X-Message-Number: 3790
Date: Thu, 02 Feb 1995 07:54:39 GMT
From: Michael Clive Price <>
Subject: nonbrain identity (whole-body vs brain-only)

Mike Darwin says:
> To sum what I was trying to say:  you can bet your sweet life that
> a concert pianist or a typist or anyone who does skills oriented 
> things not only makes changes in their central nervous system, but
> in their peripheral nervous system as well.

You may believe this but I do not, if by changes we mean changes
relevant to identity.  I see a lot evidence that motor skills,
coordination and neuromuscular ability generally (like typing) are
stored in the CNS (specifically: cerebrum and cerebellum) and none that
the peripheral NS is involved in such storage.  I often see people
*asserting* PNS storage but have never seen any evidence for it.  (And
we are not betting our sweet lives on it but, at most, only a very
small, and IMO trivial or nonexistent, part of our identity.)

> As is often said amongst craftsment and surgeons: the hands also
> teach the brain and learn from it.

Yes, the *brain*, ie the CNS.  I've not heard them say the hands teach
the peripheral nervous system :-)

> The structure of the peripheral nervous system is no doubt as 
> partially random in its development as the structure of the CNS.

There is randomness in the PNS, as in which axons in a nerve bundle
control with which particular muscle squads in the some muscle.  I doubt
that someone would even be aware if this were to alter, even less to
care.  Most neuros do not care much about such fine details.

> Thus, great skill in acrobatics or music or whatever may not 
> reside solely in the brain but also in other structures who's 
> derivation during embyrogenesis, birth and growth are unique
> and will be lost upon discarding.

The only thing that may be lost is the match between body image and
body.  Perhaps there will be a short period of adjustment upon revival
whilst you adapt your neuromuscular skills to the new body, in the same
way we adjust our driving skills when we switch car models.  However
some adjustment is inevitable since even whole-body patients generally
do not expect or want to be revived in the clapped-out, disease-ridden
emaciated old bodies they deanimate in.  Instead they imagine and hope
their bodies will be rejuvenated, just as whole-body and brain-only
patients hope their brains will be rejuvenated.  Adjusting to losing
(typically) 50 years of wear and tear is likely to swamp out any fine
difference between how your body was when you were younger and the state
it has been rejuvenated to.

> Genetically identical cows do not have spots in the same places.
> Bodies are likely to be sojewhat different.  For most people
> it probably won't be a big deal.  The point I was trying to make
> is that there is almost certainly information in the body which 
> influences behavior, feelings, etc that will be LOST when going
> neuro.

As if neuros don't know this already.  Of course we know this and of
course some information is going to be lost, but there is no evidence
for stuff like motor skills being stored outside the CNS, even less so
for memories, which seems more relevant to the issue of identity.  The
type of stuff that is going to be lost are the asymmetries and ugly
defects in our bodies that we probably won't care for anyway.

> As an extreme example, think of someone who due to
> his/her mother's drug use get's born with a slightly higher 
> adrenal output than his genes would indicate.  This affects his 
> behavior his whole life long, but in these primitive times no one
> even notices.  Then he gets neuroed and comes back with a body 
> rebuilt from his DNA.  He now feels different, acts different.  Is
> he the same?

If he's (or she's) different enough to notice the effect, and they feel
in a nostalgic mood, then the solution is simple -- have your adrenal
glands fixed up the way they were.  The information has not been lost -
- it's in your memories!  Since we are positing super-duper advanced
medicine for sub-cellular rejuvenation then inferring the state of your
adrenal glands from your memories of your behaviour will be kid's stuff
by comparison.

> [....] Is a big deal?  Not for me, but is for others, lots of
> intelligent others too. [...]  I didn't say that it was a problem for
> ME.  But then, as time has gone on I've learned to respect more how
> other people feel, particularly if there is little rational way to
> bound the problem.

I can respect someone who goes whole-body for sentimental or aesthetic
reasons, but that doesn't mean that I have to believe there are any
issues of identity involved.

Michael Price                        

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