X-Message-Number: 25054
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 06:33:46 -0800
Subject: Soul: Process/Pattern vs. Brain (to Mike Perry)
From: <>

Dear Mike:

You wrote:

"I'm responding piecemeal, as time permits, to some of the 
issues Richard R has raised on the soul. (At least we see they are 
relevant to cryonics!)"

Yes, highly relevant. It could make the difference between waking 
up and not waking up. You've seen Merkle's chance table, which 
shows that if you sign up for cryonics, at least there's a chance 
of being reanimated, whereas if you don't sign up, there's no 
chance. I propose a similar chance table for mind uploading:

|                   | Uploading Destroys | Uploading Preserves |
| You upload        | You die            | You don't die       |
| You don't upload  | You don't die      | You don't die       |

This would suggest that to maximize the chance of your personal 
survival, you don't upload, even if you disagree with me and think 
I am completely wrong, because if I'm wrong and you follow my 
philosophy, you live, whereas if I'm right and you follow your 
philosophy, you die.


You wrote:

"So now the soul is not just 'part of you' but 'a hardware thing', 
specific material object or physical artifact. To me this is 
additional, and I have to raise the issue whether we are compelled 
assume the soul is best regarded as a material/physical artifact."

Yes, you understand me well. The soul is some physical part of my 
brain. If I were smart enough, I could point to all the neurons 
comprosing the soul circuit, and say, 'This is my soul.' For now I 
just have to point to my head and say, 'It's somewhere in there.'

You wrote:

"As soon as you grant this, most of the objections to duplications, 
uploading and such gain force and seem well-nigh unassailable."

I am glad we agree that if the soul is a physical component of the 
brain, duplication and uploading do not result in personal survival,
 but rather, personal destruction, as sure as cremation.

So what we are discussing is not whether or not my logic is flawed, 
since we agree the logic is sound, but whether my assumption---i.e. 
that the soul is a physical component of the brain---is valid (or, 
at least, warranted or most plausible).

"But must we take this view? (I am, of course, interested in 
alternate views, if rationally justifiable, because in various ways 
it makes the outlook on life more positive, including some 
important consequences for cryonics.)"

I agree your view makes the outlook on life more positive, but to 
me, I would rather just accept the cold truth, even if it is 
painful---and especially if by accepting the truth, I can better my 
chances of survival. I would be happier belieivng that everone goes 
to heaven when they die, but knowing it is not true, I prefer the 

I think you would agree, if your view of the soul and the 
multiverse is correct, cryonics is not necessary or even important, 
because quantum mechanics implies that duplicates of you (at all 
stages in your life history) will appear an infinitely many times (
by atoms jumping into their correct configuration; highly 
improbable in any one universe but guaranteed to happen in the 
multiverse), both in the past and in the future, under all possible 
circumstances. So I am not sure why you are even involved in 
cryonics. Your 'soul' could not stop existing even if you wanted it 
to. (Even though I think this view is completely incorrect.)

You wrote:

"An alternate view, for instance, might be to regard the soul as a 
process (physical, not anything mystical) that takes place in a 
material artifact."

Now here we come to the root of the problem: a process, or a 
pattern (or whatever you could define the soul as to permit mind 
uploading to preserve personal identity), cannot experience 
anything. Processes do not have physical existences; a process is a 
name we use to describe a change in a physical system. But the 
actual process, the change itself, does not exist, except as a 
designation, a word we associate with the evolution of the system. 
There is no way for a denotion of the evolution of a physical 
system to experience anything. It is the physical system itself 
that must do the experiencing.

This implies the soul is a physical system, and therefore, that 
mind uploading and various other forms of reanimation will not 
result in personal survival.

You wrote:

"To play a bit of devil's advocate here, I'll again offer the day-
person hypothesis (DPH). [snip] I don't subscribe to this view, of 
course, but am only offering it to make the point that it is at 
least logically coherent and can be said to fit the facts of our 
world and our experience as far as we are able to detect."

But in my view, this is not logically coherent. The statement, '
Process X experiences something,' does not make any sense. 
Similarly for the traditional mind uploaders, the statement, '
Pattern X experiences something,' is meaningless. Therefore, I do 
not think this is a good view for a rationally minded person to 


You wrote:

"In his case there is really a 'process' too, not just a fixed 
artifact, since the hardware that constitutes the soul is allowed 
to change over time. The changes, however, must always be 
consistent with what can be called a 'soul' being present. If we 
change the artifact too much, break it into tiny pieces for example,
 we cannot restore the same soul even if the changes are completely 
reversed. (This, by the way, begs the question of what really are 
the allowable states the artifact can be in and still be classed as 
a 'soul.' What is the general principle?"

I have an analogy for you: suppose, for some reason, we consider 
the most important part of a CPU to be its ability to function as a 
Turing machine. Well, it so happens, you can break a lot of 
transistors in a CPU, and it can still operate as a Turing machine. 
In fact, you can replace redundant mechanisms in a gradual fashion, 
and still, it remains a Turing machine. However, if at any point in 
time, it ceases to be a Turing machine (it can no longer function 
as one), then any subsequent manipulation of atoms to construct a 
functional Turning machine is actually building a new Turing 
machine. It is not the same Turing machine as the one that was 

In a similar fashion, your soul is some neural circuit in your 
brain. You can change this neural circuit, but as long as you do 
not change it in such a way that it ceases to be a soul, it remains 
the same soul. If, on the other hand, you change it so that, even 
for a fraction of a second, it ceases to be a soul, then you have 
destroyed the soul; constructing a new one is of no benefit to the 
soul that was destroyed.

Your soul is a qualia experiencer; as long as your brain has a 
qualia experiencer, your soul survives. If through modification of 
that qualia experiencer, it ceases to be a qualia experiencer, then 
your soul has been destroyed. Messing with the atoms out of which 
it was comprised, and constructing a new soul, will not help the 
soul that was destroyed.


You wrote:

"A point I tried to make in an earlier posting is that both the DPH 
and the MBI are unprovable conjectures, like other theories of the 
soul. This means that we can maintain scientific objectivity yet 
exercise freedom of choice as to which of the theories we will 
subscribe to (if any)."

I do not think DPH makes sense. I think it is not possible, and 
that we can know it is false. Conversely, I think that by finding 
the neural circuit responsible for experience of qualia, we will 
have shown the theory to be true; and I can anticipate in my mind 
exactly how we could find this circuit, if we had sufficient 

You wrote:

"Which one should we pick? I should admit that I am favorable to 
the uploading idea..."

Ok, but see the chance table at the beginning of the message. Even 
if you believe in uploading, you don't have to upload, either 
yourself or anyone else. Life extension is all about risk 

You wrote:

"...though I also advocate respecting wishes of the patient when it 
comes to cryonics policies (always 'within reasonable limits')."

This is good for me, since I will send Alcor documents for my wife 
and I, but what about for you and everyone else? I don't want you 
or anyone else to die because they did not see the consequences of 
materialism in time to save themselves. Therefore, I won't be happy 
until everyone agrees never to upload themselves, even if they 
think that uploading would preserve their soul.


Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

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