X-Message-Number: 18486
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 12:13:07 EST
Subject: memory and survival

More on memory and survival criteria:

We do not know the correct criteria of survival, and we need much more 
knowledge of biology and physics, but we can grope around a bit.

Ideally, the cryonics resuscitee retains all his memory structures and only 
needs to have healthy function restored.

In a somewhat worse case, some memories have been lost or become 
inaccessible, and some use of inference may be needed. (Recall too that even 
actual memories are partly fictitious. Even in the present moment, for 
example, we may "see" what we expect to see, rather than what is actually 
there. Likewise our memories are partly guesses, even in the first instance, 
and later on we may have only memories of memories, with further loss of 

In still worse cases, inference may degenerate to guesswork, just building a 
plausible background, including use of external sources of information.

Perhaps all personal-history memories are lost, as in some amnesia cases. But 
in such cases the patient usually still can walk and talk and read and knows 
the social customs, so obviously a great deal of some kinds of memory 
remains. His attitudes and habits may be largely retained, even though he 
doesn't remember how he acquired them.

Now, the psychological-connectedness school of survival criteria holds that 
the important thing is your persona or psyche, your habits and attitudes and 
propensities. That might largely survive a considerable degree of amnesia.

We also remember that our infant memories are gone, yet we consider that the 
infant has survived.

If we live into a far future and transhumanity, our present memories may 
interest us very little and have almost nothing to do with our developed 
personalities. We might even jettison them or store them in external 

Further, suppose you were somehow to discover that your memories are 
false--that they were recently implanted. You would be upset, but how would 
it basically matter? Our actual histories and memories are just cosmic 
accidents anyway--why does it matter if they are true or false, so long as 
they are healthy enough to allow an ongoing healthy life?

None of this proves anything, but I think it casts doubt on the high degree 
of importance Thomas Donaldson places on memory of personal history.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society www.cryonics.org

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