X-Message-Number: 3735
Date: Mon, 23 Jan 1995 20:42:50 -0500
Subject: SCI. CRYONICS swapping etc

Neuroscientist Joseph Strout (#3720) refers to Bruce Zimov's term "subjective
circuit" (I use the term "self circuit") and says:

"It almost sounds like some folks still think there's a little person in
their heads who watches what's going on. You can swap [with another person]
the memories...knowledge...fears, aspirations, and personality traits, but if
you don't swap the little person...you haven't REALLY swapped people."

To many readers--I am surprised how apparently many, even among those
supposedly knowledgeable--this may seem a confused and confusing discussion.
Let me make another effort to clarify it a bit.


The short (if misleading) answer is YES, contrary to the conventional wisdom
nowadays. To continue:


The ESSENTIAL part or aspect of a person (or anything with LAWKI,
life-as-we-know-it) is FEELING, qualia, the subjective condition, the
capacity to feel pleasure and pain etc. Barring dualism or mysticism, it must
be a physical part or aspect of the brain or its functions. 

It may be distributed; it may require time-binding; possibly it cannot exist
in isolation from its support mechanisms and interfaces; we know so little
about it in objective terms that many scientists will not even admit it as a
concept or subject for study. But the incontrovertible fact is that that we
have subjective lives, and this is our essence.


The self circuit--although the center, focus, and essence of a person--is not
in other respects like a homunculus; the "Cartesian Theater" is not really
what we are talking about. There is no infinite regress, homunculus within
homunculus. Nevertherless it IS true--almost by definition--that we have this
central feature, the sine qua non of existence.


Dr. Strout says (intending irony, based on his understanding of Dr. Zimov's
position) that if you swap memories, knowledge, fears, aspirations etc. but
not the "little person" then you haven't really swapped people.

The misunderstanding here arises because you CANNOT swap ALL those things
without also swapping the self circuit. Memories and knowledge, yes, and
maybe to some extent personality traits; fears and aspirations NO, because
these involve FEELING, and that is the sole province of the self circuit
(while acknowledging again that it isn't necessarily localized or isolated). 


When we understand the brain's anatomy and physiology in complete detail, we
will know whether it is possible in principle to transfer a self circuit from
one brain to another, independently of the memories, habits, etc. If Jim and
Joe exchange self circuits (for simplicity say by surgery, if the self
circuit turns out to be well localized, which seems unlikely) then have Jim
and Joe exchanged bodies? 

Part of the problem is "philosophical" in much the same sense as the problem
of whether survival of an atom-for-atom duplicate would constitute survival
of the original.

If self circuits are generic, as Dr. Zimov intimated might possibly be
envisioned (one exactly like another except for location), then again we have
a "philosophical" problem.  The exchange would produce no objective effect;
an observer after the fact (assuming perfect surgery with no scarring etc.)
could not tell whether the transfer had been performed. But the self circuit
originally in Jim's body, that particular integrated piece of vibrating meat,
now in Joe's body, would be having Joe's experiences, since it is connected
to Joe's memories, habit patterns, and sensory inputs. 

The (isolated) self circuit doesn't know, understand or care whether it is
the "same" as before; it is (to some extent) just a sounding board, a
resonator or semihomeostatic circuit that has a life of its own but is not
free-standing. By itself, it has no intellect, just raw feeling. The self
circuit is the most essential part of a person, but the WHOLE person is the
integration of the self circuit and the associated memories and habit
patterns etc.

I don't think it is possible, on the basis of present information, to say
what "the" answer is, what the criteria of survival "really" are. There may
not be any answer , or any comfortable or intuition-satisfying answer. 

The "soul" now in Joe's body "thinks" it was always there. More accurately,
it doen't "think" at all, since thinking requires a lot of auxiliary
circuits, not just the self circuit. The self circuit just feels--originally
probably just "good" or "bad" and then, in the course of development,
countless subtle variations/extensions.  

Consciousness is the integration of feeling and computing, or the combined
action of the self circuit and its auxiliaries including the computational
aspects of the brain and the short term memory. 


Dr. Strout's posting seems to mix and confuse "swapping" with "uploading." I
have commented on "swapping" above--transfer of tissue (or organization of
tissue) between two brains. Uploading--transferring a persona into some kind
of computer--is in some ways easier to deal with, because there is no reason
in principle to think it can be done. For those who still don't get it, once
more very briefly the reason: You can't necessarily realize an arbitrary
device in an arbitrary medium.


The central feature of a bulldozer is its blade. Of course the blade is
useless without its ancillaries; it needs a platform, an engine, hydraulics,
guidance, etc.--but these can vary. 

You cannot realize the blade of a bulldozer in tissue paper. You need steel
or something similar (or better). You might realize a guidance
system--algorithm--in tissue paper, a Turing tape. But the bulldozer as a
whole, and especially its blade, is not just information or the processing of
information; it is a physical construct whose features have to fill the bill.

Since we don't yet know the physical features that characterize the self
circuit, it is not yet possible to say whether it could be duplicated outside
of organic matter. 

The uploaders ASSUME that the brain is NOTHING BUT an information processor.
I see no justification for this whatever. Of course, information and its
processing are more important for a brain than for a bulldozer, but it is not
in the least obvious that the brain does nothing but process information.


It isn't clear what Dr. Strout means by "full brain upload." I don't think he
means atom-by-atom replication or correction--that would be just duplication.
The result would
of course be a person, and we would have the usual "philosophical" problems
as to whether it was the "same" person.

When he mentions "partial" uploads he speaks of "transfer [of] some of these
structures"--those involved in personality traits, motivation, sensation, and
others. This seems to suggest that by "full brain upload" he means all of the
structures that are individual to that person. But that is precisely what we
cannot do until we know what those structures/functions are.

If "full brain upload" does not mean atom-by-atom replication/correction,
then "simply" uploading the entire brain could only mean transplanting the
entire brain. In that case the result is easily understood: Jim has acquired
Joe's body, which would be awkward in many ways but not disturbing on a deep
philosophical level.

...........Glancing over the above I see that, as always, it needs a lot of
revision and additions for maximum clarity and persuasiveness, but that's all
I can do today. 

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=3735