X-Message-Number: 27575
Date: Sat,  4 Feb 2006 18:27:16 -0500
Subject: Functional Incremental Atomic Modifications (FIAMs)
From: <>

Hi Jordan,

>> Even though I'm losing interest in this conversation, I will 
give it one last shot since you are articulate, and you do post 
thoughtful replies. <<

Articulate, thoughtful, and (apparently) utterly boring.

>> The only reason this sounds absurd to you is because you are 
still thinking from a 21st century mindset. <<

I was actually assuming nanotechnology. Let me explain.

Assume we have the ability to add or remove a single transitor to 
an 8086. This, of course, assumes the ability to manipulate matter 
on a very fine scale (molecular, if not atomic). Can we perform the 
magic of transforming this lowly computer into a Pentium?

The answer is, 'Yes and no.'

Yes, if you mean can start with the 8086, and through a finite 
number of successive Incremental Atomic Modifications (IAMs), 
arrive at the design of a Pentium. 

No, if you mean can we start with the 8086, and through a finite 
number of successive IAMs, none of which renders the computer non-
functioning, arrive at the design of a Pentium. 

The reason for this is that in general, between any two system 
architectures, there does not exist a smooth migratory path from 
one to the other, throughout which the system is still functional.

Add a transistor to a Pentium, and at best, it won't have any 
effect; at worst, it will cause the CPU to malfunction (worse 
still, take one away, and you'll almost cause the CPU to 

You're much more familiar with software than hardware, so let me 
give you a more familiar analogy. Imagine I gave you the following 
assignment: take a C implementation of the bubble-sort algorithm, 
and transform it, character by character, into a C implementation 
of the quick-sort algorithm. Chances are, you would laugh at me for 
suggesting something so absurd. The bubble sort and quick sort 
algorithms are fundamentally different ('different architectures'), 
and while it's true we can, through character-by-character 
modification, change the C code from source to target 
configuration, it will pass through a host of completely non-
functional states along the way (they won't even compile, let alone 
still perform the intended operation).

The same for any radically different brain architecture. Will step-
by-step evolution be possible? Sure, if you mean merely IAMs and 
not Functional IAMs (FIAMs). The reality is that anyone who wants 
to 'upgrade' their brain by radically changing its architecture 
will have to pass it through non-functional states: and at the 
first such non-functional state, the individual stops existing. 
What comes into existence later is not the same individual.

So now you can see the relationship between the definition of 
identity I presented some messages ago, and IAMs. Your identity is 
preserved through FIAMs; it is not preserved through Non-Functional 

My guide to staying alive in the future: don't let the doc upgrade 
your brain if he can't do it while you're awake. At least then, 
you'll survive the upgrade. Whereas if the changes to the brain 
architecture are radical, then your brain will have to pass through 
non-functional states; and since by 'your', we are referring to a 
functional brain capable of subjective, conscious experience, the 
state before the first non-functional state marks your last state. 
What follows after that is pretty much irrelevant from the point of 
view of personal survival.

To illustrate, indulge me in one more analogy.

Imagine you're an 8086, and I promise you that when you wake up, 
you'll be a Pentium. Now I unplug you from the wall, and begin 
disassembling you, atom-by-atom. When I'm done, I have a lot of 
atoms, which I then proceed to send to the opposite corners of the 
galaxy. I then take advtantage of the fact that atoms are 
indistinguishable, and I gather from my backyard all the atoms I 
need. Now I build my Pentium with those atoms. Did you survive? If 
you answer yes to that question, you need help (i.e., you're a 
patternist). If you answer no, then you probably understand the 
definition of identity and can see its importance in answering 
questions of continued existence.

>> And as this relates to identity... my program does have identity 
regardless of your insistence that it does not. <<

Let me be clear: your program does not possess a factual existence. 
No more than Monday or the number 2.

I'm a materialist, Jordan, and I'm proud to admit it: I don't 
believe in non-physical things. Matter and energy. That's what I 
believe in. If it's not matter and energy, then it doesn't exist. 
That means, when it comes right down to it, your program does not 
exist. What exists are the atoms comprising your computer; the 
energy coursing through its circuits. When you look at the effects 
of these things on your computer screen, you see something you call 
a 'program'. But this is a statement about neural firings in your 
mind: not a statement about the existence of something outside your 

That's the difference between a brain and a virtual brain. A brain 
exists. I can point to it. I can mash it with my fingers. A virtual 
brain doesn't exist, except as a concept in the mind of some 
beholder. While you or Mike Perry might look into a computer screen 
and see a virtual brain (assuming such a thing were possible to 
simulate on a computer; which it isn't), I might look into your 
toilet and discern in the motion of its molecules a virtual 
cheesecake drenched in blueberry syrup. That doesn't make either 
one of them real, so 'they' won't have the properties of real 
things. The virtual brain won't feel, the virtual cheescake won't 
have a rich, satisfying taste.

The real world doesn't require interpretation in order to exist. It 
just is. That's why it's called the real world.

Richard B. R.

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