[ExI] A dispassionate examination of being an upload.

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 20 04:02:28 UTC 2010

On Sun, Sep 19, 2010 at 10:23 PM, Stathis Papaioannou
<stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2010/9/19 Alan Grimes <agrimes at speakeasy.net>:
>> Therefore it necessarily follows that if you then replace all the atoms
>> at once with a completely different substance that bares no resemblance
>> (never mind temporal or spatial connection) to the original in either
>> outward appearance or the mechanism of its operation, it can not be
>> anything other than the exact same person!!! =PPP
> What exactly are you saying here?
> 1. If the atoms are replaced by identical ones, is that OK?
> 2. If the atoms are replaced gradually, but not all at once, is that OK?
> 3. If the atoms are replaced with functional equivalents - for
> example, if the calcium ion channels are replaced with tiny mechanical
> devices operated by magnetic fields - is that OK?
> 4. If you don't believe the above replacement processes are OK would
> you experience a gradual mental change corresponding to the physical
> change, and if so how is that possible given that observable
> (including self-observable) neurological function would be the same?

These identity arguments are intractable.  We might as well debate the
number of angels that can dance on the head of pin... but that would
probably devolve into the type of pin (sewing, bowling, etc.) and the
kind of angels (christian, hindu, charley's) and the practical
mechanics of dance.

The fact is people take mind-altering drugs every day.  They are no
less 'themselves' than they are aware of being until they claim to be
"not myself."  The threshold must be unique to each individual and
there exist as many parameters and tolerances as one has features to
observe.  Even if we have a perfect model for how a particular drug
will impact a person's thinking, their own belief in the accuracy of
the model is likely to affect the outcome.  (omg, the model indicates
that if I eat this blue Pez I'll murder my house pets i shouldn't eat
blue Pez.  Or:  My horoscope says 1/12 of the population is going to
have a difficult day today, so I better call out of work sick.  Duh)

I think it might be easier to imagine this 'replacement' question
using our bodies:  If your knees are worn out and we replace them with
synthetic materials, are you still the same person?  Yes, you can
identify your friends and family and they'll all recognize you too.
However, the avid birdwatcher who's been confined to looking out the
window is suddenly able to go hiking for hours without pain.  Are they
the "same" person?  No, of course not: they're now more mobile.  A
person is not defined by a static snapshot of a moment in time - he or
she is a set of dynamic processes with habits that may change.

People have been offloading memory and processing power to machines
for a very long time.  We used to remember phone numbers but now we
keep that information in the device that we use to make calls.  We
used to know how to access indexes in order to find books to retrieve
information but now we 'google the internet.'  So if we move the
embedded (in the skull) process to another substrate over time or all
at once, what difference does it really make?  Some will be horrified
by the idea, others will find it a natural progression of technology.
No doubt there will be a social divide between the hive-minded and
always-on technophiles and the die-hard (ha!) purist old-school
humans.  How is that much different than it is today?

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