sense of the classic "transporter accident" problem; Some
process results in you being split into two complete selves. Each of them is a 
causal decendent of you, so that if either survives, you survive. But they are 
not causal decendents of each other, so it matter to THEM that  they both live. 
They are both you, but they're not each other!

Now, it might be objected that a person causes many things in their lives, has 
many causal linkages to the states of other people, but that we don't live on in
those people except in a metaphorical sense. That's true, but consider that the
density of causal connections within the human brain represents literally 
terabytes of data, far more than you could possibly express by any natural means
of communications over a normal lifespan. The causal connections within you 
represent a bridge cable to the cobwebs connecting you to other people. 

Should this ever change, should communications between people approach the 
density going on within them, I would expect individuality to become a thing of 
the past. Just as isolation is necessary for speciation or the maintainance of 
separate cultures, a very high ratio of internal to external information 
transfer is necessary to the maintainance of people as individuals.


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