```X-Message-Number: 21035
Date: Sat, 01 Feb 2003 20:43:52 -0700
From: Mike Perry < var s1 = "mike"; var s2 = "alcor.org"; var s3 = s1 + "@" + s2; document.write("<a href='mailto:" + s3 + "'>" + s3 + "</a>"); >
Subject: "Sameness" and Graph Theory, Relevance and Language

Thomas Donaldson suggests that my notion of "sameness" via continuers can
be described in terms of mathematical graph theory--a good suggestion with
which I agree. He further suggests that the appropriate graph in this case
is a tree, in which descendants or "continuers" are accessible from
earlier, "ancestor" nodes but not vice versa. Actually (and this is
elaborated in my book, though without the mathematical jargon) the most
general structure that I allow (ignoring certain issues such as
forgetting), is not a tree but a (rooted) directed, acyclic graph. The
different branches need not remain separate but can join back, though one
branch cannot loop back and join itself at an earlier point.

Thus I allow that different persons could actually fuse into one; the one
individual would feel it was the "same" as (= a continuer of) two or more,
originally separate individuals. (For reasons I discuss in the book,
though, I don't think such fusions will dominate in the future when we have
ascended beyond the human level, but fissioning will be more common.) So,
if you have nodes A and B, you may have a (directed) path from A to B. If
you do, then you do not also have a path from B to A, except in the trivial
case of A=B. So you say that B is a continuer of A but not vice
versa--continuer is not continuee. Once again, the relation of "sameness"
(continuer *or* continuee) satisfies two of the three properties of
equivalence: A is the same as A (reflexivity); if A is the same as B then B
is the same as A (symmetry). But the third, transitivity, can still fail:
if A is the same as B and B is the same as C then it is not necessarily
true that A is the same as C. (Another point, fairly minor, is that the
graph is "rooted" in the sense that I allow a "null being" with no
consciousness, that every node can be considered to be a continuer of; this
occasionally has uses.)

All this seems reasonable to me. I would say I am the "same" person as ten
years ago, though not identical in all respects, and the lack of being
identical is not simply reducible to an equivalence relation. If a copy of
me had been created ten years ago, but then had lived a separate life, I
would not want to say I am the "same" person as that presently existing,
onetime copy, even though we once were the same. One of us is not a more
developed version of the other but each would have things the other lacks.
It is conceivable, however, that we could agree to pool our memories and
form one individual again, that is to say, fuse. Then (because, in this
case, A is the same as A) we *would* be once again the same individual. I
can see a lot of difficulties with the "pooling" of memories so that an
individual would feel that he/she had been simultaneously doing different
things in different places with full, parallel consciousnesses. But I think
it could probably be handled, for any who might be interested, through a
notion similar to the "record fields" concept where one record in a
database contains several "fields" each with a different snippet of
information. Still the idea of fusion doesn't have much appeal--I certainly
don't hope for or advocate all becoming one consciousness. A flower garden
is best if you have a variety of different flowers and not just one, even
if big and fancy.

cryonics: the notion of continuer is important, I feel, because it offers a
possible concept of reanimation that is not dependent on conserving the
original material. This includes the case of some but not all the original
material being retained. It could be important if, in the future, there is
a tradeoff between a protocol that would better conserve the matter but put
the information more at risk, versus the other way around. And already we
see at least a limited form of such a tradeoff, in the neuro (head only)
versus whole body option. Proponents of neuro in particular argue that at
least neuros are easier to maintain and can be relocated more easily in
case of emergency, which could be important in the possibly turbulent times
ahead of us. (Another argument, and more controversial, is that neuro
protocols can and do give the brain a better treatment.)

Some comments seem in order on the issue of language when we are talking
about "sameness." The notion of continuer denies that persons who are
considered the "same" must be the same physically, as chunks of matter. But
then persons are not like rare coins or antiques, where the original
material is all-important and copies, however exact, just won't do. They
are, instead, more like books, which are reasonably regarded as bodies of
information rather than specific copies. The analogy can be sharpened if we
think of a person as like a written history that is being kept up-to-date
through successive editions. A new edition might be formed either by adding
material at the end of an existing volume, or by issuing a new volume from
time to time, as in a set of encyclopedia yearbooks. A particular edition
of the history may exist in many physical copies. The copies are not
identical but, unless you are a book collector, the nature of the
differences is unimportant. The whole history may have a title, such as
"Joe Schmoe's Events Digest" or JSED. Different editions will be distinct
from one another, though only in a certain, restricted way; all will still
be JSED. If copyright policies are lenient, it is even possible that
different companies will start issuing their own updated editions, so you
will have the fissioning of JSED into more than one entity, or in other
words, more definitely different JSEDs. Later, if the companies decide to
join forces, you could have (re)fusion--and so on.

Are you a specific chunk of matter or an ongoing, information-based
process? Are you your bits or your atoms (or maybe something in-between or
something else entirely)? These are points worth pondering, and the answers
arrived at do have a bearing on our attempts at extending our lives. I
think too that there is an important sense in which the answers *cannot* be
decided by scientific experiment, since they depend on preferences or taste
or what one considers important. Still it seems likely that one or more of
the various theories will prove far more workable and rewarding, at least
for the long haul, than others equally consistent and not disprovable. I'm
betting on the informational approach, and less concerned with alternatives
that depend on specific collections of particles.

Mike Perry

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