[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 31 12:36:49 UTC 2012

Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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?  

Um, not if you put in blue contact lenses.

> 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?


OK, these are practical concerns, not philosophical ones.  They are addressed by improvements in the relevant technology.  Assuming that an upload can go 'perfectly', and these practical concerns can be easily fixed (analogous to the blue contact lenses example), there should be no theoretical considerations of anything being lost, should there?

> ...the long-term (and effectively infinite would
certainly qualify for long-term) effect of disembodiment is...

Please, not 'disembodiment'.  I know you mean 'dis-organic-embodiment', but using the term 'disembodied' for this is just asking people to misunderstand.  There's enough confusion over terminology here without adding to it unnecessarily.

I think the problem is that people tend to assume 'embody' only refers to the kind of bodies they have now, whereas it can refer to any kind of embodiment, including a virtual body and environment (which is itself necessarily embodied in a physical substrate).  The contrast is between a 'natural' and 'synthetic' body, and using the word 'embodiment' to refer to only one of these implies that the other is inherently inferior.  

I know there are people who assume that a natural body is bound to be superior to a synthetic one, but the great difference between them is that the synthetic one is constantly improving, whereas the natural one isn't (not in any timescale that matters, anyway). So an assumption like that is going to look pretty stupid in a very short time, I think.

If we persist in (mis)using the word this way, I'm going to have to claim that I'm currently disembodied, and am hoping for the chance to become properly embodied in a suitable substrate that is vastly superior to a biological 'body'.

Ben Zaiboc

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