X-Message-Number: 8315
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 21:13:20 -0700
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: Soup

Robert Ettinger writes,

>>To we [us] folk who regard information as a physical property, Bob's

Us? Set dictionaries on "stun" :-)

>This mystifies me somwewhat. First, I'm not sure what position of mine he
>means. Certainly I don't regard the info position as irrational--merely
>unproven, just a moderately plausible speculation, its main strength being
>the weakness of the opposition.

Many apologies, I didn't mean to overstate your case. What I'm trying to
get at is more an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings the 
two sides in this debate invest in this identity thing.

The info underpinning, the one I understand a little better, is that
identity inheres to the information represented by the assortment of
biological processes and related baggage in a person's CNS. 

Your underpinning, or the little I understand of it, is that identity inheres 
to the material of a person's CNS itself, information bedamned, and that 
no digital emulation of these essential gobbets can be adequate. 

As mentioned some time back, I'm not satisfied that either of these 
make much sense in the context of identity qua dramatic 
context, but this really isn't the point I'm picking. Instead I'm 
wondering whether the invariant you see in the essential gobbet
is not a different one from that the info folk see in their bits, and
that in this way you guys are talking at cross purposes. I see
no ground being given either way, and that makes me wonder this.

>As for information being a "physical property," again this puzzles me.
>Certainly information must be represented or transmitted by something
>physical, but the information itself--a number for example, or a
>relationship--is abstract. 

Here I think we may be getting at the nub of it. The info people, I think,
do not regard information as abstract except in its application as a
method of abstraction. If measurement is a physical phenomenon, an issue
on which physics seems ambiguated by the various QM interpretations,
then its communication, as information, should be a physical phenomenon.
In the absence of a definitive physical interpretation, we must be 
debating a philosophical issue.

>Also, he seems to be saying that he regards information as physical, but
>identity as not physical. 

As previously explained on this list I see personal identity as significant 
in a dramatic context, but, that context differing from one view to another, 
as essentially a value judgement. A bit, contrariwise, is either 1 or 0:
conjectures about its state are falsifiable. The identity of two persons, 
or one person at two points in time, appears to be a judgement that may 
vary from observer to observer, without any absolute criterion to make 
it falsifiable. For me, at least, this is the whole point of Turing's Test.

>But since he seems to imply that he regards
>information as defining identity, we then seem to have (a) identity is not
>physical, but rather (b) it resides in information, yet (c) information is
>physical. If identity is determined by information, and information is
>physical, why isn't identity physical?  

To parallel your reasoning: I say this soup is too bland. You say it's 
too spicy. If taste inheres to the soup, why do we disagree?


Peter C. McCluskey writes,

> It says undecidable programs exist, not that all programs are undecidable.

And you intend to demonstrate that your particular program falls into the
class of decidable programs how? The decidable programs aren't even
recursively enumerable ... cf. Rice's 2nd theorem, I think.

>Yes, it would be interesting if we could pin them down to a scientific
>test of identity.

Again, that's not what I'm after. What I'm suggesting is that the difference
you (et al) and Bob are having is more one of philosophical bent than of
anything that can be put to a scientific test, and that a more interesting
line of enquiry should have to do with the basic differences between these
bents - as, perhaps, begun with Bob's conjectures on information above.

Peter Merel.

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