[ExI] Uploading and selfhood

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Tue Apr 1 00:25:26 UTC 2008

On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 3:02 PM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

>  That still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Oh, and by the way,
>  I do plead guilty to being focused upon personal *survival*. But,
>  you see, what I really want to understand are the necessary and
>  sufficient conditions that you endorse for the continued existence
>  of a *person*----that is what the question of personal identity
>  amounts to. Your slightly modified definition or characterization
>  I have offset above fails to explain just when a "personal identity"
>  ceases to be, even by degree.
>  We were closer back in the days when you'd agree that a 6 year
>  old Alice was not the same person as the 86 year old Alice. But
>  it seems to me that you are becoming increasingly vague and
>  obscure.

On the contrary, I posted that little story about Aging Alice,
to show that the diachronic self entails /no/ difference of identity
for the person or their society -- to the extent that agency is

I showed how Alice as a young girl, Alice as a young adult, Alice as a
mature adult, and even Alice in old age could have substantial, even
conflicting, differences in their memories, values, functions and
morphology, yet be easily, naturally, and effectively considered the
same person by herself and those around her.  I showed also how the
entity Alice of future technology could have simultaneous "variants
and doubles" in addition to the aging meat body, all considered the
same self to the extent they act on behalf of the same entity.

In contrast, your view becomes increasingly incoherent as it departs
from the special case of exact duplicates at T=0.

You've said many times that as duplicates diverge in form and function
they become less the same person.  In acknowledging this you recognize
that it raises a fundamental question but you're unable to quantify or
fit a function.  And you can't because it's only a special case,
operating according to principles outside your model, that you've
chosen to ignore -- apparently because to do so would undermine the
Key to Personal Survival you've been so tightly grasping and carefully
polishing all these years.  You can't possibly come up with even an
approximate function for relating physical/functional/pattern
divergence to personal identity divergence -- because personal
identity is not a function of physical/functional/pattern similarity.
Physical/functional/pattern similarity is merely *correlated in our
experience* with identity because it's the simplest, most probable
example of personal agency, with that probability approaching absolute
certainty as all differences approach indiscernibility.

Personal identity is not a function of physical/functional/pattern
similarity -- that's only a special case.
Personal identity is a function of the extent to which an agent is
perceived to act on behalf of a (personal) entity.

Regardless of changes in physical form; function lost or enhanced;
memories lost, gained, modified or even "made up"; values cherished
and then left behind, emotional response changing over minutes, hours,
weeks, years; spatial change, temporal change, spatio-temporal
replicas... None of this matters to personal identity, except to the
extent it impacts agency.


As I thought about how to lay out the rest of a proper response, I
realized I've said it all before.

When will I learn?

Have fun, Lee.  This particular sandbox is all yours.

- Jef


Aging Alice

Alice at the age of six loved playing with dolls but boys were icky.
She wasn't sure whether she believed in Santa Claus, and her memories
were like those of most little girls, revolving around events in her
home and with the neighbor kids, and she especially remembered her
fourth birthday party (birthdays are great!) when grandma came to
visit all the way from... someplace far away.

When Alice turned sixteen, playing with dolls was long since passé and
boys were the most important focus of her life.  She didn't believe in
Santa Claus, but she believed very strongly that anyone should be
allowed to do whatever they want, as long as they don't hurt anyone
else, and she really really really wished people would leave her
alone!  Her memories were mostly of friends and social events over the
last several years, but she didn't remember a lot about her early
childhood years.

When Alice was twenty-six, she was very active in her local chapter of
United World, and it frustrated her to no end how people were so blind
to the importance, rather the necessity, of being involved and working
together for a common cause. Her memories were full of momentous world
events and she could hardly remember being the sixteen year old who so
often said "leave me alone" when people offered to help.

At thirty-six, Alice couldn't understand how people could find time
for idealistic dreams like "saving the world" when she and her husband
had their hands more than full with two jobs, two mortgages and two
kids.  She believed strongly that family (especially the children)
comes first, and that free time was among the most valuable things in
the universe.  She had fond memories of being sixteen, when life was
so simple and free.

<Skip ahead fifty years>

At eighty-six, Alice and her partner stayed almost entirely at home
due to the ongoing bioterrorist threats. It wasn't so bad though, and
in fact she was more active and involved than ever before using the
latest telepresence technology. It allowed her to be in more than one
place at the same time, and while her multiple projects were very
important to her, even with mental augmentation she sometimes felt she
might explode from all the in-rushing information. Being so plugged
into the net it was often hard to discern where "Alice" ended and the
rest of the world began, and she could "remember" almost anything

<Skip ahead fifty years>

On their one hundred thirty-sixth birthday Alice's variants and
doubles noted their anniversary in passing but were much too engaged
with multiples of projects to choose to allocate an attentional
resource branch for a dedicated celebration. AlicePrime would have
wanted it that way, and it's not like anyone's going to forget
anything these days.

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