X-Message-Number: 19874
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 16:10:18 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: The (Venerable Old) Duplicates Issue Again

This is a response to Dave Pizer's posting (#19865) in response to the 
posting of Francois (#19855). I think the duplicates issue is important in 
cryonics, though I realize some others disagree. (And there have been 
discussions aplenty on this.) Among other things, it affects our views on 
what would be an acceptable reanimation procedure, as well as what would be 
acceptable for "identity conservation" so reanimation could happen in the 
first place. And now we see (or again we see) that it ties in with our 
concepts of a future life and possible immortality, which are what motivate 
us to choose cryonics in the first place.

Dave Pizer writes,

>I do not believe that making copies of an individual and then destroying 
>the original can ever be called survival of the original, I believe that 
>holds true whether the copy is a carbon based brain similar to the 
>original brain, or a silicone based brain, of any other type of 
>duplicate.  Only *the* original is the original.

Dave is what I would call a tokenist, meaning that he sees a person, more 
or less, as a specific, material construct or "token." The atoms are what 
are important. Switch them out, and the result may resemble the original in 
every detail, but really is not the original. It means that "you" may not 
survive if your atoms are exchanged for other, similar atoms. I say "may 
not survive" rather than "cannot survive" because a switching out is going 
on all the time anyway, as your body metabolizes. Dave, I think, does not 
think people "die" repeatedly throughout their lives as their bodies 
metabolize. On the other hand, creating a duplicate of you while you sleep, 
and then destroying the original, would be another way of switching out the 
atoms, and this is what Dave would say is killing the original and 
substituting a different person, even if the second person is similar to 
the original in all respects and believes he/she is the same. This is one 
difficulty I see with the tokenist position (there are others). By way of 
contrast, I am a patternist who sees a person in terms of information 
content (the "pattern"). Preserve the pattern, and you preserve the person. 
So for me there would be no problem with the duplicate; as long as it's 
similar or a good enough copy, the original person survives, much as a book 
can be said to survive through a copy. And I realize there are difficulties 
with this position too. They can be met (my book has an extended discussion 
on this) and it is worth it, in my view. However, I think that both 
positions can be defended on logical grounds; there is no experimental test 
that will "prove" one is right or the other. It's a matter of which point 
of view you prefer. (In my book I discuss what I think are some good 
reasons to prefer the patternist position.)

>Francois said:
>"The aim of most of CryoNet's subscribers is to achieve immortality. This, in
>principle, can be done in many ways, some emotionally more satisfying than
>I agree that achieving immortality is a great goal, but I don't think in 
>can be done is "many ways."  It seems to me that there is only one way 
>*you* can become immortal, that is for *you* to become immortal.  This may 
>sound funny at first

It's a tautology. It begs the question of what is "you."

>... "The preferred vision of immortality emerging from the many posted
>messages seems to be purely biological in nature. ...
>The resulting individuals look exactly as we do today, except that they
>forever remain physically young."
>"This, however, presents a problem. ... suppose one of our
>distant ancestors, a Homo Habilis for instance, became immortal three
>million years ago. ... This immortal Habilis could then still be alive
>today, but he would obviously be completely obsolete from the point of view
>of intelligence, having been left far behind by our much better and keener
>minds. Evolution would not have stopped just because he became immortal, and
>it would have quickly transformed him into an actual living fossil."
>...There are ways for Habilis  to cope with a superior race (us), in our 
>world and for us to cope with others in the future, they do not include 
>making a copy of the original and letting the original be destroyed, when 
>you do that, and if the original is destroyed, the original is no longer 
>immortal, he is now dead.

It's not clear what constitutes "destroying" the original. Suppose, for 
instance, that the habilis undergoes a growth and development process, 
eventually reaching present-level human intelligence, maybe going beyond 
it, but in the process experiencing a lot of material changes. Is the 
original "destroyed"?

>You don't have to become the machine to have access to machine 
>technology.  Me being me, or you being you, is not how fast you think or 
>how much information you have stored in your cortex, it is the feeling of 
>awareness that you have and that I have.

At first glance this may seem reasonable, but for me it doesn't bear up 
under scrutiny. For instance, if somehow two physical constructs, 
person-instantiations, were to think exactly alike and run in lock step, 
the patternist position would have it that they are one person not two. 
(Yes, it means you could be in two places at once, in this case without 
knowing it.) I think also that a growth process, going from a less to a 
more advanced being, is essential to a reasonable concept of immortality, 
thus to whether you can be said to survive, to be "you." Otherwise you 
finally encounter the "eternal return" in which the same mind states are 
revisited repeatedly, with no further progress. Eternal return, in my view, 
is not survival. You have to store a growing archive of personal 
information to avoid it. On a more immediate level, being stuck at one 
point in a developmental process would, I think, get insufferably boring or 
frustrating long before eternal return became an issue.

>  As long as that [the feeling of awareness] is preserved, it can access 
> lots of other stuff without having to become the other stuff.
>"Purely biological immortals will always suffer this fate."
>Why?  Are we so dumb that we can't push a button and get an answer from a 

Again, this ignores the problems of being stuck at a fixed level. 
Personally, I would have a strong urge to develop further, in open-ended 
fashion. In time, I would certainly not be H. sapiens, in any biological 
sense, no matter which atoms I was made of. I suppose I could attempt to 
keep "original" atoms from that being I once was, but I don't see much 
point in this, any more than I would take a skin sample now just to "save" 
it from normal metabolic replacement. If I am going to undergo material 
changes, and if nonbiological materials could serve my needs better than 
biologicals (in providing better memory and intelligence, say), then why 
not assimilate these new materials? I see no fundamental problem with that. 
It might be that these changes would be gradual; I suspect many would. 
However, suppose somehow I had a choice between a gradual change that would 
take many months and be inconvenient and expensive, and a sudden, cheap, 
and convenient change that would replace all or most of my atoms in one 
operation while I was asleep, with the original discarded. Other things 
equal, it would make sense to choose the latter course. Another possibility 
for the sudden change would be just to upload my information to some 
superior device, and take up from there, again discarding the original. 
Again, no fundamental problem, assuming the technology was up to it.

>...I don't think we are doomed in the form we are.

I disagree. But then, a little child is "doomed" as the being it is; it 
doesn't stay the same. It develops into something more than what it was, 
more than a child. In the future I hope not to keep my present form 
indefinitely, becoming a sort of pet or ward of machines more advanced than 
human, or even "controlling" them. (Who would really be controlling whom, 
to prevent disasters?) Instead I aim to become more than human myself. The 
sense of continuing identity I could still maintain by memories, and that's 
what I intend to do.

Mike Perry

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