[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 01:55:24 UTC 2012

On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:50 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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.

What is essential to me may not be essential to you.

This could be very tricky to resolve.  For example, suppose I consider
blue eyes an essential part of my identity.  For whatever reason I
decide to start taking the eyelash-increasing drug Latisse.  Also
suppose that I am ignorant of the side effects and instead focus
solely on having more eyelashes.  After I have successfully grown
twice the number of eyelashes as I had started with, I notice my eyes
are evidently brown(ish).  Is there some essence lost?  Maybe, or
maybe I am not concerned with the loss of this part of my identity
compared with the benefits of more eyelashes.  Either way, I don't
know why anyone would seek out the side effect of a glaucoma treatment
- has anyone ever said, "They'd be really attractive if only they had
more eyelashes"?

I also wonder about the essential parts of emotional reaction to
situations.  If during a depression one decides to selectively edit /
remove the ability to feel depressed (seems like a good idea, right?)
then later realizes that the creative introspection that came with the
depressed state is also no longer accessible, what is lost?

I think about those early adopters who initially report that
everything is fine and encourage others to jump in the pool... only to
realize later that the long-term (and effectively infinite would
certainly qualify for long-term) effect of disembodiment is a literal
lack of connection with embodied community.  It may be no different
than moving to another city and losing the immediate access to your
friends but it still qualifies as a sense of loss.  If restoration to
flesh is not possible, then the one-way trip might induce a buyers'
remorse that is not easily shaken.

Perhaps the choice for what to keep and what to leave behind is
simple, but if you've ever forgotten to pack your toothbrush to go
away overnight you can understand the fear of "losing" something.
Imagine the horror of reaching the post-uploaded state without the
equivalent of your toothbrush, especially if you can't just buy one at
the convenience center because the convenience center hasn't been
built by the nerds overseeing the upload process.  Well maybe we can
just edit out one's sense of embarrassment too... no problem;
solid-state human patterns won't retain any of those social
customs/taboos, right?

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