[extropy-chat] Evidence for the self surviving brain disassembly?

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Apr 1 09:39:10 UTC 2004

On Thu, Apr 01, 2004 at 03:06:21PM +1000, Brett Paatsch wrote:

> As I said. I don't regard eqivalence and identity as the same thing in
> this case.

These terms are meaningless, unless precisely defined. I define physical
identity as n systems being in the same quantum state. These cannot be told
apart because no physical measurement process exists to do so. We know that
because we have system observables (chemical equilibrium) having certain
values which would else be different (and we all would be dead, instantly, in
case it was different, in fact).
> Do you mean "two system[S]  in the same quantum state are identical" ?

> I don't know about that. (Not strong on quantum physics). I am

Me neither. I barely survived quantum chemistry in uni. None of what we're
talking about is part of the curriculum in an ordinary engineering school.

> downright suspicious of the word encode though. I suspect its a sort
> of programmers-paradigm concept that's running out of bounds.

No, information is the very bedrock of this universe. It's been with us for a
long time, before we realized we're soaking in it
(thermodynamics->statistical thermodynamics, QM). The trend is that
information becomes increasingly more important in physical theories.

This is not at all addressed in Computer Science curriculum either.
> I am also suspicious of 'thought experiments' generalised as actual
> experiments.

There's nothing very gedanken about two systems being in the same quantum
state being indistinguishable (I repeat that phrase a lot). It only starts
getting gedanken when we're attempting to force a nontrivial sized system
into same state, which is prohibitively difficult (it doesn't mean quantum
control isn't being done in praxis).
> I'm not wedded to "masquerading". I didn't mean to imply I
> was doing "system introspection" I am not even sure what you
> mean by that. I think the only things that can do introspection
> are people.

Introspection is examining a self model explicitly. Some animals other than
people might be capable of it, some existing AI and other artificial systems
are capable of it. Aliens (if any are out there) must be capable of it. 
> Ok. Its outside what I know to be true so far so I don't accept it as
> a fact. That does not mean it is not. It just means I don't know.

Please look it up (I gave you the ref), it's worth it. Skip the book, stick
to the Appendix.
> That was a shorthand of saying that flat EEG lacunes do not destroy identiy
> (I've met a few people who disputed this, but it is a sufficiently unusual
> point of view), and that the transiently dormant physical system contains
> sufficient information to resume the spatiotemporal activity pattern we call
> a specific person -- once again, this is an empiric fact, and no conjecture.
> "Sufficiently unusual" for what?

Because then there are lots of zombies roaming the premises. I don't notice
those people (with sufficiently unusual beliefs) to look for them, and to
treat them differently.

Also, people excel in engaging into extraordinary beliefs for no reason at
all (e.g. magical thinking that a heart transplant makes them acquire
properties of the donor), so I'm not assigning any importance to that.
> There's an outline of a proof in the Appendix of Tipler's "Physics of
> Immortality". If you agree with that, your only loophole is that no two
> nontrivial systems can be made to exist in the same state.
> Ah Tipler. A name that does not inspire confidence for me.

I do not think much of Tipler's beliefs. Some of his science is pretty
interesting, though. And it's published in peer-reviewed journals, so you
don't need to start worrying yet. Pick up the Physics of Immortality, skip
everything but the Appendix.
> I certainly do think that no two nontrivial systems can be made
> to exist in the same physical space when "systems" are bunches
> of neurons.

They could, in theory. They don't have to, in practice, because the noise
floor of a biological system is sufficiently high to put the identity domain
quite a few storeys up. You can model this very well as activity attractors
in a nonlinear system. This is also easy to do with multielectrode grid
recording and voltage-sensitive dyes in neuron culture. Once again, this
isn't a gedanken.
> Maybe I'm wrong but that's what I think based on what I know
> now.

I'm noticing that you're actively resisting me shoving information your way,
instead of going out and searching for it (half an hour on Google would have
been enough to hit several motherlodes of information, including past
discussions on this list, and elsewhere).

It is absolutely impossible to address the problem at philosophy level,
without diving into technical details, and using models (e.g., two
syncronized machine vision/robotics systems manipulating physical objects,
ditto two emulations thereof manipulating objects in virtual realtity, etc.).
> When someone who has taken an interest does again it could be that
> they want to push deeper than before.

Unfortunately the reality shows a different behaviour pattern. The debate is
old, and has been thoroughly probed during the heydays of the Net. The
probability of anyone probing deeper than all those who have gone before is
empirically very low (I've never seen it happen in the last half decade).

This doesn't mean it can't happen, I'm just not holding my breath.

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07078, 11.61144            http://www.leitl.org
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http://moleculardevices.org         http://nanomachines.net
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