[extropy-chat] Avoid Too Much Change

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 8 04:46:10 UTC 2007

Thomas writes

> Lee Corbin wrote:
>>Regarding future enhancements, [and] the dangers of identity
>>loss [...]
>>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.
> I have felt similar misgivings about a heavenly afterlife.  My identity 
> would need considerable purging for me to fit in.  

Well, I would say that your self image must be incredibly negative
if you cannot imagine being purged of your minor foibles without
suffering identity change.  :-)   If you actually listed your flaws, and
then imagined either through New Year's Resolutions, Divine
Intervention, or a successful upload scheme  that those foibles
were corrected, do you really believe you'd be someone else?

> Reincarnation violates basic logic's law of identity.  How could I have 
> a past (or future) life as someone other than me?

Quite right.  Replace your memories, replace you.

> Yet, surprisingly, I have a recalled a couple "memories" of past lives.  

Come now.  Surely those are just the result of your imagination working
overtime. There have been no documented instances of people actually
being able to directly draw upon the experiences of people long dead.

> Uploading with knowledge/memory enhancement would skew me Borgishly. 
> With who's knowledge/memory would I blend?  How could you still call 
> that me?  

I would guess that you would not consider total immersion in an
Icelanding language course to be identity threatening. Surely the
Thomas, after the three years it took to master Icelandic, would
still be the same person.   Few experiences really change one
into someone else.  (I would not necessarily exclude The Army
or Scientology, however  :-)

> Lee, your warning has scared me into investigating 
> identity/consciousness.  Ack!  More reading for my tired eyes.  If your 
> identity turns out to consist of a process -- then it couldn't continue 
> without change.  Keeping your identity would involve keep the changes 
> going.  You've already changed from barely-self-aware-Lee to 
> extropian-Lee.  Would the upshift to "trans-Lee" work better if it 
> included an implanted memory of years of gradual changes?  

In the scenario I'm thinking of, the answer would be "not really".
It's the end point that counts. For example, even if you somehow
implanted memories in me of what it was like in my mother's womb,
it still wouldn't cause me be (in any sense) the inane little creature
she brought forth into the world.  It took many years, if not a decade
or two, for me to really emerge

> I suspect that identity might consist a good deal in what the subject 
> considers his or her or its identity.

On the other hand, I suppose it to be an objectively verifiable fact!

That is, scientists of the future will be able to say definitely that 
person X *is* person Y, or that person X is not person Y. Moreover,
some measures of the degree of similarity will be available. Already
we have measures that tell us how similar two binary strings are.
So since we're all binary strings in some sense, eventually we'll
have measures for how much change the identity of some
creature has changed over time.

> So if you identify with your body, best not drop it if you don't
> want to feel dead.  

I would say that those who identify with their toenail clippings are
simply wrong.  And those who identify with other bodily parts
below the neck, likewise, are simply wrong. 

>  What if I identified with all humans?  --  Thomas

Then you'd be commiting an error.


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