X-Message-Number: 25375
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 22:54:39 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: QE survival, information, reality
References: <>

Richard, you wrote,

"We are not talking about the survival of a particular physical system, but 
of a set of properties of a physical system. The properties may survive, 
even while the system changes, as long as the system changes in ways 
consistent with those properties."

To which I responded:

"It strikes me that *may* is the operative word here. Yes, I agree 'the 
properties *may* survive' (emphasis added). The main point I was trying to 
make is that it is not self-evident they *do* survive,"

To which you responded,

 On the contrary, my claim is that it *is* self-evident. The properties in 
question here are those of a qualia experiencer, which is defined as a 
thing capable of experiencing qualia. 

It seems reasonably self-evident that *a* qualia experiencer survives, one 
that is at least a (reasonably accurate) replica of the original. That much 
I won t dispute. However, being a replica alone is not good enough, in 
general, from your perspective, as you have said repeatedly. Here you do 
end up with a replica, a *different* QE, so clearly the original has 
perished, even though *a* QE was present at all times. The QE could be 
(reasonably, I think) said to have *started* as the original, but then 
became progressively hybridized, until it no longer was the original. At 
least this kind of argument would probably seem reasonable to an antique 
fancier, who might be interested in a true original of something, rather 
than a replica however made. Can a *different* QE still possess the 
properties you desire, of continuing *your* existence. Not always, you say, 
so I ask why ever? Why is it self-evident that in this one case the replica 
does in fact continue your original existence, though in general it will 
not? You can say, "because a QE was present at all times"--but so what, it 
wasn't the *same* QE.

You also wrote,

 I believe in a brain, and this brain has certain properties X, which 
collectively permit the brain to experience qualia. As long as the brain 
remains able to experience, it is possible for my subjective inner-life to 
happen. But when the brain loses this ability, then it is no longer 
possible for my subjective inner-life to happen. 

You have said that certain repair scenarios involving a cryopreserved brain 
would be unacceptable to you even if the end result was a perfectly 
restored brain similar to the original, using original material in its 
original locations -if the brain were finely divided into pieces in the 
interim, for example. This is because during this time the brain would lose 
the ability to experience qualia. But I maintain that the cryopreserved 
brain has already lost this ability -how can a cryopreserved brain 
experience qualia? In its present state it is just an inert lump of matter. 
A nontrivial procedure is needed to restore it to a functioning state. The 
same might be said if the brain s material is divided up -a certain 
procedure (a different one in this case, still a procedure however) is 
needed to restore the brain to a functioning state, yet (by presumption) 
such a procedure exists. So I don t see how this scenario differs 
qualitatively from the first. In either case we are talking, essentially, 
about a reversible series of steps from a functioning QE, to something that 
is not a functioning QE, back again to a functioning QE (which additionally 
is materially similar to the original, with the same atoms in the same 
places). So where do you draw the line? What types of procedures of this 
sort would not be acceptable from your point of view and why? I will ask 
also if a gradual change in atoms is acceptable to you if the subject is 
unconscious the whole time.

You wrote,

 Constructing a new physical system won't do me any good, since 'I' was the 
changes that happen to the old physical system, not to the new (or any 
other) one. 

I once again bring up the gradual change of atoms, one way of constructing 
a  new physical system  which arguably  won t do you any good. 

You also wrote,

 Numbers, processes, patterns, and such, do not exist (except as concepts 
in human minds). Trying to prove they exist is rather like proving Santa 
Claus exists. It can't be done. 

I think of other things besides collections of atoms as being  real  and 
thus existing, such as a book, regarded as a body of information rather 
than a physical object. If I say,  I wrote a book,  I am not referring to a 
physical object, really, even though physical objects were involved, one 
being the computer hard drive on which the information was initially 
stored. (If the information had been stored in a volatile form initially, 
such as sound pulses in the mercury-based delay lines used in early 
computer memories, the connection with a specific physical object would 
have been more tenuous -though I won t dispute that even here there is an 
unavoidable connection with the material world.) I also think patterns (and 
information more generally) do have an objective existence. The benzene 
ring is hexagonal, for instance, whether anyone perceives it as such. To me 
mathematical concepts possess a certain reality that in some ways 
transcends that of material objects -chairs and tables pass away, the gamma 
function endures forever. Yes, these are concepts in human minds (and those 
of other beings which probably exist). I'm not a theist, so I don't think 
there is one Mind over all, which could serve to legitimize the claim that 
something exists if it is a concept in or possessed by this one supreme 
thinking entity. Yet to me reality produces minds which, I think, have 
enough similarity that certain features will be repeated, such as the 
ability to reasonably interpret bodies of information, thus granting said 
information a non-arbitrariness somewhat akin to what would happen if there 
was one supreme being.

You wrote,

 So this divides people into those who must have proof to accept the 
existence of something, and those who merely accept the existence of 
non-physical things without proof. 

If someone claims to have written a book, they could email me a copy in 
electronic form, and I would take that as evidence of its existence (as a 
body of information). Yes, the existence of a body of information implies 
something about material objects -information, if actualized, must have 
matter to be written in or on in some fashion, yet to me the information 
itself possesses a kind of existence all its own. (If someone claims a book 
exists but cannot produce the requisite information, however, then I start 
having doubts, just as I do about the existence of Santa Claus.) I also 
think processes can be informational in nature, and that is how I view 
persons, as I ve said before.

Best wishes,
Mike Perry

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