[ExI] Mind Uploading article in Wikipedia

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 01:41:11 UTC 2009

2009/4/7 Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com>:
> At 11:26 PM 4/6/2009 +0930, Emlyn wrote:
>> "I" find that "I"
>> wouldn't be scared of walking into that uploading machine. Rather, "I"
>> wonder why? What on earth am "I" working so hard to preserve in the
>> first place? So many meaningless eddies in the flow?
> "Meaningless" is a clue. Meaning implies a purpose chosen (or recognized) by
> an entity using what Dennett and others call "the Intentional Stance." If
> that entity *comprises* eddies in a flow, then the eddies are not
> meaningless; they are the very basis of meaning.

Well, that little bit of poetry was sloppy, and I knew it was when I
wrote it, so apologies. I had just a few paragraphs earlier discounted
the idea that we are the eddies; it is the same concept as us being
the process. That we are the "live" sequence of computation doesn't
make sense to me because, fundamentally, computation is in the eye of
the beholder. One man's computation is another's jostling of atoms,
the grinding out of the great state machine of the universe for ever
increasing values of t.

> Why am "I" working hard to preserve it? Because "I" am a device built with
> that powerful drive, to preserve the ensemble of matter that in principle
> passes along a bundle of its own gadgets with
> how-2-build-and-operate-a-me-like-thing instructions or hardware . And some
> of those gadgets are memetic rather than genetic. And so on. Natural
> selection builds devices like us to have conscious awareness (as John Clark
> keeps insisting, whether he'd put it this way or not, and I don't hear
> anyone disagreeing)--that is, to function from an Intentional Stance. This
> is not an accident or a drill.
> The rest of the argument is just filling in the dots.
> Damien Broderick

I don't buy the argument from natural selection completely. I can't
help seeing it as an instance of the naturalistic fallacy. The
intentional stance, a component of ourselves, is no more sacred than
any other part. In a transhumanist forum, it should be as highly
suspect as all the other accidents of evolution that we happen to find
ourselves blessed/saddled with.

The more I read of modern neuroscience (which isn't much, but some),
the more of an impression I get that we, mentally, are made of a whole
lot of fairly distinct and in many cases autonomous modules, with some
kind of process sitting over the top of (or in fact to the side of)
this unruly mob, whose job is to take the decisions made by the other
pieces and concoct a plausible intentional stream to explain these
actions (to "me", whatever that is). It's more like a sophisticated PR
department than a control mechanism; rationalization after the fact
rather rational process.

I think of this like the government department in "Yes, Minister"; "I"
am the minister, the modules and so on doing the real work (or lack
thereof) are the department, going on with how they do things mostly
regardless of any sense of control I might have, and in between us is
Sir Humphrey, managing the flow of communication, convincing me that
the ongoing actions of the department were my ideas in the first
place, and congratulating me on my wisdom.

So from what seems like a more external, objective point of view,
we're just complex machines with ideas above our station. Our much
cherished first person consciousness looks a lot like so much
bullshit, really. The problem we have with uploading and so forth is
not one of function (clearly the upload/copy will be identically as
functional), it's a problem with maintaining the illusion of identity.
So we tend to be happy with suggestions like "let's just upload one
neuron at a time". It's just a destructive upload performed in an
overly complex way, not to actually preserve our identity (because,
let's face it, we don't even know what that is; are you the same
person every morning when you wake from sleep?), but to preserve the
illusion of identity (if I'm awake the whole time, and there's no
logical discontinuity of consciousness, then that seems ok).

The very intractability of the consciousness debate says one thing to
me; that we are asking the wrong questions. That our premises are so
off target that they are not even wrong, just orthogonal across
multiple dimensions to anything real. Evolution produced a species
that continues, in a very particular environment. We already know that
our built-in intuitions about how the physical world works are
spectacularly wrong (see Richard Dawkins' discussions of Middle
World). I suspect that extends to consciousness and identity. I don't
think we get to go much further in our understanding of and
interaction with the physical world, without losing our intuitive
sense of what it is to be ourselves.


http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
http://point7.wordpress.com - ranting
http://emlynoregan.com - main site

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list