[ExI] Identity thread again

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Thu Mar 5 04:17:07 UTC 2015

On Sun, Mar 1, 2015 at 10:13 PM, Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:
> If we're discussing identity and consciousness,  I would like to be sure
> all of the important bits are working properly.  :)
### To resurrect the identity thread: As I have argued here before, I see
my identity as the sum of privileged indexical information that separates
me from other beings. By privileged I mean information that I am
emotionally attached to, not confidential as in the usual meaning of the

There is a lot of information in my mind that I don't really care about -
all kinds of impersonal data, bits and pieces of generic experiences,
chemical formulas and tax information. These are not a part of me, they are
merely a baggage I carry around, or useful tools be used in dealing with
the non-self. I would not be any less me if all this was lost and replaced
by off-the-shelf apps. And then there is the privileged, true self - a set
of memories, and desires that I self-referentially designate as self. Never
mind what particular details are included here - suffice to say, a being
that does not possess these moving parts would not be me.

This is a very lean self-definition already but now I'd like to argue for
an even more restrictive one. Let's explore some intuitions here.

I feel that a being that had all my memories and desires, yet subjected to
an additional set of alien thought-patterns would not be me, no matter how
faithfully my memories were represented in it. This being could perfectly
impersonate me by accessing my neural network and yet its actions could
betray all that I hold dear.

Another intuition: Imagine that a composite being would be made of me and
another mind, consensually and with good knowledge of the likely outcome,
sharing our memories and desires. If the other part of the composite had
desires broadly compatible with mine, the composite as a whole would be
still me, grown, richer. Many beings could coalesce and it still would be
me, with a multithreaded past, as long as its volition would remain
reasonably coherent. A set of desires produced by an amalgamation of selves
would be still mine, as long as the transformations from pluribus to unum
were fully accepted at each step of growth. Even if my personal narrative
was diluted among millions, the gargantuan being would be still me, still
an individual, albeit a large one.

These intuitions focus attention away from mere memories towards certain
sets of desires and attitudes as the kernel of self. It is what makes me
tick that counts, not what happened and where. And what makes me tick is a
burning curiosity, a desire to know...  the shape of all things. Of course,
it would be nice to keep my name, rank and serial number on file until the
last computations are done but what really counts is that one day there be
the one that knows all that is worth knowing.

(echoes of "The Last Question" are loud here :)

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