X-Message-Number: 25300
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004 22:09:17 -0500
From: Francois <>
Subject: Brain identity vs Mind identity

I've been following with fascination the debate about qualia experiencers,
uploading, duplication, etc. It's time I jumped back in there because a
clear image has formed in my mind which I will attempt to convey as clearly
as language will allow. I will do this as a series of postulates, each more
or less obvious and debatable. Feel free to point out their flaws, as I am
sure they contain many.

1- Human brains exist. I think this one is trivially obvious.

2- Human brains are made of matter and energy. Again, trivially obvious.

3- Human brains manifest a behavior we call mind. It's not the only thing
they do, but it's the one that is of interest in this discussion.

4- Human brains can manifest minds because the matter and energy they are
made of have a certain structure. For instance, I can take the carbon in a
human brain and make a diamond out of it. The resulting diamond will not
manifest a mind even though it is the same carbon that was originally in the
brain. Structure is important.

5- Human brains have similar large structures but they differ significantly
in their fine details. This is why human brains manifest human minds, yet
each such mind is demonstrably different from all others. A simpler analog
of this would be fingerprints. All fingerprints look remarkably similar at
first glance, but they are all different from each other, to the point that
they can be used to uniquely identify an individual.

6- From postulate 5, we can set up the following table:

    Brain A manifests mind X
    Brain B manifests mind Y
    Brain C manifests mind Z

7- Lets make a duplicate of brain A and call it A2. The duplicate is as
perfect as the laws of physics will allow us to make it. This means that
brain A and brain A2 differ much less from each other than brain A at time T
differs from brain A at time T+1 second. Still, I will contradict myself
here and accept Richard's assertion that a copy of an object can never be
the original object, however perfect the copying process may be. Therefore,
A2 is NOT A, and A is NOT A2.

8- By virtue of postulate 4, brain A2 is a functionning brain because its
matter and energy are arranged in exactly the same way as the matter and
energy of brain A. Brain A2 will therefore also manifest a mind.

Postulates 1 to 8 contain nothing very controvertial. The controversy will
arise with the next postulate. It can be stated in two versions.

9a: Brain A manifests mind X
      Brain A2 manifests mind X2

9b: Brain A manifests mind X
      Brain A2 manifests mind X

Which of the two versions is correct? Based on previous postings, I would
say that Richard will declare version 9a to be correct, while Thomas will
declare version 9b the correct one. I'm using their names because they seem
to be the main debaters, although others have also expressed opinions that
indicate which of 9a and 9b they will accept as correct.

Which version do I consider true? Version 9b.

Why? Lets see if I can explain.

In postulate 7, instead of duplicating a human brain, lets duplicate a much
simpler object, a book. You end up with two books, book1 and book2, in every
respect identical. Yet, book1 is not book2 because a copy, however perfect,
cannot be the original. But, and this is the clear image that has formed in
my mind, the STORY in both books is the SAME. Not an original and a copy of
the story, but the SAME story. It matters not an iota that I read the story
in book1 or in book2, because even though the BOOKS are not the same, the
STORY they contain is.

Personality, memory creation, memory retrieval, emotions, qualia, are all
purely and totally subjective experiences. They follow a certain pattern,
and no other, because the brain that manifests them has its matter and
energy arranged in a certain way. They come together to form a mind unique
to that structure of matter and energy. If that structure is reproduced
exactly a million times, we will have a million brains who will all manifest
the same mind, just like a million copies of a given book will still contain
only ONE story.

One objection to this (there are no doubt many others but I will not attempt
to list them all) is that a story in a book is something static, while a
mind is a dynamic and changing thing. That is irrelevant. At the instant the
copying process is completed, call this T0, brain A and brain A2 have the
same structure and therefore both manifest mind X. Of course, they
immediately start to diverge. At time T0+1, they are already different. This
is because brain A and brain A2 exist in different locations and receive
different sensory inputs. Therefore, starting at the moment the duplication
proces is complete, mind X in brain A will acquire memories different from
the ones acquired by mind X in brain A2 and furthermore, they will not
communicate these different memories to each other. From moment T0 forward,
mind X has split in two.

It would be like making copies of an incomplete book and giving each one to
a different author. Each will create a different ending based on what they
understand of the book's existing part and on their own life experiences,
but that will change nothing to the part already written. Ten years after
the duplication procedure, I have to doubt that brain A and brain A2 will
manifest quite different versions of mind X, but that is no worse than the
fact that I am very different from who I was ten years ago and also very
different from who I would have been if I had moved to South America ten
years ago instead of staying in Canada.

I am therefore completely satisfied that a good enough copying or uploading
procedure will result in my personal survival, possibly many times over. For
the same reason, I would not be afraid to use a StartTrek type teleporter.
So unless someone can point out a fatal flaw in this reasoning, the
discussion has reached a satisfying conclusion as far as I'm concerned.

The Devil fears those who learn more
than those who pray

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