[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 30 14:50:10 UTC 2012

Jeff Davis <jrd1415 at gmail.com> forwarded:

> I wrote "Posthuman" specifically to combat the fantasy that I found in
> Hans Moravec and other transhumanists that it would be possible to
> transfer human subjectivity, perceived as an informational pattern,
> into a computer without losing anything essential.

OK, ignoring that assumption of 'fantasy', what, exactly, is essential that would be lost in such a transfer?  It's all very well to talk about 'something essential', but you have to actually say /what/ this essential something is, or there is no argument.

> This view sees
> information as disembodied and 

No, it doesn't.  Nobody is claiming that any information is or can be, disembodied.  The idea is to take the information that is embodied in one form, and embody it in another.  Even during the transfer of information, it is embodied, as electrons, photons, magnetic domains, whatever.  Information is *always* embodied, or it ceases to exist.

Has the information in a book, when scanned into a computer and turned into a digital file, become disembodied?  Has something essential been lost in this process?

> reduces the enormous complexity of
> human embodiment only to an informational pattern.

*Only* an informational pattern?!
This phrasing implies that there is something somehow inferior about informational patterns.  Inferior to what, I wonder?

A more accurate rewrite of that might be:
"This view sees information as fundamental, and faces the challenge presented by the enormous complexity that is the informational pattern of human embodiment".

Think about the word itself: Inform-ation.  It lies behind everything. All meaning, all perception, all experience, all structure, it's all information.  If there is anything else to these things, I'd like to know about it.  

Space/Time, Matter/Energy, and Information.  That's all there is.  So if anything in existence can't be boiled down to these elements, it doesn't exist (or our understanding of the world - and thus the underpinning of all science - is waaaay off).

> Because it is a
> pattern, this reasoning goes, it can be duplicated in another
> substrate without any significant loss. 

In theory.  We all understand that practice doesn't always follow theory as well as we'd like.  There will undoubtedly be challenges in achieving the fidelity of duplication that will be necessary to fully reproduce a person's mind.  We currently don't even know what level of detail will be needed.

> This view, I think, is
> profoundly mistaken on several counts.

...?  Which are?

Ben Zaiboc

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