[ExI] FW: [tt] Identity thread again

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Mar 13 14:47:19 UTC 2015

This was cross-posted from tt.

My comments all the way at the bottom.


-----Original Message-----
From: tt-bounces at postbiota.org [mailto:tt-bounces at postbiota.org] On Behalf
Of Mark Gubrud
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2015 7:39 AM
To: Transhuman Tech
Subject: Re: [tt] [ExI] Identity thread again

"I see my identity as...." is the most telling phrase in this little essay
and, indeed, the entire discussion.

"My identity," and indeed, identity in general, is a fictitious property
ascribed by a "subject" to its "objects" as it regards the actual universe.
"Objects" are just a useful way of organizing the world, one which reflects
many survival-important, functional features of the world. Tigers, berries,
and sticks and stones are "objects," so are other people, so is one's self.
[The greatest confusion arises, of course, when the "object" is the
"subject" itself; this is exactly what gives rise to the (illusory) "hard
problem of consciousness."]

One can articulate (obvious) reasons why it is useful to organize the world
this way. But the physical boundaries of our "objects" are fuzzy and
mutable. The question of identity is just the mind's question, "Is this the
same object I saw before?" One can lay out criteria for a definite answer to
that question, and such criteria are not entirely arbitrary. But there are
often cases where criteria that seemed to resolve the question unambiguously
in most or all situations up to now, fail to resolve it in some new
situations. The fundamental reason for this is that our ascription of
"identity" to "objects" is just an aspect of how we think.

So, you are entitled to define or redefine "my identity" any way you like;
what I won't accept is any argument that your concept of "identity" is the
true and correct one, and that you can use this putative "fact" to justify
the otherwise unjustifiable - such as, for example, the "replacement" or
"transformation" of nature, human flesh, human beings, and even all
humanity, by or into technology and its products, on an argument that
"identity" is somehow preserved.


Feel free to post and repost, e.g. to ExI.
Mark Avrum Gubrud
gubrud at gmail.com
+1  (240) 602-1841
twitter: @mgubrud
blog: gubrud.net

> Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2015 23:17:07 -0500
> From: Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com>
> Subject: [tt] [ExI] Identity thread again
> Cc: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Message-ID:
> <CAAc1gFhRbtKFEO5waDJq+HY_E5f4A_rt8DetYEJgCKdZo3uXGQ at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> 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 term.
> 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 :)
> Rafal
tt mailing list
tt at postbiota.org

The phrase "I see my identity as..." immediately plunges us into the
universe of self-referencing paradox, of which Hofstadter wrote so
eloquently in his Pulitzer Prize winning classic Eternal Golden Braid.  All
our logic is untrustworthy under that paradox.  The identity thread is the
tortoise's special phonograph records, the recursion and self-reference
special case which wrecks the rigid system of logic.


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