X-Message-Number: 18427
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2002 14:26:02 EST
Subject: identity game; soul as code

1. A British scientist suggested I might want to look at


and related stuff. It's a game called "Staying alive," and it tests your 
criteria of survival and identity. Nothing new or important, but amusing 
statistics on the things people say they believe.

2. Mike Perry's book probably covers this in some detail--I don't recall the 
exact terminology he uses--but not many people seem to have noticed the 
possible scientific basis of the "soul" idea.

Is it possible to believe in an immaterial and immortal soul without being a 
mystic or dualist? Yes--physicist Frank Tipler is the best known such 

In extreme brevity, "you" are basically not your meat but the pattern of 
information that represents your persona. Your soul is code. Even if your 
body is destroyed, that information is probably inferrable in principle from 
your previous interactions with the rest of the universe. Even if that is not 
the case, your information pattern could recur by accident, or by deliberate 
use of far-future super-computers. The information could be used to 
reconstruct either a new organic person or a computer simulation. Therefore 
we are all already immortal, in a sense; we have indestructible souls. Shades 
of Plato!

This isn't an insane or stupid idea, but there are many, many problems with 
it. For amusement, here's one sample:

The beam-me-up-Scotty scenario sounds plausible to some at first. You are 
destroyed ("disassembled" sounds better) and a moment later reconstructed or 
reassembled somewhere else. Have you survived? Many think yes--and avoided a 
long bus ride too. But suppose more than one copy is reconstructed? Suppose 
it is far in the future?  Suppose you are reconstructed, not as you were when 
you lost consciousness, but as you were at some earlier time, say in 
childhood. Suppose you are (were) reconstructed in the past, in a distant 

The pattern people are more or less the same as the psychological continuity 
people. Well, if you were reconstructed in the past, you may have lived a 
long life past the time of your accidental demise here on earth. Your future 
is long ago and far away. There is psychological continuity, even though it 
isn't sequential in objective time.  

The only thing I can say with any confidence is that ultimate truth will 
probably be much more ridiculous than this. 

Robert Ettinger

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