X-Message-Number: 14882
Subject: identity
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 10:51:05 -0800 (PST)

The latest spate of discussion on uploading, teleporting, and
duplicating does illustrate at least two things: One, a fish isn't aware
of water, and two, the danger of the "smuggled concept."

One of the hazards of growing up in the information age is that we can
start to think of these things as "real." It gets beaten into our heads
at a very early age that "=", "equal" and "identical" means that things
are interchangeable. 1 + 1 = 2 means that *everywhere* you have a "2"
you can replace it with a "1 + 1" and *nothing* changes. There are *no*
places where this doesn't work - they're the SAME thing. Well, that's
all fine and dandy but let's try to remember that "1", "2", "+" and "="
are all ABSTRACTS. If we take a second and just look at the real world
(our minds free of abstracts), one of the things we might notice is that
there's really only ONE of everything. There's really not two of
anything in the universe - that's what "identity" is all about. Now,
granted there are an awful lot of very similar things - but all that
means is that (at most) they might have identical descriptions.
Descriptions are abstract things. Two electrons are not "identical" in
the same sense as 1 + 1 and 2 are identical. And I'm not talking about
quantum states here - this is more fundamental: this has to do with the
fact that there are two of them and one is not the other. If somehow you
could obliterate one of them (not just change its form), the universe
would be down one electron. Crossing the line between the abstract and
the real is where the concept of "identical" has to be left behind.

Several points with regard to teleportation: First, obviously and as an
aside, this isn't something we're going to have to worry about any time
soon, if ever. Picking up an object and carrying it from A to B is
actually a tremendously parallel process with a bandwidth not easily
matched. Second, sending (or recording, or duplicating) the description
of an object has moved nothing. A description of an object is an
abstract. (I'm not talking about whatever media is used to represent the
description.) Using the description of an object as a recipe still doesn't
move anything - it (at most) creates another object or set of objects and
relationships that have the same (more likely similar) description.

Now, it's been mentioned that we old-fashioned folks will just "get
used" to teleportation once it's been around for a while and proven to be
"safe." For many I have little doubt that this would be true (granting
the assumption of teleportation): we're witnessing it right here with a
generation that grew up on Star Trek. I'm sure that everyone around,
including the person who came out of it, will agree that nothing has
changed, and "Hey, what was I worried about?!" I do find it significant
that the one person we can't check with is the one who went *into* the
teleporter. In many ways this seems so much like the situation we
cryonicists are faced with now: everybody is so damned used to the idea
that their soul just floats off to "another plane." What's kinda
surprising about all this is that there're so many cryonicists at the
head of the teleporter line saying "Me first, me first."

One final frustrating point: occasionally someone here will accuse
someone who hasn't accepted the new "information paradigm" as being
someone who thinks there's something mystical or magic going on in a
human being. I don't know about the rest of them, but I'm about as
concrete-bound as you can get. To me it seems like you've taken this
abstract thing, information, given it all the attributes of what used to
be called a "soul" and given it a new, flashy package. What's the
difference? There is no soul.  There is no pattern. There isn't even
a mind. What there is is a brain and another one "just like it" isn't
it. This goes for bricks just as much as it goes for brains.

[None of this is meant to have anything to do with the piecemeal
replacement of a brain - which is different in kind from "pattern is


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