[extropy-chat] Life and Death is not like 1 and 0 (Identity over Interruption)

Heartland velvethum at hotmail.com
Sat Apr 28 21:51:32 UTC 2007

> So the challenge for Heartland amounts to this:  just how long does
> a patient's EEG need go to zero for the person to have died?

The only reason why I mentioned "flat EEG" was because I consider flat EEG a first 
available and objectively verifiable evidence that the last instance of mind 
process has expired. In reality, an actual death of an instance occurs much earlier 
which is far more difficult to explain (as you will learn in a moment :)) and 
absorb (I imagine) than the idea that the instance is *definitely* dead after it 
had experienced flat EEG. So flat EEG is just an objectively verifiable 
"confirmation" of death after the moment of expiration, and not an indication of 
when death happens. With that, let me attempt a treacherous task of explaining when 
the death actually occurs.

Obviously it is a death of an instance but an instance of what? After all, humans 
are collections of many physical processes and it is important to identify only 
that subset of these processes that cause life. It's safe to say we shouldn't focus 
on processes inside our stomachs, for instance. The crucial processes happen in the 
brain. But which ones? Well, only those that are responsible for causing the mind.

But before we can go any further with this investigation we need new clues that 
arrive after spending some time on defining what it means exactly "to live." I 
define "living" as being able to "access reality" which reduces to being able to 
think and process sensory information. I survive only by maintaining that access 
and perish when I lose it. With that, I may resume my quest for the subset of 
processes that cause life.

Based on my definition of "living" I should not be interested in all processes that 
cause the mind but only in those that allow access to reality. Finally, it is the 
collective instance of those mind subprocesses that allow access to reality that I 
want to preserve. Death occurs when that instance expires which could be well 
before medical staff observes flat EEG.

The rest is just Leibniz's law applied to the above.

> If
> you embrace the position that life and death are like 1 and 0, then
> you'll have a problem answering. If the EEG were to go flat for
> a trillionth of a second, what then?

Another instance of the same type has been created. A 1/1000000s gap and 10^45s gap 
is still a gap. :)

> Say some neurons fire and some do not---which after all is exactly
> the normal functioning of a human brain.  Just what implications for
> survival does that have?

None, as long as you maintain access to reality.

> What if the left hemisphere has its brain
> activity totally shut down by drugs or temporary freezing? Is some
> fraction of the person now dead, even though he appears to have
> been wholly restored?

It sounds like some degree of access to reality throughout the procedure was being 
maintained. The patient survives.

> What if one percent of my cerebral cortex
> fails to have any neural activity for a moment?  Is the degree of my
> survival impacted?

Probably not, but I would have to know exactly how the brain/mind works to give you 
a definite answer.


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