X-Message-Number: 14235
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 11:17:48 -0600
From: Fred Chamberlain <>
Subject: Brett Bellmore on "Identity"

Date:   8/3/2000
From:   Fred Chamberlain ()
Re:     Brett Bellmore on "Identity"

Brett Bellmore's observations about "Identity" (CryoNet #14224, titled
"Personal identity", dated  Wed, 2 Aug 2000 16:16:12) strike me as "breaking
new ground"!  I'll add what I can:


>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.


An early cryonicist, Ben Puckett, once had a business card bearing the
"Everything you do is a mark of who you are!"  Perhaps this could be broadened
to, "Every influence you have on the universe is a mark of what you have
been."  "Identity" then is not just the moment to moment arrangement and
rearrangement of atoms of which you are composed, taken in terms such that (as
Carl Sagan once said) the "arrangement of the atoms" is far more important
the atoms themselves.  "Identity" becomes, in addition, the "trail you have
left behind".

This is not to say that some mystical "Karma" accompanies you, ever recording
who you were, what you did, and leading to future consequences of this.  But
what you write *will* follow you, and  is part of your "record".  By
memory boxes, photographs, audio and video tape recordings, are also part of
this "track".  Part of your identity resides outside of you already, if for no
other reason that simply reviewing an old address book will remind you vividly
of people you have not seen for decades.  We are already "augmenting" our
memories by external means, even if the only augmentation is accessibility. 
Part of our "book", our "library", resides outside us.

An ongoing controversy will exist as to whether or not "Identity" is
even partially, in a clone.  No one can argue that at least genetic "identity"
(small 'i') is conserved, but what about the rest of it, that intangible part
which those of us who most fear the loss of "Identity" refer to as "me"?

Each one of us will have a different take on this, but if even a fragment of a
library is saved, it is not entirely destroyed.  I am reminded of one of the
"Cosmos" series in which Carl Sagan is lamenting the loss of the Great Library
of Alexandria, enumerating the works of Greek scientists, philosophers and
literary creators, saying that in some instances all that remain are the
"tantilizing titles" of works by authors of other great works.  If a clone
(genetic twin) of an utterly vanished person possessed all of the
artifacts of that person, surely it would not be the "person himself, or
herself", but the twin would carry forward many aspects of what we refer to as
"Identity".  Some of us would be happier that the twin existed, possessing
information, than if the original "Identity" had ceased to be in those
(existing only as dusty boxes of informational materials that few would be
moved to assimilate).

Those who find this level of "Identity" survival to be meaningless or
are, to be sure, free to reject it.  If they fail to survive to the standard
they feel meaningful, and thus cease to exist by a lesser standard of
"Identity", we cannot question their value judgements.  On the other hand,
those who find this level of "Identity" meaningless or repugnant are not
entitled to dispute the pursuits of these avenues by others.  (The fact that
some do not like fish does not mean that they have a right to dispute others
going to fish restaurants.)


>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!


Perhaps somebody else once argued that, "There really *is* no *original* left,
they are *both* copies".  *I* can't recall it!  I don't know how many hours
I've had to listen to cryonicists argue this point, usually at Holiday Season
get-togethers.  Brett took care of this issue to my satisfaction, in any


>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.


I greatly admire how Brett put this!

If you have read the story on uploading at
<http://www.alcor.org/lifeqst4.htm>http://www.alcor.org/lifeqst4.htm, or the
story about nanotechnology warfare at
<http://www.alcor.org/lifeqst3.htm>http://www.alcor.org/lifeqst3.htm, you saw
circuitous movement toward these ideas.  In the end however, the ideas were
reduced to principles, but rather left to the "reader's imaginations".  Brett
has, in a few words, reduced these issues to statements I find highly

If you disagree with me, OK, but as I said earlier, I can't resist endorsing
ways of addressing these issues which I find inspiring.

Congratulations, Brett!  Thank you for taking on these thorny issues, in
what I
regard as a very fundamental and articulate way.

Fred Chamberlain, President/CEO () 
Alcor Life Extension Foundation 
Non-profit cryotransport services since 1972. 
7895 E. Acoma Dr., Suite 110, Scottsdale AZ 85260-6916 
Membership Information: (877) GO-ALCOR (462-5267) 
Phone (602) 905-1906 FAX (602) 922-9027
 for general requests

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