X-Message-Number: 21091
Date: Sat, 08 Feb 2003 00:34:21 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Identity Question, Moral Issues

Francois writes:

>The question I really want to ask
>now is this: does it matter which one of these vitrified bodies is selected
>to undergo the reanimation process? Whichever one you choose, the person who
>wakes up will be, to others and to itself, the one that originally died and
>was vitrified. It will have complete and true continuity of self with the
>person who originally died. It will in fact BE that person. Or are there
>arguments that can negate that statement?

The answer you get will depend on whom you ask, and what that person 
considers important. For me, one body is as good as another. If you revive 
just one, you have the "same" person waking up again; you can regard the 
other vitrified bodies as just backup information. If you revive several, 
then they will start to live separate lives, so you will have caused one 
individual to fission into more than one.

Some interesting, tricky moral issues have been raised over such ideas, 
however--assuming, as usual, that future capabilities allow the choices 
that are relevant. (Most recently this was done by James Swayze, but also 
earlier by Lee Corbin, possibly others.) If you have one vitrified body 
only, that is similar to a person in a coma. Barring some extraordinary 
circumstance, the person in question would stand in need of rescue much as 
today we would consider a person who has just lost consciousness to be in 
need of assistance. But, being the pattern survivalist I am, I would have 
to treat the vitrified body as just one possible storage medium of 
information about the person, and consider other possibilities on an equal 
footing. If, say, the original, vitrified body underwent a kind of 
fossilization in which the atoms were all replaced by other atoms, not 
necessarily of the same elements, but capturing all the original 
information, this would still be a vitrified person as far as I am 
concerned. The same moral principle would apply; that is, you would have to 
treat this as a person in need of assistance. This must follow even if the 
information was expressed in a different medium entirely, such as a very 
large text file.

So, do you really have a moral obligation to wake the person and give them 
runtime? And what if there are several copies of the information in 
existence, must you grant runtime to each copy? Finally, assuming that 
copies can be manufactured, are you obligated further to manufacture as 
many as you can to multiply the runtime as far as possible?

My feeling is that there is no easy rule that would fit all circumstances. 
If you *fail* to give runtime when you can, that is like murder, but if you 
go too much in the opposite direction, you could create unimaginable 
suffering through overcrowding or otherwise cause great harm. So, perhaps 
the happy medium is that you should take very seriously the idea of giving 
runtime to as many copies as possible, even generating more copies for the 
purpose, but *only* as a very longterm project. In other words, you could 
delay each reanimation (after the first, let's say) for many centuries or 
whatever seemed appropriate in a hopefully immortal future.

Mike Perry

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