X-Message-Number: 25041
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 2004 12:57:01 -0800
Subject: Soul's Makeup/Physical Correlate
From: <>

Dear Thomas,

You wrote:

"What you say is fine except that you did not answer my questions:
you haven't really told me what your soul is. If, in theory (and
I would be among the first to point out that actually doing so
would be many orders of magnitude harder than 'uploading'), we 
can reproduce whatever part of your brain experiences qualia, then
have we reproduced your soul? Just how does your 'soul' relate
to the physical body and brain you have?"

The soul is a physical entity existing within your head; or at 
least, the physical correlate theorem ensures we can treat it as 
such, even if it is not. Now I cannot point to any given collection 
of neurons, and say, 'That is your soul!' but this is a limitation 
strictly of my knowledge---not a theoretical one. 

You experience qualia. There is some part of you responsible for 
this experience. I think you would agree, this part of you can 
exist no where but within your brain. This should lead you to the 
conclusion that the soul is some part of your brain.

You can reproduce a soul, sure. Just copy the atoms that comprise 
it. But the point I wish to make is, a copy is not the original. 
You can copy my soul, but the resulting soul is a copy, not the 
original. It is useless from the point of view of my personal 

If you copy the part of me that experiences qualia, then you now 
have a new thing which experiences qualia. It may have the same 
arrangement of atoms as my qualia experiencer, but it is not my 
qualia experiencer. It is merely a copy.

You wrote:

"You may wish to POSTULATE that your soul exists and experiences
qualia, and leave the question at that. Your theory then becomes
an abstract theory which must somehow (to be more than a curiosity)
become connected with the world. Can any external person even
theoretically point to your soul, at least figuratively? How do
I, in my own body and brain, verify that you have a soul in the
first place?"

Sure, they can point to my head, since that is where my soul 
resides. Now you can't know I experience anything. This is the 
zombie problem (see David Chalmers). Something that is subjective 
cannot be verified by objective means. However, I take it as a 
given that subjectivity is a property of the universe, since I 
experience subjective phenomena and I am part of the universe---in 
the same way I take the principle of uniformity as a given, because 
even though it is impossible to prove, it is something I 
nevertheless experience.

With this view, it is obvious to me that organisms similar to me 
have souls (i.e. have a qualia experiencer within them), based on 
how they behave. I also expect sufficiently advanced digital 
computers to have souls, though of a different nature than human 

[new message, snip]

You wrote:

"You may or may not know that one event caused by freezing (as 
distinct from vitrification) is that it may very well destroy the
connections between our neurons. In that sense, freezing 
a brain. I have actually mentioned this problem several times on

This is quite unfortunate. I believe that destroying the 
connections between *all* neurons would certainly destroy the soul. 
There is a  lot of redundancy in the brain, however, so all hope is 
not lost for the people who have already been frozen.

But say in some specific case, the combination of delays until 
cryopreservation and freezing damage results in certain destruction 
of the qualia experiencer, perhaps due to severation of all neural 
connections and/or loss of firing potentials, which information 
would have to be inferred. Then repair surely amounts to 
construction of a new qualia experiencer. The fact you may be using 
the same atoms as used for a previously existent qualia experiencer 
is irrelevant. From the subjective perspective of the person who 
died, it is identially equivalent to them being cremated. They will 
never wake up.

"Forgetting the garbage about uploading, if you think that 
of your brain will kill you, then clearly if you're a cryonicist
you must be a strong supporter of vitrification (which specifically 

does not cause that disassembly). If you're actually signed up, I'd
think that you'd insist on vitrification, and state in your
documentation that if you could not be vitrified for any reason 
you are to be considered 'dead'."

I am signed up with Alcor for vitrification. But even with 
vitrification, I am not confident my qualia experiencer will be 
preserved. However, I think it has the highest chance of success, 
and Alcor is working to improve methods because they do not want to 
rely on future technology. High temperature storage to eliminate 
fracturing combined with less toxic vitrification would give me 
great confidence of waking up again.

If vitrification is not possible in my case, then I would still 
want to be suspended. I expect the qualia experiencer can withstand 
some damage, and yet still possess the capacity for experiencing 
qualia. I think the damage caused by freezing is likely to be too 
severe, but in case I am wrong, I would rather be suspended anyway. 
There is no additional cost for being suspended.

"The whole idea of uploading ourselves (not modifying ourselves, 
UPLOADING ourselves) stems from an older idea about how our brains
worked. This idea claimed that after infancy, our brains basically
became static machines, with any learning or other changes caused
by changes similar to those in the circuits that make up a computer.

Careful neuroscience has since then shown definitively that this 
old idea is false... even though it may persist in older textbooks."

Yes. The brain is more like a CPU whose hardware is constantly 
being modified. The software + hardware analgoy is a poor one.

But I would also say, in uploading circles there is a fundamental 
denail to accept that a copy is not the original. Viewed from this 
light, uploading requires the very dualism it intends to reject.

"In that sense uploaders --- who may well not want to deal at all
with messy biology --- can be temporarily pardoned for their 
But understanding of how brains work in the first place is critical
to understanding just what we can do to preserve ourselves. Its
importance can be seen very early in cryobiology, in the early
experiments which established that our memories weren't preserved
in any continuous electrical activity of our brains (in the 50's,
by Audrey Smith and others now perhaps forgotten)."

I have another analogy which I think may be helpful, especially for 
uploaders. I will post it in a main thread.

"And Richard, if you are signed up, and are NOT a strong supporter
of work on vitrification, then please explain this apparent
contradiction in your beliefs."

I hope, for the personal survival of everyone here, they are signed 
up for vitrification and not freezing. I think CI is working toward 
that goal now, and in the meantime, for CI members, there is always 
S-A to perform the actual suspension.

Just because we can infer proper structure from damaged structure 
doesn't mean you will be revived. If your qualia experiencer is 
destroyed, nothing will bring you back. A new qualia experiencer 
may be built, even with the atoms and some of the same component 
parts as your qualia experiencer, but that should be no comfort to 
you. A copy of you is not you---not, at least, in the most 
important sense of the word.

I hope that my efforts here result in moving the cryonics community 
away from uploading, and toward an emphasis on preservation of 
structural information, which will make the difference between 
waking up and not waking up.

I think the 'souls' so saved would worth any effort on my part.

Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=25041