X-Message-Number: 2696
Date:  Thu, 21 Apr 94 22:13:03 
From: <>
Subject: CRYONICS Cryonics Philosophy

To Heather Johnson, Bob Ettinger and anyone else interested in the 
issues of identity, survival, etc. as they occur in cryonics. This is a 
subject I have long been interested in too, and have spent some time 
over. In this connection I am working on a book, and also a 
mathematical paper, which I hope to expand, eventually, into another 
book. Here I'll try to address some points raised in messages #2693 
(Johnson) and #2694 (Ettinger)--of course I'm being highly selective 
here; much more is worth saying but time is limited. First, let's look at 

> Identity is a tough issue [...] In mathematics identity is ambiguous--
one can
> say 2=2 or 1/2 = 4/8, the former implying something closer to identity, the
> latter something more like equality. I make the distinction because identity,
> it seems to me, involves sameness to the extent of even a shared spatial
> property, (which implies that the things you are originally trying to
> establish as identical are, in reality, the same entity) while equality

> suggests that there exist _two_distinct_entities_ (i.e., they do not share the
> spatial property) which are intimately related. Thus, it would seem that for
> for an individual to die and be revived as an _identical_person, she would
> not merely have to meet the criteria of possessing the same remembered
> experiences as her former self, but must possess every property which
> is essential to her personhood.
> Here's the rub- what exactly are those "essential" properties? [...]

For me, "identity" in a mathematical sense is not the important issue. 
Arguably, it would be impossible to achieve and absurd to insist upon. 
Every instant your physical structure is changing in at least minor 
ways. The question of whether the revived individual is sufficiently the 
"same" as to REALLY be the same individual as before can also be 
raised about more routine things, such as waking from sleep. In many 
ways the latter is like our anticipated resuscitations from the frozen 
state. Less time involved with normal sleep, less high tech., however, 
possibly *more* not fewer changes. Over the course of a sleep cycle, 
there are changes in the "identity" of the atoms of your body (this 
happens every time you draw a breath and exhale). When you wake 
up you are not totally the same as before you slept, though most of us 
don't worry over it. It's true that, percentage-wise, most of the atoms 
are still the same; however we can consider a less trivial example 
based on Oliver Sachs' books such as *Awakenings*. I've heard that 
nearly all your atoms are replaced with different, though similar atoms 
after ten years, as a consequence of normal cell metabolism, repair, 
etc. Suppose we imagine someone who has been in a coma for 20 
years and then regains normal consciousness. Is that the "same" 
person, with a different collection of atoms, or a different, though 
similar, individual? According to my way of thinking, that person 
should be considered the same (ignoring changes due to aging, etc.), 
and the atoms do not matter at all, assuming that the new atoms are 
the same (equality-wise, not identity-wise), and they are arranged in 
the same pattern, or nearly so. In the case of the cryonics patient 
though, the atoms *would* be the same. No metabolism would occur 
even if you "slept" a century or more. You would be more "identically" 
the same (except for repairs, rejuvenation, etc., which might be 
forgone if desired) than after 8 hours of sleep. Personally, I'll take the 
repairs and simple improvements and not worry if I am not the "same" 
down to the very atoms, as long as I come out *better*. I realize the 
"coming out better" might be carried to the extreme of putting a really 
different person in my place, which I do not advocate. Every change is 
not equivalent to replacement of your self with a different individual, 

I'll look at Ettinger's message (#2694) next.

> 1. The "information paradigm" is definitely wrong. The map is not the
> territory; isomorphism is not necessarily enough. Being (or life-as-
> we know it, LAWKI) is not characterized by the ability to converse
> (Turing), or by an input-output correlation. These can exist in a machine
> or system that has no subjectivity. Intelligence does not imply feeling, nor
> vice versa.

I think the main worry addressed here is that a device that looks like a 
person, and outwardy seems like one in every respect, could be 
constructed which might have no feeling, or even awareness as we 
normally interpret it. Perhaps it is just a very well-crafted automaton, a 
super-duper computer with no more of what we normally think of as a 
personality, than a computer of today. This worry could in theory be 
extended to the case of something that clearly is mimicking the 
function of every individual neuron in a real person's brain. On some 
level, though, it seems inescapable that duplication of personlike 
behavior does result in a "real" person. If, for example, we copy a 
person down to the level of atoms--using real atoms--and create a 
functioning duplicate, the copy must be just as capable of feeling, 
awareness, etc. as the original. (It is interesting too that this should be 
true even though the atoms themselves do not possess feeling or 
awareness, by any usual criteria.) I think too that probably feeling and 
consciousness could exist in some material construct that is 
significantly different from biological organisms of today, though the 
precise details are unclear. Isomorphism is "not necessarily enough" 
but not necessarily inadequate either; it depends on what level of 
isomorphism we are talking about. I'm not sure what the proper level 
must be to guarantee a true person, and particularly, a specific 
person, but surely this is something that is knowable, besides being a 
fascinating topic.

There is another point worth raising here, in connection with cryonics. 
To me the question of "survival" has at least two distinct aspects that 
are often confused. One is conservation of the personality, the other, 
expression of the personality. For conservation, I think the 
"information paradigm" is sufficient. If you have complete information about
a person, as far as I am concerned that's all you need to "reinstate" 
them. In cryonics we hope that frozen remains contain, if not all the 
information that was originally present, at least enough so that the 
person can be reconstructed without significant deficits, or at least 
with nothing worse than the changes that are consistent with recovery 
from an illness by today's standards. For me, though, the same prospect
of resuscitation would exist from a description of my frozen remains 
down to the subatomic level, say, as from the actual remains 
themselves. I am not much troubled by the thought that this would 
allow two or more versions of "me" to exist simultaneously. (Dealing 
with this issue in full however, would take us too far afield, so I 
postpone it for now.)

Then there is the issue of expression of the personality, which is what 
we wish to do information captured in frozen remains or other 
The information must be used in such a way as to result in a certain 
type of physical system, one we can reasonably regard as a 
continuation of a person. The system should exhibit feeling, 
awareness, etc. It should pass simple tests such as telling us it *is* the 
person we think it ought to be, and should convincingly behave like 
that person. Perhaps there is much more that ought to be required. 
Again, I am not sure how one would or should judge, in general, if 
success had been achieved. Sufficient information about a person, 
though, should at least make it possible to reinstate them, in a 
reasonable sense. That is one of the main reasons I'm a cryonicist.

Mike Perry, April 21, 1994

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=2696