[ExI] Uploading and selfhood

Michael Miller ain_ani at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 10 09:52:16 UTC 2008


>Okay, but just for the record, yes, we often *perceive*
>a similarity between two things, but we can conceive of
>two things having similarity even when there are no
>perceivers or observers about. But then, I forgot, we
>are in fact in part debating the notion of a "realist" 
>ontology. Suffice it to say here that I claim that there
>can be *objective* similarity of structure, or isomorphism,
>even in the absence of nearby intelligent life.

I think maybe it's an oxymoron to talk about conceiving what something looks like outside of perception. I predict you'll disagree with this, but I stick to my guns that for there to be similarity (or even definable qualities) of "somethings" you need to have a specific perspective from which you are looking at them. I don't think we can sensibly talk about how something appears when no one is looking at it.

>and I am rebutting that claim (that Jupiter is a human concept)
>by pointing out that any alien
>that we can imagine that would have the wherewithall to
>navigate to Earth would also have, as you put it, "the
>concept of Jupiter".  Now if all intelligent entities that
>happen to cruise though the solar system must have
>an idea of Jupiter, then that adds a lot to the credibility
>of the notion that there is an objective thing out there
>that we refer to by the name "Jupiter".

Okay - I think here, we're actually confusing each other. By saying Jupiter is a human concept, I didn't mean that other non-humans couldn't have a similar one. I actually meant that it's a precisely defined concept with specific boundaries and qualities attached - as in the cat example last time, there is no precise "Jupiter-object" in reality - it's a useful concept, and aliens may well articulate their experience of reality into a very similar concept...but there's no precise Jupiter out there, because reality doesn't have the kind of precisely delineated objects our language imputes. Th real problem is that the more precisel;y we try to define our words and concepts, the more slippery reality becomes. This is <i>not</i> to say there's not something that correlates with the word. As I've said before, I'm neither realist nor anti-realist. I think the binary involved here doesn't do justice.

But, this discussion of Jupiter I think is taking us further and further away from the initial issue, which was of Napoleon - and I think it's here that my point is much more useful (to be frank, in regards to something like Jupiter it's really rather a trivial point). What have you to say in this regard?

>The problem is,
>"where do we draw the boundary between us who are observing
>and what is 'out there'?".  A fairly standard way of doing that is
>to suppose that what is outside our skins is "out there", and anything
>on the other side of that boundary is us. So I am *not* supposing
>that I do not include my retina, for example. I'm a whole system.
>The whole system looks out there and sees things. It's the natural
>way we speak, and we realists, at least, find nothing fundamentally
>wrong with it.  (Of *course* we know the whole train of events
>that leads from objects to photons to images to retinas to V1 
>(nerve firings) that lead to more nerve firings that lead to... it's
>nerve firings all the way down!    :-)

I refer you to cybernetics here. While observing Jupiter, you and Jupiter become part of a single system. While admitting the utility of it, I disagree with the skin-barrier of identity (this is probably clear by now). I don't claim to draw any distinct boundaries between the observer and observed. (This is also probably by now apparent)

>I think that that is very much doubtful. We'll find that the
>more successful "higher" Earth animals also make the
>same segregations we do.  And I contend that that is
>not mere coincidence, that even space aliens would
>recognize glass (say volcanic "glass") as separate from,
>say, rivers and trees. There *really is* a certain amount
>of structure out there in the world that any evolutionarily 
>derived being that successfully makes its way in the
>world will recognize.

>I guess that that is *not* the case. That the aliens would
>be rather similar to us in how they broke the world up.

Okay. I'll wait for you to offer either an argument or some evidence for why this is the case ;) (Still though, for as long as we're talking about other subjectivities note that this makes no real inroad into the question of objective identities/properties)

>We progress
>best when we confine our descriptions and ideas
>to what is objective.

Can you offer a means for doing this?

>But we would find the same "issues" on any extra-solar
>planets as well, right? 

Not necessarily. And planets aren't the only source for intelligence to develop (at a fairly extreme - though not the most extreme - point, take Boltzmann Brains as an example)

>where we appear to differ is that I think that
>we evolved to *be* in accordance with a certain amount
>of real structure already there "out there" in the universe. 
>All of the "evolutionary epistemology" philosophy
>(or wikipedia) is grounded upon the idea that we evolve
>to be in accord with our environment---which, yes, is
>exactly what you are saying too. So:

Hmm, not necessarily. I'm saying we've developed a particular kind of awareness/conceptualisation which happens to have worked. The fact that everything in the "Earth" system has roughly the same kind of objective concept-structure would be pretty much determined by our evolutionary lineage, and our interpdependent integration as a system.


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