X-Message-Number: 25026
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 05:41:48 -0800
From: <>

Dear Mike,

You wrote:

"Your soul, then, is what 'you' really are, and does not 
necessarily refer to anything mystical or supernatural. I think it 
is a good term to use. Richard argues that the soul is what we 
might call tightly bound to a material construct, thus cannot be '
saved' through duplication (in case the original should suffer 
sudden destruction):

Yes, you understand me correctly. I too think the word soul is the 
best word I can use to describe what I'm getting at. Unfortunately, 
it has the side effect of misleading non-religious people into 
thinking my arguments depend on religion (this is not true).

You wrote:

"It seems to me, though, that this is but one of many views of the 
soul, and that no scientific experiment, even in principle, will 
ever be able to single out one viewpoint or definition as the 'true'
 one over and above all the others."

I have defined the soul as the part of you that experiences qualia. 
Therefore, we are not debating whether my view of the soul is 
correct. Rather, we are assuming my definition, and asking the 
question, 'Does mind uploading preserve the soul?' Clearly, the 
answer is no.

To this, you can say (1) the soul is not important, therefore its 
preservation during uploading doesn't matter, or (2) uploading does 
indeed preserve the soul. Both of which have serious problems.

In the first case, the soul is the only property of you that 
remains invariant with respect to time. Your atoms change, your 
memories change, your personality changes---yet 'you' still exist, 
in a very real sense. What has remained the same, and will always 
remain the same, for as long as you are alive? Your soul. You still 
experience qualia, even if the various filteres applied to that 
qualia have changed, and even if the scope of what you experience 
has changed (e.g. you lost your sight).

In the second case, duplicating the information of the brain cannot 
possible transfer the soul, since the soul is a hardware thing that 
experiences qualia. Information is not a kind of thing that can 
experience qualia. It does not even possess an existence of its own,
 since it must exist within a medium, and even this existence isn't 
objective, since it depends on a subjective interpretive scheme (
change the scheme, change the information).

You wrote:

"The soul could perish every instant of time, and a new, duplicate 
soul, similar but different, take its place--how would you tell?"

To my ears, this is incomprehensible. It's like pointing to an 
apple and saying, 'That apple could perish every instant of time, 
and a new, duplicate apple, similar but different, could take its 
place.' What can you make of such a statement about an apple??? It'
s meaningless at best, and contradictory at worst.

The brain can and does change, on a daily basis, but as long as at 
each point in time, it still contains a soul, then personal 
identity is preserved. Since all changes that occur to us while we 
are either waking or sleeping do not destroy the soul, we are 
assured personal survival through all of these changes.

Disassembling and reassembling the brain, on the other hand, is not 
an operation that can preserve identity.

Take an apple. Disassemble and reassemble an apple, and it ceases 
to be the same apple. Why? Because at some point during the process,
 it ceased being an apple. Then a new thing was constructed (
perhaps from the same atoms) which was an apple. Two apples. One 
gone, one existent.

In the case of an apple, however, who cares. In the case of a human 
being, however, the stakes are much higher. In duplication, yes, 
you have brought another soul into existence, but at the cost of an 
existing one. I do not want anyone to have to forfeit their soul.

You wrote:

"The soul may persist so long as consciousness is present, but 
dissipate and vanish when consciousness is lost, to be replaced by 
another soul (the 'day person' hypothesis). The soul may in turn 
survive sleep and other presently reversible unconsciousness, but 
die if the brain is truly 'shut down' as in cryonic suspension, 
however well-done."

If you can agree with the above, you can see why these speculations 
are not meaningful.

You wrote:

"Expanding our horizons, the soul may be more robust, not less, 
than the body that contains it. It may be possible for it to 
simultaneously inhabit more than one physical construct, if all 
were functioning equivalently in some reasonable sense."

You are thinking of the soul as an ethereal 'information construct'.
 But the problems with this viewpoint are numerous. First, as I 
have already said, you already exist in information form in 
numerous places in the universe---subject to various expansive and 
yes, even compressive interpretive schemes.

There is some way of interpreting the atoms in a rock so as to 
permit me to construct a model of your brain. Considering all the 
matter and energy in the universe, and all possible interpretive 
schemes, there are untold ways in which you are already encoded 
into the universe itself. However, these 'physical constructs' that 
your 'information construct' 'inhabits' are useless to you. When 
you die, they will not help you. You will still be dead.

Consider the fact that right now, it is possible an exact duplicate 
of you exists, and is living out your life on the other side of the 
universe; it is possible this duplicate is in sync with you in 
every way. This should be little consolation to you, since when you 
die, your soul will not magically transfer to this duplicate (were 
it to survive). And even if it did transfer, what would happen to 
the soul of the duplicate???

Your soul is the thing that was destroyed when you died. This is a 
consequence of the fact that the soul is a hardware-like thing that 
experiences qualia; it is not the information encoded in another 
brain, or in a rock, or in some other arrangement of matter and 

You wrote:

"This more or less is the premise of uploading. The soul is not 
localized to a particular body, but is (in principle and quite 
possibly in practice) multiply instantiated. If some of the 
instantiations become different in some self-discernible way, the 
soul splits into two or more. So, while there are difficulties with 
this position, they can be managed, as far as I can see, to 
maintain logical coherence."

The only way you can maintain this position is to posulate numerous 
constructs, none of which jive with our model of the world and none 
of which can be tested. For one, the soul needs to be a 
metaphysical construct that experiences qualia and is determined 
entirely by a pattern and yet not determined entirely by pattern (i.
e. the pattern can change and it is still the same soul). Such a 
thing is either meaningless or contradictory.


You wrote:

"The uploading premise, though, does imply that you could survive 
bodily destruction and, given an ample enough universe or 
multiverse, certainly will."

This is a comforting thought, but it is not true. Just because a 
duplicate of me may come into existence at some point in the future,
 doesn't mean I will go on living through that duplicate. The 
duplicate has its own soul (i.e. thing experiencing qualia). I die 
when my 'thing experiencing qualia' is destroyed, and there is no 
hope of resurrection (unless reality is not what it appears to be).

You wrote:

"So in particular it means that there is hope for raising the dead 
were not cryopreserved, at some future time, through the creation 
replicas or other constructs that would house appropriately 
functioning souls. The alternative that follows from the body 
criterion (excluding any mystical element) is that these people are 
gone forever, so their lives, in some sense, were so much wasted 
time and effort. I for one find this conclusion most unpalatable 
and one that raises serious questions about the whole enterprise we 
call living, mainly, is it really worth it?"

Just because an idea is comforting, doesn't mean it is true. In 
fact, I would say the more comforting an idea, the greater the 
chance it is false. Reality is not a comforting place to be.

But if you would like to believe in a comforting future (which can 
certainly have a positive effect on one's life outlook), you can 
just as easily hope that time travel will be invented, and that we 
can go back in time and bring everyone forward. This would at least 
be consistent with what I believe is the correct view of personal 
survival (and would result in 'most' people being saved, since you 
are a fan of the multiverse).


You wrote:

"Again, I think different theories of the soul are on an equal 
footing as far as any scientific experiment to verify or invalidate 
them is 
concerned--there isn't any and probably never will be, in the 
important cases."

This is like saying different theories of the apple are on equal 
footing. There is no need for theories. When you destroy the apple, 
you destroy it. When you duplicate it, you have a thing that is not 
the original. 

In any case, for your own personal survival, I think you can agree 
it is best to minimize the chance of dying. Therefore, I hope you 
will avoid any opportunity for mind uploading. There is no problem 
progressively upgrading your brain, or even gradually replacing it 
with a different kind of hardware entirely, if you were so inclined.


You wrote:

"In particular I could not accept the idea that a soul could 
persist if the memories and such are sufficiently altered, even if 
only gradually. Derek Parfit, in his book, *Reasons and Persons*, 
considers a thought experiment in which he is gradually changed 
into an exact copy of the actress Greta Garbo. To my thinking the 
soul of Derek does *not* survive (is not instantiated) in the copy 
of Greta."

But the soul as I have defined it does survive. 

Suppose for a moment that Buddhist-style reincarnation is true---
that your soul (but not your memories, etc.) are reincarnated with 
each new cycle of life. Now your last incarnation died X number of 
years ago. Yet in some sense, you are still alive, even though you 
are a completely different person (and possibly different species!).

This thought experiment should show that you can completely change 
you who are, and yet still exist. What remains invariant throughout 
the change is the existence of the soul: the thing experiencing 
qualia. This is fundamentally what makes you, you.

Of course, I happen to like my memories, personality, etc., and 
have no intention of losing them.

You wrote:

"So actually the information criterion is sometimes less robust 
than the body criterion--for what I think are eminently good 
reasons. This could have some consequences for cryonics. Say there 
are two procedures for resuscitation. Procedure A will destroy much 

of the original brain but in so doing obtain a very accurate record 
of it, from which a functioning person with memories and 
personality just like the original can be constructed. Procedure B 
will retain much more of the original material, but memories and 
other subtly encoded features will be hard-hit, so the patient will 
suffer massive amnesia and other major changes. Faced with the 
choice for myself I would certainly pick A over B--what would you 

I don't care about a duplicate of me, even if it has my exact same 
memories and personality. It's not me, in that it doesn't have my 
soul---it has its own soul. So if I were to choose A, from my 
subjective perspective, it would be as if I died---i.e. the last 
experience I have is the moment before I die; there is no "coming 
back". Therefore, even if A were the only option, it is equivalent 
to choosing no reanimation at all, from my subjective view. 

Even if you believe in 'pattern-soul' (which I think is absurd, for 
reasons noted above), the pattern will be different, even if subtly,
 so you cannot expect to come back (it is arbitrary to say a match 
of X% fidelity brings me back, but (X-delta)% doesn't).

I should note that, I do not think cryonics is guaranteed to work. 
I think there are degrees of damage so great that, the soul no 
longer exists, in which case reanimation results in a new soul. 
This is one reason why it is important to live as long as possible, 
so the damage can be reduced to a level where I feel confident in 
saying the soul could not have been destroyed by the damage of the 

I hope I can persuade you to change your mind. Or at least persuade 
you that from a risk management strategy, my approach is better (
for your own personal survival).

By the way, do you work for Alcor?

Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

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