X-Message-Number: 16080
From: "George Smith" <>
References: <>
Subject: Human Identity - a mix of hardware and software?
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 14:20:18 -0700

John McCrone has written two excellent books summarizing issues regarding
the nature of mind and identity.  These are THE APE THAT SPOKE and THE MYTH
OF IRRATIONALITY (ISBN 0-7867-0067-X).  Much of this work stems from the
efforts of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and those who have followed in
his footsteps.

In crudest summary, human consciousness including the sense of self arises
not as a natural nor inevitable consequence of biological evolution but
through the interplay of language and the brain.  Examples from which this
hypothesis arose include the virtual inability of feral children to learn
language as well as an entire body of research conducted first starting in
the 1930's in Russia.

Readers of Cryonet may recall how not that long ago I had written about
Julian Jaynes' hypothesis that human consciousness is only approximtely
three thousand years old and that our earlier ancesters were not actually
conscious at all (no internal mental "space" nor dialogue for decision
making).  McCrone's summaries of these obscure but significant Russian
research studies point to the critical issue of both consciousness and
"self" requiring a particular interplay between brain structure support
(providing imagery, recognition, association and perception) and cultural
learning via language (inner "voice", recollection, emotional attitudes and

In essence, McCrone suggests that whereas Western civilization has promoted
a split mind model (rational/irrational, left hemisphere/right hemisphere)
the evidence actually supports a layered mind model with an "animal"
physiological platform lying "beneath" a cultural language-based collection
of skills.  Only the interplay between the two can result in our particular
form of human consciousness and sense of self.

The significance to readers of the Cryonet is that, if this hypothesis is
correct, uploading the human mind would require also uploading isomorphic
"structures" to duplicate the brain's physiology as well as the specific
cultural interplays learned in the first five years of life which are
apparently required to develop and sustain consciousness as well as a sense
of "self".  The support for such a view has wide evidence ranging from
observations derived from stroke victims and numerous other studies over the

Put simply, the common perspective on what consitutes consciousness and
"self" may very well require copying not only "logic circuits" and "data"
but the structural interplay between the two.  I suspect these issues can be
overcome (after all WE are here right now, yes?  The flesh machinery works,
yes?) but my concern would be in assuming we know all that is required to do
the job and end up leaving out consciousness and the sense of self.

Fortunately with relatively "simple" cryonics we bring back hopefully both
portions: organic substructure as well as the learned skills.

Just my thoughts.

George Smith

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