X-Message-Number: 25347
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 2004 22:32:51 -0500
From: Francois <>
Subject: My views, to Richard

Thank you very much for your reply. I can see I was on the right track and
your added statements clarified things even more.

To begin with, I agree with all five of your statements, and I confirm that
I do not believe that I am more than my brain, at least not in the way most
religions teach. No souls, no spirits, no ethereal entities separate from
our material brains that would allow us to enter an afterlife. That's a good
thing out of the way.

Second, I would like to establish once and for all that two different brains
can have the same sense of identity. Demonstrating this is rather trivial.
My brain of today is very different from my brain of one year ago. Many
neurons have died, new memories have been formed , older ones have been lost
or transformed. A great deal of its atoms have been replaced during that
year, and it has undergone many other changes, all of which are not known
and which would be too tedious to list anyway. Yet, my sense of identity has
not changed. I was Francois then and I am still Francois now. I am quite
sure that you experience the same persistence of identity yourself.

Third, I do not offer this as evidence that uploading is a valid path to
personal survival. At no time has my brain been destroyed and rebuilt, or
duplicated, or my mind uploaded to some other medium during that year. It is
merely to show that a brain can sustain considerable transformations, within
certain limiting parameters, with no damage to its sense of identity.
Therefore, a duplication process does not have to be perfect. It only has to
duplicate those aspects of a brain that are relevant.

And now lets attend to the business at hand.

Many times, you say that if my brain is destroyed it can no longer
experience. But what exactly does destroying my brain mean? If I were to put
my head in a functioning microwave oven, I would be killed very quickly.
Yet, my head would contain the same substances in the same proportions
before and after the ordeal. None of those substances whould just vanish
into thin air. How then does my brain after being irradiated differ from my
brain before? Why is one a living thinking brain while the other is a
useless chuck of dead flesh? The only difference I can see is one of
structure. The proteins in the irradiated brain have been denatured, their
shapes have been permanently altered and they have thus been rendered
non-functional. In principal, if those damaged proteins were restored to
their normal functional shapes, the brain would come back to life. Would its
sense of identity also be restored?

You would say no, because cooking a brain in a microwave oven would render
its QE non-functional, destroying it forever. The best we could do is bring
a new QE into existence. The restored brain would still return to life but
but the original person would still be gone and a new one would take its
place, one that would behave like the dead one, even think of itself as the
dead one, but would still not be the dead one.

I would say yes because the only reason the pre-cooked brain experienced the
sense of identity it did is because of the way its atoms were arranged.
Disrupting that arrangement with microwaves destroyed that sense of identity
and killed the person. Repairing the damage, including the damage done to
the QE, restores the sense of identity and brings the original person back
to life. Same structure before and after, same person before and after.

The situation becomes much less obvious if we consider what would happen if
I underwent a duplication procedure. First, I believe you would admit that
the original and the copy would both be normal living human beings and both
would have a sense of identity. I would even venture to say that you would
accept the fact that both would answer 'Francois' if asked who they are. You
would however say that only the original would be correct in giving that
answer. You have provided the reasons that lead you to this conclusion. But
since the only thing that gives my brain the sense of identity it has is its
structure, and since that structure has been duplicated in my copy, then I
must conclude, against all common sense, that the copy's sense of identity
is the same as mine and that the copy is in fact as much me as I am. This
conclusion rests on the following premises.

1- Atoms are completely interchangeable. It doesn't matter which specific
carbon atom is used in an object, any carbon atom will do. And before you
point this out, I am aware that carbon comes in a variety of isotopes, I am
of course saying that atoms of the same isotopic group are completely

2- The only thing that makes my brain a brain is the way its atoms are
arranged. That includes that brain's sense of identity. It too is a result
of a specific arrangement of atoms.

3- In view of premise 2, if the arragement of atoms in a brain is
duplicated, the resulting brain's sense of identity will be the same as that
of the original. The only way to invalidate this premise is to invoke the
existence of some non-material entity residing in the brain, a soul or a
spirit. Since I have already clearly stated that such an entity does not
exist, the premise stands.

Conclusion, the original and the copy are the same person,  quod erat

And now, for a little concession. Yes, the survival of my copy is irrelevant
to my own survival, but that only applies past the moment of duplication.

Situation 1, I am 'put under', kept asleep for a while and allowed to wake
up. I know for a fact that this poses no problem of personal identity
because I have been in this situation during some dental surgery.

Situation 2, I die, am cryonically preserved and revived some time later.
Premises 1, 2 and 3 force me to conclude that my subjective experience of
this procedure would be the same as what I experienced in situation 1

Situation 3, I am 'put under', duplicated, the original body destroyed and
the copy allowed to wake up. Premises 1, 2 and 3 force me to conclude that
my subjective experience of this procedure would also be the same as what I
experienced in situation 1.

Situation 4, I die, am cryonically preserved, then duplicated prior to
reanimation, both original and copy being then revived. Still, the three
premises force me to conclude, againts all common sense, that my subjective
experience would be the same as in situation 1. Except, of course, that 'I'
would wake up in both bodies. After that moment, we would become separate
individuals, both with the same sense of identity but each following our own
divergent paths. If either were to die after that, they would be dead, one's
survival would not be the other's survival.

So there you have it, as clearly as I can make it. No mystical entity
invoked, only ordinary matter and the way it is put together. I hope my view
of things is now as clear to you as yours is to me.

The Devil fears those who learn more
than those who pray

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