[extropy-chat] Identity and becoming a Great Old One

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Thu Jan 26 21:03:44 UTC 2006

On 1/26/06, Russell Wallace <russell.wallace at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 1/26/06, Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:
> >
> >
> > While I subscribe to the pattern view of personal identity, I also
> > recognize that the pattern is ever-changing and that the closer one looks,
> > the more one finds that there is no discrete or continuous self to be
> > preserved.  As we live, grow, and develop, we update and edit an ongoing
> > narrative describing the Self to which we feel so attached.  This narrative
> > is replete with gaps, errors, inaccuracies and fabrications, but to the
> > subjective Self it is complete and true and the only point of view
> > available.
> >
> > In my thinking on this and related topics, I have come to see to that to
> > be consistent, all that  really matters to the Self at any given instant is
> > that its current values are projected into the future.
> Fair enough, so that's a (rather nicely described) counterexample to my
> theory, a philosophy that subscribes to the pattern view yet does not regard
> even a very large total change as suicide.

Hmm, and I'm inclined to agree with your last paragraph; how do I reconcile
> that with my view that becoming a Great Old One would eliminate the self? (I
> don't hold personal survival as the highest value, but I still place
> significant value on it.)

Any Self that you imagine to have been eliminated was only one frame in a
long motion picture film, already fading into the past before you could
think to mourn the perceived loss. There was never a discrete self to be
preserved or lost, but there is certainly a subjective narrative of self as
well as an objective record of events connecting the past with the present.

Becoming a Great Old One may indeed be a very worthy goal, similar to the
journey from toddler to leader but on a vastly larger scale, and in neither
case should we confuse a continuing process of growth with loss of something
that had only the illusion of permanence.

I'm not sure of the answer to that; perhaps I'm skeptical about the
> possibility of preserving my current values over a path involving very large
> total change. Perhaps if and when it's shown to be possible, I may change my
> mind.

We can be sure that our values will change over time--as the environment and
our interactions with it must change as well.  Rather than "change", a
better description might be "develop", since at each moment, our existing
core values (shared with others and reinforced by a common environment and
ancestry) strongly determine the direction of growth.

One can hold on to a narrower conception of self and it will serve well in
most circumstances.  However, paradox arises when one attempts to apply the
popular conception to issues of larger scope.  Examples such as individuals
willing giving their lives or all their time and energy to a cause, morphing
to a fundamentally different form, spawning duplicates, uploading to a
different substrate, all make sense within a more encompassing understanding
of self.

Paradox is always a matter of insufficient context.  In the bigger picture
all the pieces must fit.

- Jef
increasing awareness for increasing morality
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