[extropy-chat] Avoid Too Much Change

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sat Apr 7 19:44:29 UTC 2007

Regarding future enhancements, I consider the dangers of identity
loss to be a

               R E A L       P R O B L E M

To illustrate, let me provide a quickie story.  Vastly superior aliens
come to Earth (and to other planets) on a mission to relieve the
suffering and backwardness of the local denizens.

They say "Oh, uploading is easy.  In fact, it's so easy we call it
'downloading'."  One of them holds up a tiny device and continues
his sales pitch: "Each of you can---just to get you started---
immediately download into one of these chips.  Your immediate
benefits include

       1.  Vastly, vastly increased intelligence
       2.  Cessation of all mundane worries, pains, and
       3.  Subscription to the galactic newfeeds, both conscious
            and unconscious
       4.  Unlimited communication with all the others who've 
            downloaded, even up to mind-melding, though we don't
            recommend this until you've become a bit settled"

"The only issue," he goes on, "is that some of you may have a problem
about identity.  You see, the moment that your IQ becomes 12,000
and you know everything about Earth history and the pitifully
primitive life forms that you used to be, you no longer resemble the same
person that you used to be at all, any more than you currently resemble the
fetus that you were eight months before birth.

"Now then.  Who wants to go first?"

Unless I had guarantees that there'd be storage enough and the
ability to run lots of old-fashioned Lees in parallel to all the Lee-Pluses,
I'd decline. The reason that I would decline is that I don't believe in
souls, and so cannot see---on scientific grounds---why the new little
device that I was supposedly downloaded into would resemble me
(or be me) at all.

To make the point stronger, suppose that of all the people we know,
half download and half do not. From our point of view, just exactly
what is the difference between "they downloaded" and "they died"?

Say Spike downloads, and Anders does not. Then we simply
do not have Spike around any more, and I contend that he no
longer exists, i.e., that he died:

Clearly a scientific examination of every cubic centimeter of our
solar system would fail to uncover any evidence of the existence
of our dearly departed.  Because, any dismal "records" of their
former mundane existence now residing all those tiny chips, would
not be affecting their thinking or their behavior, their mighty IQs
and vast knowledge having made such "records" totally unuseful.

I issue this caution:  what gaineth a transhuman if he becometh
someone else?  Beware any change at all, and allow only those
that don't change you very much.  If you want to keep on living,
that is.


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