X-Message-Number: 25080 Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 23:45:55 -0700 From: Mike Perry <> Subject: Survival of Soul as Information Richard, #25026, writes in part >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). To briefly summarize my view: what you could call the person is a process that, we might say, is expressed in information rather than in a specific chunk of matter or specific chunks, or localized processes. These multiple processes with participating parts have something in common that would make them what I call instantiations of the one person. (I imagine, of course, that different instantiations could exist in the whole of reality even though we see only one from our limited vantage point.) The soul is captured in information; it is a pattern-soul. I realize there are many questions about this point of view, but I hope it is clear enough so I can go on without having to address them all in this one posting, where I am trying to be brief and focus on one rather limited issue. The information or pattern that is involved in the soul, as I view it, will change over time. It will, however, contain a record of the person's past life: memories, dispositions, and such. As time passes and if all goes well, the main changes to this record will take the form of additions, corresponding to new experiences remembered, along with some, but limited, forgetting. This is the sort of thing that takes place as we normally grow older anyway, and we are used to it. We feel we remain ourselves regardless, in a reasonable sense, and this holds for people who base their notions of identity on memories and other personal details stored in their brains, rather than other ideas not requiring such retention of information. There will, inevitably, be distortions or corruptions of memories too, but I am assuming these are relatively minor. To feel we are the same is not necessarily to be the same, of course. The fact that our pattern changes, even by the smallest amount, could be construed as implying that the individual, defined as a pattern-soul, is continually dying and being replaced by a new individual, as Richard would have it. But again, we don't normally feel we have died just because a change is noticed, particularly if the change is simply that we have grown older and have more remembered experiences. So, do we take the position that our feeling of being the same person, based on informational criteria, is simply a delusion, or is there an alternative? An alternative, if one can be found, must accommodate the fact that changes occur, yet still must provide for something that can be said to persist in some enduring form. For me the "enduring form" means we must at least provide the possibility that the soul or person is immortal. (Immortal survival, in some reasonable, information-based form, is really the only kind of survival I am interested in.) My approach to this is basically mathematical, but can be described informally as follows. We imagine that, even though the pattern-soul changes with time, in the limit of time it approaches an entity that is unchanging with time (and also is infinite, that is, has infinite information content). This limiting entity, your ultimate self, is what "you" are in the end and what you are now is an approximation of it, which over time gets better and better. This betterment would not have to be linear, of course; considerable back-sliding or other excursions could occur, so long as eventually you get back on track and move forward. "Moving forward" means you are progressing to a higher, more developed version of yourself, thus undergoing a growth process, much as a child would do in growing up. After adulthood is reached, we also grow in important psychological ways--if not physically--if things go well, and we hope that more opportunities for this sort of thing will occur as civilization progresses. As cryonicists, of course, we hope to be transported to a future in which unlimited personal growth and self-betterment can occur. For the mathematically inclined, it is not hard to imagine a simple formalization of the sort of thing I am talking about. At each instant in time, starting with "birth" or t=0, we imagine the person is described by a finite string of bits. (This description, could, for instance, specify the position of the atoms in the brain, so as to capture all important details that might be present at an instant--these details should be inferable from the description if not noted explicitly. It would, of course, be a very large description involving many bits, even though finite.) We assume the instants of time are discrete, though the interval between successive instants may be very small (and possibly variable too) to allow for all important changes to be recorded. So f(t,m) will represent the mth bit position of the description of the person at time t, for integer m greater than or equal to zero. To make f a bit-map we make it take on values 0 and 1 with the convention that, for fixed t, f (t,m) = 0 for all but finitely many m to indicate that all bit strings are finite. We also assume that the descriptive format has a certain uniformity which I think could be enforced, even though the details would be hard to fully specify. Basically, we assume the person is in the same orientation, as far as possible, or is described from the same vantage point, on successive instants of time, so the changes that occur in our description with time will be substantive ones and not just the result of "facing the camera" differently. Convergence, then, means that, for a fixed bit position m, f(t,m) approaches a fixed value, whether 0 or 1, as t goes to infinity. More formally, for all m there exists integer T such that, for all t>T, f(t,m)=f(T,m). That's all there is to it. The end result will be a single bit string or function F with value 0 or 1 at each bit position m, defined by F(m) = limit, as t goes to infinity, of f(t,m). For F to contain an infinite amount of information--which I feel would be a requirement for a reasonable immortality--it is necessary that F(m) be nonzero for infinitely many m, something which could follow for suitable f. The converging pattern is still a time-varying pattern, and will not satisfy everyone's wish for an unchanging soul. There is a certain fuzziness that must be accepted, yet a certain definiteness too. I have dealt with the problems at greater length in my book, *Forever for All*. In any case the approach seems adequate to me. I hope I *will* change with time, in constructive ways, yet still retain information of who I was, so I can identify with a definite entity, and keep this identification indefinitely. In this way I successively become a *continuer* of the previous versions of myself, to a reasonable approximation, but do not simply stagnate and refuse to change, and that is as it should be. Mike Perry Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=25080