[ExI] Continuity of experience

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Sun Feb 28 04:09:34 UTC 2010

Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com>:
> M can have no observable effect on the world whatsoever, and that
> means no supernatural effect either. For example, if M allows me to
> perform miracles and I lose M as a result of sneezing or whatever,
> then I won't be able to perform miracles any more. I will sink when I
> try to walk on water, an easily observable effect. I don't think it is
> possible for anything not to exist in a stronger sense than M does not
> exist.

Okay, okay! We agree!

Looking back on my original definition of M, I realize my "barring
supernatural effect" qualifiers were unnecessary. We are talking about
something very similar to souls here, but M is a conception of the
soul which does not in any way challenge the present scientific
consensus. So: it doesn't exist.

Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:
> OK, if you don't accept that time is quantised, this could be a problem.
> Or maybe not..  Just to be clear, when you say 'absolutely no mind', can I assume this is the same as saying 'no change of brain state'?

No. Well... no. Dead brains still change state. I am grasping for a
satisfactory definition here, but I would be more inclined to say
"absolutely no mind" equals "absolutely no purposeful action".

It is fuzzier than yours. You can say, "but dead brains act
purposefully! Their purpose is to decay!". It would probably take
something longer than the Encyclopædia Britannica to specify a
definition, in English, for what I'm thinking about with such
precision that exceptions like that are impossible.

Take two human bodies. Remove the brains of each, replacing them with
chemically-and-electrically inert copies with identical structural
properties. Density, shape, rigidity, et cetera. If the behavior of
one changes (in any way) while the other is unaffected, then that body
had a mind and the other was mindless.

More simply: a heartbeat implies a mind. Breathing implies a mind.
Pretty much every physiological function implies a mind, excepting the
purely chemical ones; stomach acid does not imply a mind, even if it
happens to be dissolving a ham sandwich at the time.

Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:
> If so, then surely there must be some tiny infinitesimal period of time during which the brain does not change, even (or perhaps especially) if you don't accept quantised time. (If you don't buy plank time, does that mean you also don't buy quantised matter or energy or information?   Is it even theoretically possible to have quantisation in one without the others?)

I wouldn't argue with that.

Actually I would not be at all surprised to learn that time IS
quantized in reality, but it certainly isn't in the standard model of
particle physics. The standard model doesn't do so great with gravity,
either, though.

Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:
> I think there *has to be* a gap, you just need to go down far enough on the time scale.  There must be a time of such a short duration that it's impossible for anything to occur that has any significance to a brain.  If time is quantised, then maybe there is no time so short that absolutely nothing happens between one tick and the next, but the events possible in that short time will be on the very smallest scale, and be very far from making any difference whatsoever to a brain.

You're already pretty far away from a mind-scanning scenario! But,
okay, let's see where this leads.

If time is quantized, then the universe operates in steps. Tick-tock.
We can also assume that space is quantized, then, and for the sake of
convenience we'll assume there are "cells" as in a cellular automaton.
Stephen Wolfram says a causal network is more likely, but I don't need
to be that accurate right now.

So! It is reasonable to assume that massless particles, such as light,
move one cell during each step. This necessarily implies that massive
particles do not always move at each step, and so, if the human brain
is composed entirely of massive particles, it is theoretically
possible to find two adjacent steps of time in which my brain does not
change in any way. Difficult, considering the number of particles
involved, but possible.

You are arguing that this would qualify as a gap in activity. But, I
see no gap. If you laid out the time-steps as a ribbon of squares,
each square containing the universe, then the gap between two steps is
obviously a zero-width one-dimensional line. Saying that there is a
gap there is equivalent to saying that there is a gap between a thing
and itself; no distance, no gap.

So, if my logic holds up, your assumption that a gap in activity
implies a gap in M never comes into play. Your move!

Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:
> (Of course you could claim that if even the tiniest motion of a single particle of the smallest possible bit of subatomic matter in your brain is missed out, you'd die, but that would be a rather Swobian argument, don't you think?)

(If I ever make such an argument, you can go ahead and assume I have
somehow lost M.)

Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>:
> From an engineering viewpoint, it isn't significantly harder to
> upload, sideload, or merge with more capable computational resources
> while maintaining consciousness.  The reverse would work as well.  I
> worked this feature into "the clinic seed."

Yeah, I figured that out too. I don't consider this discussion to be
of vital importance to me. This "the clinic seed" of yours, though.
What is it?

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list