Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

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Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Graeme M on March 10th, 2020, 5:16 am 

I am posting this here rather than under ethics as I think that the question is broader than the underlying ethical issue.

I am reading Michael Graziano's latest book about his Attention Schema theory and he has a longish section about "uploading" minds etc. Long story short, he believes that in time we will be able to create soft copies of the neural connections in a person's brain (the connectome), in effect creating a virtual copy of a person's mind. He talks about the various implications and ethical concerns.

This reminds me of the problem of Star Trek transporter systems, discussions of which I think I have seen here in the past. The argument is that our mind is simply the result of local computations in a brain. Replicate those elsewhere and we exist elsewhere. In the transporter problem, the question is usually posed as to whether one would use a transporter beam if the original you is vaporised after which a duplicate you is created. Many people say yep, I'd use that.

While I get that argument (after all, the duplicate me will wake up and in his head, he is me), the fundamental problem with that angle is that the original me is dead. The question is, does that matter. In the end, the only answer I can come up with is that IF you would use the transporter, then you must agree that no, it doesn't matter and by extension your death at any time doesn't matter. I think that makes sense - when I am dead I no longer exist and so my death doesn't matter, to me at least (it might matter to those still alive of course).

However, I am inclined not to use the transporter beam. While I can rationally agree my death doesn't matter I have the same fear of dying as everyone else. The fact that another human being is created in my place is little comfort.

Still, Graziano's proposition is that in the future, we will be able to create virtual selves that can live in virtual worlds, virtually forever. Creating a virtual copy of grandmother and keeping her running in a virtual world seems reasonable enough, yet is that really her? In time, if we do the job well enough, grandmother will not be the person she once was. All she has, when it boils down, are memories shared with those who knew her. For her, of course, she IS grandmother. And eventually, the rest of the family will join her.

But this seems wide eyed idealism. If I am recreated in a virtual world, I think I want that to be done well before I get old, because copying my brain once I am old and feeble means I get to spend a long time old and feeble. Do we tweak these virtual minds to something better? Is that ethical, and in any case is it really me anymore? If we generate the copy at say 50, why not 40? How about as soon as we are born, kept in the spare room in a virtual world. Why bother having children at all?

I am not gonna use the transporter, nor would I volunteer to be a virtual copy. I am dead and my copy's "life" looks like a very real minefield. I suspect there is an ethical duty on me NOT to allow virtual copies.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby davidm on March 10th, 2020, 10:28 am 

There is a lot of talk about uploading human minds into computers so that people can dwell in virtual worlds.

This is far from being technologically feasible, and in fact in may never be possible, either because it can’t be done in principle — it is not possible to muster sufficient computing power to do this, or it is not possible to copy the brain in sufficient detail to make it uploadable in the first place, or both. Alternatively, it may be possible to do both, but human civilization will have collapsed, or humans will have gone extinct, before we are able to achieve these abilities. In any case, I don’t think we will have to face this ethical conundrum, if it even is a conundrum, if the lifetimes of anyone today.

There is also a lot of reasons to believe that human brains/minds do not function like digital or quantum computers. If that is right, then brains/minds may not be substrate-independent — may not be transferable to non-organic bases. Or it may be that you could do this, but the “brain” in the box of the computer would stand, in relation to the original organic brain, as a map does to the territory — it will be a symbol of the territory, but not the territory itself. That is, it will not be conscious — will have no qualia, no internal experiences. If that is so, the venture is futile even if technologically feasible.

But suppose it could be done. Now this just goes back to the age-old debate over the nature of personal identity; in fact, it goes back to the ancient Greek riddle of the Ship of Theseus, while being given a modern glass that the ancients could never have anticipated.

If, over time, all the parts of the Ship of Theseus are gradually replaced by different parts that are still replicas of the original parts, is it still the same ship at the end of this process?

Or, suppose the original, decayed parts are stored in a warehouse, and a means is devised to rejuvenate them, and put them back together in their original form, so that they now constitute a resurrection of the original ship. Are there now two ships of Theseus? One the replica, and the other the restored original, reconstituted form its original decayed, but now rejuvenated, parts?

In fact, something very like the Ship of Theseus happens with humans and other life forms. Over seven to ten years, humans actually replace all the cells in our bodies — though the DNA is the same. Is it the same individual, after seven to ten years?

Is grandmother the same at age 60, as he was, at, say, 10? In one sense, no. She has aged fifty years and has fifty more years of experiences and memories. In another sense, yes — her continuity is bound up in her memories of the past. But what if she loses her memory? Would we be prepared to say that she is now an entirely different person than she was at age ten?

This riddle can be resolved by the concept of temporal parts — that grandmother does not exist entirely in the now; that grandma, at age 10, is a temporal part of a 4D world tube extended through time as well as space. Same with grandma at age 60 — she, at that age, is again a temporal part of an extended world tube.

This topic is so big, complex, and fascinating, and there is much more to say on it, and specifically how it relates to the uploading issue, that I’ll stop now and write more later. Thanks for a great OP.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby davidm on March 10th, 2020, 12:01 pm 

Continued …

Suppose it is possible to upload Grandma’s mind into virtual reality, where she will be fully conscious.

Why would Grandma consent to this? Well, she is sixty, and dying of a terminal disease. She has the choice of existing in VR, or ceasing to exist altogether.

I suppose most of us think the choice is a no-brainer, to keep living in VR, as a virtual person in a virtual world. I don’t think the choice is so clear-cut, but more about that later.

Grandma says yes, upload my mind. Now all sorts of issues crop up, some of which may rarely be considered.

First, is grandma the “same” person, after uploading, than she was before uploading? Under the temporal parts theory of personal identity, also known as four-dimensionalism, I would say that she is. Her physical body would cease to exist, but the pattern of her thoughts would continue, only on a different substrate. She would continue on as a 4D worldtube.

Of course, if one objects to four-dimensionalism as a valid answer to the personal identity problem, then the same objection would have to apply to an amnesiac 60-year-old grandma, and her long-forgotten relation to her younger, 10-year-old self. Unless we consider those two grandmas to be temporal parts, or slices, of a 4D grandma extended in time as well as space, then we would have to conclude, it seems, that 60-year-old amnesiac grandma, and 10-year old grandma (which is even before she became a grandma, of course), are not the same person.

In any case, who cares? Even supposing grandma were steeped in these philosophical niceties, and probably she is not, she is likely to jump at the chance of continuing her mental life in a virtual body, thus avoiding death. So grandma is uploaded.

Just imagine all the thorny new issues that must be dealt with!

They are legion — ethical, legal, financial, ontological, epistemological, everything you can imagine! Even IF the above scenario were possible, a huge IF, I wonder if anyone has seriously considered not just the ethics, but the practicalities and mind-boggling ramifications of all this.

More later. Let’s see what shall become of grandma! Beware what you wish for. You might get it.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 10th, 2020, 12:11 pm 

I remember the transporter thread (it's possible I wrote the OP for it, some years back) and that the Theseus continuity issue came up, as David has brought it up. Thinkers like Derek Parfit have come up with fascinating thought experiments to explore continuity issues and the persistence of a Self. As David reminds, the question of substrate dependence is important if we are talking about uploads of humans into silicon emulations. As John Searle liked to say, when a computer simulates a rainstorm water doesn't gush out of its cabinet. (an analogy that ultimately failed when Searle's detractors pointed out that information and logical computation aren't quite the same as wetness - a calculator doesn't simulate math, it actually does math)

The chief problem for uploads is that while computers are digital, the human brain seems to be a blend of analog and digital, something much harder to capture in a silicon substrate. It's possible that we will always be one Chinese Room away from real consciousness in an emulation. And there's that epistemological brick wall of never knowing how to take an affirmative answer to the question posed to an emulation: are you conscious? A good emulation will say "yes," and yet may have not a speck of consciousness.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby davidm on March 10th, 2020, 2:00 pm 

Continued …

Actually, I was also going to raise the point Vat just brought up. Suppose that grandma’s descendants were anxious to know whether she was really conscious, self-aware, experiencing qualia, etc., in VR, and they were somehow able to “interface” with her — by techno-seance, perhaps? — and she told them “yes.” How would they know? It would be an article of faith. Actually, even without VR, this falls under the category of “the problem of other minds,” but we can put that aside.

On grandma’s death bed, the doctors come to her and tell her, “Listen, grandma, you’re about to die. But we can upload your mind into VR, and you can go on living a virtual life, be self-aware, etc. What do you say?”

Now two issues immediately crop up. First, will grandma want to know, after she was uploaded, that in fact she was uploaded? And second, what kind of VR, will, or can, the doctors upload her to?

Suppose grandma tells her doctors as follows:

“I want to be uploaded, but I don’t want to know that I was uploaded. I want to keep all my memories intact, except for one: just now, when you came into my room to tell me I was going to die, and asked whether I wished to be uploaded into VR, I want to remember instead, after uploading, you coming into my room and saying: ‘Good news, grandma! We have cured you! You’re free to go home.’ And then I want to pack my things and go home to all my loved ones, picking up exactly the life that I had before.”

Suppose the doctors are able to grant the first part of her wish — that they can upload her, without her knowing that she was uploaded. Maybe she wants this because it creeps her out to suppose that she really was uploaded, and that her virtual life is really counterfeit. Philip K. Dick, of course, anticipated all these issues with then-unimagined VR in his short stories and novels from the fifties and sixties, and even Star Trek, in its pilot episode from around 1964, anticipated VR!

So, they can grant grandma’s first wish, but — can they grant her second wish? That she be restored to her normal life, even if it is counterfeit?

More about the second wish later. Let’s focus on her first wish. They can grant it, and they do.

So grandma goes back to her old life, none the wiser that it, and she, are virtual.

Now what?

Well, since grandma wants to believe that she is still alive in what, I guess, we might call real reality, as opposed to virtual reality, it follows that she will expect to — and be programmed to — grow older.

And older. And older.

Age 70? Age 80? 90? 100? 150? Age 1,000?

If grandma wants to believe that she is still in “real” reality, won’t she notice something peculiar here? Particularly by the time she is a thousand years old?!

All her teeth will fall out. She will go blind. She will go deaf. Her kids and grandkids will all die and all her friends will die and she will grow increasingly decrepit but will not subjectively die, because the whole point of uploading her to VR in the first place was to cheat the subjective experience of death!

If grandma is programmed so that she does not experience getting older and more infirm, then she will still know something is amiss — her virtual grandkids will age and die before her eyes, while she remains sixty! Does she really desire either of these outcomes?

But she will also know that something is amiss if she lives to 1,000 years old or beyond!

Thus, granting the first part of grandma’s wish turns out to be practically impossible. Sooner or later, she will deduce that she is in some kind of simulation.

But — suppose grandma does get subjectively older and older in VR, without dying?

No problem! Jonathan Swift, long before modern technology of any kind existed, already anticipated this, in Gulliver’s Travels: Meet the Struldbrugs

From Gulliver’s Travels:
… he gave me a particular account of the struldbrugs among them.  He said, “they commonly acted like mortals till about thirty years old; after which, by degrees, they grew melancholy and dejected, increasing in both till they came to fourscore.  This he learned from their own confession: for otherwise, there not being above two or three of that species born in an age, they were too few to form a general observation by.  When they came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the extremity of living in this country, they had not only all the follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying.  They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grandchildren.  Envy and impotent desires are their prevailing passions.  But those objects against which their envy seems principally directed, are the vices of the younger sort and the deaths of the old.  By reflecting on the former, they find themselves cut off from all possibility of pleasure; and whenever they see a funeral, they lament and repine that others have gone to a harbour of rest to which they themselves never can hope to arrive.  They have no remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in their youth and middle-age, and even that is very imperfect; and for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend on common tradition, than upon their best recollections.  The least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage, and entirely lose their memories; these meet with more pity and assistance, because they want many bad qualities which abound in others.


So much for mortal immortality!

As I side note, I might add that the great analytic philosopher David K. Lewis believed, even without VR or Swftian fantasies, that we were all actually condemned to be Struldbruggs, in real reality. He even wrote a paper on it! Why he believed this, I’ll get to later.

We have seen that the first part of grandma’s wish cannot be fulfilled, unless, I suppose, grandma’s simulation can be constantly programmed to rewind the simulation backward, so that she experiences the same stuff over and over, with no memory of having done so before — Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence? Does she really want THAT, either? In that case, as the OP noted, why not just make grandma younger in VR, and replay, over and over, the best parts of the prime of her life? Why wait until she is sixty to upload her?

But — can that rewinding itself even be done? Can one create virtual memories, or even virtual experiences of current life experiences, by scanning a person’s memories alone? Memories are notoriously defective, and the past can never be fully reconstructed by any means. No matter how much technology advances, it seems recreating the past, even virtually, is a forlorn hope — unless we can also build time machines that can travel to the past and somehow scan and upload period circumstances.

Which leads to the problem of grandma’s second wish: Can the doctors recreate, in VR, the life in real reality that she is about to leave behind? What if they can’t? In the case, what virtual reality can they create for her virtual self? And would she even want it?

More later.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 10th, 2020, 3:09 pm 

I'm inclined to think we overcomplicate this issue - as we do many others that could perhaps be better solved with a sword - but this one in particular.
This one in particular, because we are so deeply attached to our sense of self.
Not the personality, so much, because many people are not only happy to undertake modification, but to pay vast sums for help in changing their behaviour, their attitudes, their relationships, their moods and thinking-process. It's obviously not the physical self, because we're generally okay with removals, transplants, implants and replacements. So, it's an internal perception of an enduring core identity. Is our attachment to this self-image rational?
If not, I doubt it can be rationally discussed or resolved.

If you're willing to go into the transporter, it's because you believe the same 'self' will re-materialize. Presumably the other people with whom you interact share that belief. If you proceed on that shared assumption, and neither you nor they notice any difference in the transported individual, it doesn't matter that all of "your" molecules have been replaced by molecules dispersed by another planet's cooking-fires, and that your original molecules are even now being dispersed through the ship's air recirculation system.
This requires faith in the system: that the transporter can replicate, precisely, every physical detail of the organism which gave rise to and supports that perceived self.
Beneath that faith is a conviction that mind/spirit/personality/identity is the direct and dependent product of the physical organism.
So, I don't think it's a case that dying doesn't matter; it's more like going under anaesthetic in the expectation of full recovery.


If the grandmother is willing to leave her sick and failing old body in order to continue life as her perceived self in a non-physical realm, it's because she believes that her mind/spirit/personality/identity has a life outside of, and independent of, its organic housing. So then, perhaps she has faith in the technology to download that non-physical self, or faith in a deity to transport her soul. It hardly matters which.
So, when she takes that step into virtual reality, and they bury the left-behind body, all the legal issues are exactly the same as if her soul had been uploaded to the actual clouds.
So, it's a case of accepting bodily death - and relinquishing all worldly claims - in the expectation of spiritual survival. This means it must be undertaken with informed consent, and it must be final.
Last edited by Serpent on March 10th, 2020, 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Graeme M on March 10th, 2020, 4:33 pm 

I thought this to be a fascinating topic. The comments above raise so many of the fundamental concerns about such an idea, in particular the ethics. I'm not sure Graziano shares much of the ethical and social implications, but in particular he doesn't seem to tackle the psychological concerns.

For me, the primary one is to do with who am I, really. It's hard to know, it seems to me. On an everyday basis, I think of myself as an enduring entity and this is reinforced by my access to memories and the fact that a physical body has existed for 61 years. The fact that my "mind" might just be some phenomenon accompanying how my brain works doesn't really come into it in terms of my personal sense of self. I am certain - perhaps somewhat irrationally - that I am me and you are you.

Recreating grandma might *seem* like we have continued her existence, but it's not clear to me how that really is the case. Assuming we can overcome the technical problems and grandma's personal experience is sufficient to convince her that she is indeed grandma, the problem remains that she isn't. Legally and technically, this new virtual grandma is a completely new individual (if we can even use those words). Grandma is really a sophisticated AI. In fact, as I look at it, any such duplicate - whether grandmas or space travellers - is a new person. A separate person. A different person.

I don't know the legal definition of a person, but I feel sure it's anchored to the physical body. The mind seems more related to the potential for that body to act. If the mind is not able to direct that body to act according to the law or to safeguard the person, we may enact certain constraints but we don't consider the body any less a person. The same applies to terminating seriously compromised persons - we believe they are no longer present to a degree sufficient to conduct a useful life but I think we still consider the body to be a person.

OK, we could adapt the law to properly include grandma as a real person. But is she the same person? Demonstrably, she is not. We know with some certainty that the new person will enjoy a life trajectory that has diverged from grandma herself. Logically, if we copy grandma when she is born, the two persons will remain separate, different, and ultimately potentially achieve totally different life outcomes. Worse, it is clearly the case that IF a mind isn't an ethereal substance but simply IS the function of a brain, then creating a separate physical brain (or virtual instance) clearly is a separate mind.

In the end, there is no difference between grandma's copy and me, or you.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 10th, 2020, 5:40 pm 

What if we made the replacement by tiny increments? Each day, we go into grandma's brain and replace, say, a thousand neurons with a thousand artificial modules that precisely match the function of each neuron. Grandma, initially expressing some annoyance at having daily surgeries, is assured that this gradual replacement of neurons will secure the all-important transfer of consciousness and integrity of her selfhood. Eventually, Grandma is an android with one remaining biological neuron in the midst of an artificial neural net.

So what happens when we replace that lone bit of wetware with silicon? Is anyone going to suggest she will suddenly cease to be? Or has her human consciousness gradually dwindled over the years of neuronal replacement and this just snuffs the last glimmer of It? Or is she pretty much still Grandma, qualia and all?

In any case, Grandma is now post-biological and can easily go into a virtual world or remain in the real world as an android. Her quilting days are over (granny was so stereotypical), and she can resume activities of a more robust and vigorous kind, like roaming college campuses and wrestling random philosophers of mind she encounters, putting them into headlocks until she gets some answers. What would you tell post-bio granny?
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 10th, 2020, 6:54 pm 

I thought Grandma was going into the Matrix.
Becoming a cyborg is completely different! That's not moving to another world, that's continuing to live in the same world as a very different kind of entity. That means your relationships and functions, your role and place in the world are irrevocably altered.

A natural alteration in the personality can happen in increments as the growth of a brain tumour, or suddenly, as by stroke. But those events don't change the external identity of the patient, their relationships and social status - that niche in the human scheme of things that a person has carved out in their life.
An android or cyborg does not fit that niche.


TheVat » March 10th, 2020, 4:40 pm wrote:So what happens when we replace that lone bit of wetware with silicon? Is anyone going to suggest she will suddenly cease to be?

No, she died by inches, much as she would have died of the leprosy - except that there is no moment when the doctor can pronounce dead.
In any case, Grandma is now post-biological and can easily go into a virtual world or remain in the real world as an android. Her quilting days are over (granny was so stereotypical), and she can resume activities of a more robust and vigorous kind, like roaming college campuses and wrestling random philosophers of mind she encounters, putting them into headlocks until she gets some answers. What would you tell post-bio granny?

If she had me in a head-lock, whatever she wanted to hear. If she seemed friendly, I would ask her questions, rather than try to tell her anything at all.
What we've got here is first-contact situation - a conversation with a new life-form.
Nothing she does, nothing she decides, from this moment on is predictable, because nobody's had the experience.
If she then decides to download her personality into a virtual-reality program, the same situation applies as if the body she left were biological: the android is dead and Grandma's gone to Myst.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 10th, 2020, 8:28 pm 

It's not quite the same. The silicon brain (which has incrementally replaced the original head pudding) should be able to interact with a virtual reality without any destructive change - just port it into the matrix. The destructive change has been neuron by neuron, over many years. And at what point in that slow change was she a "new life form. " To sharpen the point, let's say the endpoint android body is indistinguishable from bio-grandma. She can live just as she did, all through the transformation. Her five external senses all work the same. She can come and go from a matrix whenever she chooses - just a matter of popping a pin-jack in, and out.

If slow alterations of the brain, say from hard partying or watching a lot of Bunuel and Bergman movies, don't end our basic selves, why should my neuron by neuron substitution do so? My gedankexperment provides the continuity, so what more is needed to preserve a unitary self?
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 10th, 2020, 10:32 pm 

TheVat » March 10th, 2020, 7:28 pm wrote:It's not quite the same. The silicon brain (which has incrementally replaced the original head pudding) should be able to interact with a virtual reality without any destructive change - just port it into the matrix.

Not down-load, just interact? Sure, that's another option. She could continue to inhabit the android body with at-will access to virtual worlds, as well as the physical one. Then she's a cyborg gamer. Still a new life-form... and quite possibly with the ability to extend her sensory range, add on more peripherals, access more information-sources -- eventually create a network and take over the world. I've often thought the world should be ruled by grandmothers - though I would prefer a council, rather than an singe omnipotent one.*

The destructive change has been neuron by neuron, over many years. And at what point in that slow change was she a "new life form. "

When she became conscious of being and began to direct her own transformation. If she's not directing it, she's a laboratory experiment - not a fully realized being - until she acquires an autonomous voice.

To sharpen the point, let's say the endpoint android body is indistinguishable from bio-grandma. She can live just as she did, all through the transformation. Her five external senses all work the same.

Well, that's another situation. Then her relationships and social interactions would be minimally disrupted, if she chose to keep them stable. Her psychological challenges would come from the knowledge of what's happening, rather than from the change itself. Also, I imagine she wouldn't feel alien to the body of its surroundings.
She can come and go from a matrix whenever she chooses - just a matter of popping a pin-jack in, and out.

Just like the grandson who lives in her basement! They'll have a lot more in common now.
Seriously, that's still kind of a super-power she didn't have in the natural form. We could think of it as a particularly clever prosthesis - but as it's a mental faculty, it would still make her a freak, if not a whole new life-form.

If slow alterations of the brain, say from hard partying or watching a lot of Bunuel and Bergman movies, don't end our basic selves, why should my neuron by neuron substitution do so?

I can think of no reason. Every experience changes us; some experiences cause more profound and lasting change. A stroke, tumour, car accident or lightning-strike would cause a good deal more change, and faster. Alzheimer's, on the other hand, is gradual - it seems to erode the personality until there is none left.

But this process would not need to change the personality at all - merely expand its capabilities and give the same person more options. Like a lottery win, or PhD.
It seems to me more like a slow-motion transporter trip - with extra benefits.

(* Permission to write this story?)
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby doogles on March 11th, 2020, 6:30 am 

I'm finding this an interesting thread because it discusses not so much the possibility of re-creating another peson, but it puts us iin the position of asking what it is that makes up a person. The contributions so far have been first class.

I agree with those who have pointed out the dynamic nature of our personalities. We change over the decades both physically and mentally. We may have all the old memory representations, but we don't use the same ones today that we did 20 or 30 years ago. We change our jobs, our friends and our interests, and our hormone levels change with age.

Another important point that Graeme M made was "The mind seems more related to the potential for that body to act. If the mind is not able to direct that body to act according to the law or to safeguard the person, we may enact certain constraints but we don't consider the body any less a person. The same applies to terminating seriously compromised persons - we believe they are no longer present to a degree sufficient to conduct a useful life but I think we still consider the body to be a person."

As he implies, all the evidence suggests that the brain and the body act as one.

We are very emotion-driven beings.

We have interconnecting (brain and body) autonomic and neuro-hormonal systems that make up the basis of each us in the form of emotional reactions. If for example, you take a person who is subject to chronic anxiety or a phobia, the rational mind may be telling him/her to do one thing while the body is screaming for them to get out of the situation they are in.

I could make a case that all emotions are actually feedback messages from the body to the brain. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for example occurs because emotional affects, associated with any bad experience, appear to be stored alongside the brain representations of those experiences. On the balance side of PTSD, pleasurable affects are conversely associated with those images of pleasant times.

So that in this hypothetical, we have to talk about the body and personality as a whole. In order to reproduce ourselves with the same personalities, we would have to replicate the degree of output of our adrenal medulla and cortex, our thyroid, thymus, islets of Langerhans, parathyroids, as well as our hypothalamus and pituitary glands. That's in addition to our tissue responsiveness to such chemicals. And don't forget our cellular production of serotonins, dopamine, endorphins, and prostaglandins.

Just a 2c input.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 11th, 2020, 11:11 am 

We have seen heaps of human bodies divested of their mind/essence/spirit/soul/personality. Though we can usually identify their mundane designation, we can't reconstitute their self-identity. And we have never encountered a disembodied human personality. (Haunts never seem to have much depth of character, nor do the spirits conjured by mediums.)
To me, the physical basis of consciousness appears obvious: the mind is what the brain does; the brain lives - can only live - in a body. You can replace bits of the body, perhaps even bits of the brain - never without some effect on both. When the physical apparatus is damaged, the mind malfunctions too. I'm not sure how the reverse works, but emotional overload does result in physiological responses. It looks to me like an indivisible unit.

What's interesting me more, just at the mo, is why people are so preoccupied with the exact status of identity; an exact definition of self in the most remote of contrived circumstances.
I mean, how likely is it that a 60-year-old woman, in a body healthy enough to last another ten years, would be willing to devote that decade to a long-shot experiment, having her brain replaced node by node?
How likely is someone about to have their consciousness downloaded into a computer program, to ask - and be granted - ignorance of their condition, post-procedure?
These are not situation we will probably have to deal with, ever.
Yet we dwell on them at length, often to the detriment of problems we're almost certainly going to face within the next 24 hours.

How come?
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby doogles on March 12th, 2020, 5:29 am 

"How Come?"

My guess is that we are not only highly emotional beings by nature, but we are also extremely curious. Most of us seem to have inquiring minds. It is as if we have to know the answers to everything.

Couple this with fertile imaginations that can build images on images in our minds, and the resulting fantasy can take us into intellectual pursuits such as this one.

That's 'How Come", IMO.

We are made that way. It's maybe why there are hundreds of millions of potential authors among our kind.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Graeme M on March 12th, 2020, 7:36 am 

Cool comments. I was sort of getting at a different angle. In his book, Graziano expands on his idea that we are probably going to be able to map the human connectome. There already is such a project underway.

http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org/

In his view, the brain organises information into useful models and computes relationships and predicts outcomes. Personal "consciousness" is a control model - a model of how the brain attends to what's going on and what to act upon. From this he infers that replicating how the brain is wired up will enable a simulation to be programmed that will - in effect - be grandma's mind.

Now, he does raise some worries as does Doogles, for example that emotions are largely representations of bodily states so how exactly these inputs would be replicated isn't clear, but generally speaking he doesn't see this as a major stumbling block.

So, in this thought experiment, I am proposing we forget the technical hurdles and overlook the question of whether a virtual mind is the same as a real mind. Let's assume that we can copy a mind and it works.

For me, the essential problem is that when we do this, we aren't recreating ourselves. We are creating a new mind - a new "person". I noted above that we tend to view the body and the mind as deeply integrated and I think that's true - a person is the functioning of a body and its brain and the mind is a property of that. This means that our legal, ethical and commonsense view of what a person is, is that body and how it works. The person is "in" there.

Even if we overcome the barriers to accepting that a mind in a virtual body is a person, it is NOT the SAME person. It's not grandma. Grandma herself isn't living on, someone else is.

So there are myriad issues. Would grandma want to create a copy of herself? Why? When? Who "owns" the copy? Graziano talks about how great it will be because we can port these virtual minds to our real world via a virtual interface. We can talk to grandma, we can travel to the stars, we can create a new race of virtual beings. But... we aren't talking to grandma, we are just running a simulation of her memories. We are really talking to someone else, another person who just happens to remember the same stuff. "We" aren't travelling to the stars. The race of virtual beings are not the people we copied, they actually are another population of persons.

My answer to my question is that my copy is not me, he is someone else entirely. And that makes this a very rocky path to follow.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby davidm on March 12th, 2020, 8:52 am 

I don’t agree. If the virtual person has grandma’s memories, if she subjectively feels herself to be grandma, then I think she is … grandma. In any event, she has as much right to call herself the same person, or at least the continuation of the same person, as the sixty-year-old has the right to call herself the same person, or at least a continuation of the same person, as her ten-year-old version.

But even if we decide, legally or philosophically or in some other relevant way, that the virtual grandma is not actually grandma, of even a continuation of grandma … I’m not sure what the ethical problem is. Would it be unethical to clone yourself, if that could be done? What about standard reproduction? You’re not bringing an exact copy of yourself into the world, but the person you bring into the world has your genetic component. Why is that ethical, based on the concerns you express above? Note that anti-natalists think its IS unethical to reproduce.

In any case, nature is doing this very thing all the time, if the many worlds interpretation of QM is correct. Under MW, there are virtually endless copies of us on the wave function.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 12th, 2020, 9:58 am 

The key question for an ethicist, from what I'm gleaning here, lies in the rapid copy method (rather than my slow replacement scenario above) (and YES SERPENT feel free to use anything from my posts in the service of fiction) where an original is destroyed when the copy/emulation is complete. This is a question that arises in a John Varley novel whose name escapes me ATM. Does consciousness make a "leap" from one platform to another, or is an identical mind twin created at the moment of the original's murder? Two quite different outcomes as far as the original is concerned. In Graeme's metaphysical view, it would definitely be murder. In the view of a functionalist, it might simply be going to sleep in the old body and waking up in the new one, with the continuity of consciousness we presently enjoy every morning.

Here's my clue to this deep dilemma: when I wake in the morning, my brain is subtly different from the one I put on the pillow last night. Huh. Guess that fellah is dead! :-)
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 12th, 2020, 10:16 am 

doogles » March 12th, 2020, 4:29 am wrote:"How Come?"

My guess is that we are not only highly emotional beings by nature, but we are also extremely curious. Most of us seem to have inquiring minds. It is as if we have to know the answers to everything.

Ah, but this particular question has no plausible, accessible answers. We at least suspect that when we ask it; we're quite sure of it when we make up the farther- and farther-fetched what-if scenarios. Yet we ask it way out of proportion to a thousand other questions to which we might actually find answers, and to which the answers would be useful.
I think this question, and several version of it --
Who am I? Why am I me? Where does I begin? Do I own my mind? How do I know I'm me? etc.
particular question is more about the unique 'specialness' of civilized man than it is about curiosity. Or, rather the need of civilized man to be reassured of his unique specialness. I very much doubt it would occur to an ancient Dayak or Maori to ask such a question. I think we're insecure; anxious about our identity.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 12th, 2020, 10:39 am 

Graeme M » March 12th, 2020, 6:36 am wrote:
Even if we overcome the barriers to accepting that a mind in a virtual body is a person, it is NOT the SAME person. It's not grandma. Grandma herself isn't living on, someone else is.

Why is this a problem?
As long as you work out the legal details before anyone signs away their right to a living body, what would be affected by the sameness or differentness of some old woman who kept busy quilting, rather than inciting crusades or inventing cures for the flu?
Would grandma want to create a copy of herself? Why? When? Who "owns" the copy? Graziano talks about how great it will be because we can port these virtual minds to our real world via a virtual interface.

Before anybody was uploaded to the cloud, you'd have to determine legal ownership of the information - as well as legal responsibility and payment schedule for maintenance and energy use.
Why - indeed, how - could a virtual mind control physical machinery? Unless she's a computer virus. No virtual mind could legally be programmed to act like a virus in the system that sustains it. Anyway, if she didn't know how to manipulate computer programs before she was uploaded, how could she learn it once she's dead and has no brain cells to process fresh information? If, as you say, she's just the memories from life, she can't know more, do more or become more than on the last day of her life.

We can talk to grandma, we can travel to the stars, we can create a new race of virtual beings.

We do all that now.
But... we aren't talking to grandma, we are just running a simulation of her memories. We are really talking to someone else, another person who just happens to remember the same stuff. "We" aren't travelling to the stars. The race of virtual beings are not the people we copied, they actually are another population of persons.

Are you familiar with William Gibson? https://www.tor.com/2016/06/06/5-essential-william-gibson-reads/ He's worth reading.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 12th, 2020, 3:17 pm 

(delay - my feeding apparatus has been out celebrating 38 years of commitment, but the central processing unit never entirely lost touch with this topic)

If we're just replicating memories - even the most complex and sophisticated reproduction of every detail, nuance, reverberation and cross-reference of a lifetime of experiences, we're still just making a record, not a person. In order to make an actual or virtual person, we'd have to give those memories scope and equipment for on-going change. The equipment is technically problematic: access to blank chips and the ability to format, reconfigure and interconnect them in any combination at the speed of thought. If that's on offer to the dying person, the scope of expansion must have predetermined limits, lest one personality use up all the servers in the world. (Although, should a grandmother's new hobbies displace bitcoin, I wouldn't cry.)

So, you limit the late Shirley Valentine to a single storage array in its separate compartment and power cable, with just normal internet connection with secure two-way firewalls. So, now that's her body; you can discard the meat one. That glass box with a little tower of processors inside, is to all legal and temporal purposes, Mrs. Bradshaw. She can make decisions regarding her property, issue advice, scold her grandchildren, order in pizza for the cleaning staff to eat and describe, correspond with other shut-ins, say the inmates of a secure treatment facility, should she so desire. No worries.
Same thing if she's inhabiting a mechanical body that can walk/roll around in the world at large. There is a predetermined amount of extra space in the positronic brain: scope for storing new information and building and rebuilding neural networks: she functions like a regular person - whether she chooses to declare herself a new species or pass as human - and it doesn't matter whether an outsider regards this as alteration, continuation or transformation. She can just consider it a hip replacement that didn't know when to quit.

The Vat -- The key question for an ethicist, from what I'm gleaning here, lies in the rapid copy method where an original is destroyed when the copy/emulation is complete.

I don't see why. No single consciousness comes into the world with a right to inhabit more than one body. That right would have to be specifically legislated.
This is a question that arises in a John Varley novel whose name escapes me ATM. Does consciousness make a "leap" from one platform to another, or is an identical mind twin created at the moment of the original's murder?

Why murder? Murder is ending the life of a non-consenting autonomous other citizen. Anything you've created out of your own mind is your property. Discarding your unwanted extra body is suicide, at worst.
Of course, if he tried to keep the original and a mechanical copy, or lots of mechanical copies - a telepathic android army - that could pose a problem. (While backup copies in zip files would not, as long as only one iteration of that legal entity were authorized to interact with the world.)

I'd rather clones were not introduced here. I can just about accept an electronic replica of a brain. I refuse to make peace with instant cloning: it drives me buggy when wet, naked double emerges from the tank at the cell-donor's present age, in like a week. It take 35 years to make a 35-year-old human body and 35 years of experience in an uncontrollable real world environment to make a 35-year-old person; they were never going to be identical twins!! They were never going to be anything other than separate individuals, just as if the donor cell had been a sperm and the medium it grew on had been an ovum.

((and YES SERPENT feel free to use anything from my posts in the service of fiction) Thanks, I have some ideas to add since yesterday.)
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 13th, 2020, 1:09 pm 

Why murder? Murder is ending the life of a non-consenting autonomous other citizen. Anything you've created out of your own mind is your property. Discarding your unwanted extra body is suicide, at worst.
- Serpent

Sorry, poor wording. Yes, if one must use a word for destroying the original, then something neutral is needed. I was typing distracted, so it came out pejorative. The thing is, one is discarding the biological version of oneself, a version that could continue to exist as a separate consciousness, so it does have some resonance with suicide, even if it's viewed as a positive and "not final" form of suicide.

For the purposes of discussion, I would suggest we deal with the scenario where a complete snapshot of the original mind, fully functional and capable of being embodied, is created. The question of its identity seems to depend on that fork in road of keep/destroy the original: Keep the original, and clearly the new version is a newborn twin with its own distinct mind that is, upon awakening, going to rapidly differentiate from the orginal. Graeme touched on this here, and in his reading. The question becomes murky if we take a snapshot of our mind at a given moment and then, in the next moment, destroy the original. Do "I" transmigrate or just go into the void? I'm not sure that's answerable. The default position of many in science seems to be that you die, and the cyber-version is only a newborn twin that thinks it's you.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 13th, 2020, 1:12 pm 

Reg Prescott's "Swampman" discussion may be pertinent here at some point, but can't find it atm. Will be back tomorrow, if I'm not felled by plague (or overwrought shoppers in search of canned goods and toilet paper).
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 13th, 2020, 3:21 pm 

TheVat » March 13th, 2020, 12:09 pm wrote: The thing is, one is discarding the biological version of oneself, a version that could continue to exist as a separate consciousness,

Well, that's a bit different again, isn't it? We started with a person leaving a body that would soon have failed anyway. Now, we have someone in a sound, functioning body, making - what? a back-up copy? - of his present self and uploading that to a computer?
- Without the expansion and reconfiguration capability, that copy would still not be a conscious entity.
- If it's a computer array with those capabilities, that would be a contained new entity.
- If you're loading into a mechanical body with those capabilities, there would be a new entity at large.
Those three alternatives will have different outcomes - and therefore different challenges, won't they?

For the purposes of discussion, I would suggest we deal with the scenario where a complete snapshot of the original mind, fully functional and capable of being embodied, is created.

Okay.
The question of its identity seems to depend on that fork in road of keep/destroy the original: Keep the original, and clearly the new version is a newborn twin with its own distinct mind that is, upon awakening, going to rapidly differentiate from the original.

Why rapidly? Its body would, of course, be different, and so its experience of the physical world would depart from the familiar. Beyond that, though, wouldn't its differentiation depend on the environment? If they were separated, faster; if they stayed together, slower, but, yes, it would become another person.

And somebody would have to be responsible for its upkeep. Presumably, if you've availed yourself of a second body (Can I assume this is still a mechanical one?), you have to feed and house it.
However, as I mentioned above, we'd want to consider very carefully the wisdom of allowing anyone extra bodies, particularly android bodies. They may diverge from the original over time, but they would be generally "of the same mind" and anybody rich enough could make an army of absolutely loyal androids.

Graeme touched on this here, and in his reading. The question becomes murky if we take a snapshot of our mind at a given moment and then, in the next moment, destroy the original. Do "I" transmigrate or just go into the void?

Since your experience of self proceeds on into the future, I'd say transfer, like changing buses.

I'm not sure that's answerable.

Probably not. but then, it's not a matter of urgency.
The default position of many in science seems to be that you die, and the cyber-version is only a newborn twin that thinks it's you.

I suppose, as it's a different structure, that would technically be correct. But since the new creation only knows what the original knew, he won't suddenly assume a new identity, or think of himself as anything other then "I".
What's definitive of identity - who I think I am or who you think I am?
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Graeme M on March 13th, 2020, 5:26 pm 

I'd like to sharpen the focus a little, more towards my personal conception of the problem of minds. When I raised the question in my original post, I had a particular idea in mind.

My personal concept of mind is that it is not any actual definable thing. People tend to the idea that a mind actually exists as a quantifiable and measurable entity, but I think there is a strong case to argue that it is no more than the physical functioning of the brain. Brains work with information, but information is not a thing (though here I am a little hampered by what might be meant by information, but let's leave that for the moment). Our minds are, if you like, the manner in which the physical system that is our brain manipulates information in order to undertake behaviours.

This means that a "person" is a human body with brain. The mind is a description for how that body functions. Various physical disabilities can affect a body and those effects can vary the physical function, including mechanical behaviours (eg loss of limb function) all the way through to brain processing.

So, this means that I would make the following propositions.

1. In the transporter case, a replacement person (the copy, if you will) is a new person. The fact that it functions identically in all ways to the original is an interesting fact, but that's all. Legally, the original person was killed and now we have a new person. Both are, in my view, separate entities. We could use this system to travel the universe, but we would have to accept that "we" don't exist and it doesn't matter if we die.

2. In Graziano's case, we do not have a "person". We have a simulation of a mind. It is a very clever AI. Legally and ethically, the question is how much duty do we have to computer programs? This is where it becomes a minefield, because as an AI - a software - we can do anything at all to it, including tweaking it and adapting it. Or using it.

In the end, I think Graziano's proposition simply condenses down to the standard problem of artificial intelligences.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 13th, 2020, 6:27 pm 

This means that a "person" is a human body with brain. The mind is a description for how that body functions. Various physical disabilities can affect a body and those effects can vary the physical function, including mechanical behaviours (eg loss of limb function) all the way through to brain processing.

Yes, that's my school of thought, as well.

So, this means that I would make the following propositions.

1. In the transporter case, a replacement person (the copy, if you will) is a new person. The fact that it functions identically in all ways to the original is an interesting fact, but that's all. Legally, the original person was killed and now we have a new person. Both are, in my view, separate entities. We could use this system to travel the universe, but we would have to accept that "we" don't exist and it doesn't matter if we die.

I'm not sure that follows.
In the legal sense, it cannot be instituted. Consider: in order to get away with evil deeds, all a robber, murderer, or war criminal has to do is transport to another place, then back again, and he's got triple indemnity. Also: who owns your stuff when you go on vacation? Also, how does a new identity get by in a world where he's got no credentials, property or civil rights?
In the psychological sense, you can't feel like a new person every time you come back from the planet surface, and other people can't treat you any differently: you're the same.
In a purely practical sense: all our molecules are replaced all the time, gradually, and yet our identity continues. What's so radically different about replacing them all at once? The transporter doesn't replace lost teeth or severed limbs; it doesn't fix your failing eyesight or change anything about your physiological functions, or your internal experience of self.

2. In Graziano's case, we do not have a "person". We have a simulation of a mind. It is a very clever AI.

Data is just that. And he's also a person. (Actually, that TNG episode 'The Measure of a Man' is worth watching. ) So is Andrew in 'Bicentennial Man' and the poor kid in 'AI'. This question has been much tackled - and quite intelligently - in entertainment media.
Here's an interesting take on it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVjeYW6S8Mo
Legally and ethically, the question is how much duty do we have to computer programs? This is where it becomes a minefield, because as an AI - a software - we can do anything at all to it, including tweaking it and adapting it. Or using it.

Indeed.
In the end, I think Graziano's proposition simply condenses down to the standard problem of artificial intelligences.

But ours doesn't.
There is that gap between an intelligence that was created by humans for their own ends - that is, an entirely artificial construct, which has never had autonomous existence or citizen status, or rights - and a person who has been a fully functional, responsible and invested human adult, now in a changed format.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 13th, 2020, 6:43 pm 

In the end, I think Graziano's proposition simply condenses down to the standard problem of artificial intelligences.


Which boils down to the question of qualia, right? And the question of there being a Turing test that would somehow sniff them out. I don't see that happening soon, if ever. Which means the personhood, i. e. conscious experience of qualia, of an AI may always be conjectural and never firmly established. It will be impossible to prove that an AI is not what David Chalmers calls a "p-zed" or philosophical zombie. The danger, ethically, is if this doubt translates into exploitation or even abuse of AIs on the basis that "they don't feel anything." Since it's entirely possible that they may have qualia, and feel what it is to be human, then the p-zed assumption, if that were the cultural norm, would pose a grave threat to the welfare and legal rights of potentially sentient beings. If you doubt this threat, look at the dark chapters of my nation's history which included "scientific" assessments that black people felt less pain than whites, and were a lower species.

We may be able to determine that present AI is no more than simulations, but there is likely to be a developmental point of artificial neural nets where that certainty is no longer warranted. That would certainly be the point we reach if we can precisely capture a human connectome. Most of our social constructs - corporations, laws, nations, monetary systems, etc. are "legal fictions" or imaginary entities that prove their efficacy in some way when we agree on them. The personhood of AIs, and of Uploads, might need to be one of those, if we are going to preserve our humanity.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 13th, 2020, 8:57 pm 

There is something chilling in the very notion of entertaining the idea that we are entitled to abuse an entity that might feel pain, fear, humiliation, frustration and sorrow, just because there is no absolute proof that it does feel. There is something about the demand to "prove you merit compassion" which suggests to me that perhaps our 'humanity' isn't worth preserving.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Graeme M on March 14th, 2020, 5:57 pm 

I suppose it's possible to argue all sorts of finer details, but at the end of the day, we have a commonsense idea of who someone is. They are THAT body, that collection of stuff that has integrity and gets around. My feeling about this is that in the transporter case, the new person is not me, he is someone else.

In terms of the murder escape, it seems wrong to hold that if I kill someone and transport to Mars that somehow the new person is responsible. He isn't, the now dead me was. Still, given we have copied the body perfectly that person has memories of doing the deed and clearly is capable of the deed, so that seems relevant.

Perhaps an analogy with the motor vehicle industry might help. We produce 1000 cars, call the model the Tourist. The technical spec and plans allow us to produce 1000 pretty much identical Tourists. Each should, all things being equal, operate very much the same though of course their individual experiences (total life trajectories) differ. If we discover a fault, a life risking fault, we may find that in one case someone is killed from that fault. All other copies are not necessarily going to do the same, yet each could potentially do so. The correct action might be to recall them all and retrofit an upgrade. Or destroy them all. Is there any reason not to apply the same logic to the murderer's copy?

There is that gap between an intelligence that was created by humans for their own ends - that is, an entirely artificial construct, which has never had autonomous existence or citizen status, or rights - and a person who has been a fully functional, responsible and invested human adult, now in a changed format.


Not quite sure what you mean here. My view is that someone created by the transporter process is an artificial construct. Before construction, that person did not enjoy any status or rights - they did not exist - but I guess we can grant them subsequent status because, well... because they ARE a biological organism. But it's worse for the virtual mind, because we cannot even claim a biological substrate. The virtual mind is an AI. It just happens to generate the same logical or causal inner states as a real brain. By design. Theoretically, if we can create such an AI, we could create one from scratch. It's an AI, at the end of the day. Not grandma.

Which boils down to the question of qualia, right?


I guess. There we are assuming that qualia are natural entities or properties; that there is actually some thing happening beyond the physical processes. I think the evidence is stronger all the time that is not so. My assumption in this discussion is that qualia are simply informational states - they stand in for abstractions about how systems process information. Still, I don't know we have to entertain that question do we? Wouldn't it be true that a perfect copy of our brains whether biological or virtual will experience the world the same as the original?

There is something chilling in the very notion of entertaining the idea that we are entitled to abuse an entity that might feel pain, fear, humiliation, frustration and sorrow, just because there is no absolute proof that it does feel.


We do that all day every right now, to billions of entities. Even when we are pretty sure they do feel.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby Serpent on March 14th, 2020, 7:08 pm 

We do that all day every right now, to billions of entities. Even when we are pretty sure they do feel.

Exactly. So why not manufacture a foolproof defense for mass murder?
Of course, in your scenario, it doesn't matter if somebody gets away with war crimes by transporting somewhere else: since he thereby becomes an artificial life-form, the authorities can do whatever they want to him, wherever he re-materializes. And if you want your inheritance quicker, just send grandma on holiday: when she comes back, she won't have any legal existence.
No. I can't go along with the logic of that.
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Re: Virtual minds - is he me, or someone else entirely?

Postby TheVat on March 15th, 2020, 11:37 am 

Still hit the epistemic wall, no matter what. Is the accurate connectome copy me, or a p-zed? As Searle acknowledged later in his career (years after his most famous Chinese Room* paper), if silicon substrate reaches the point where it replicates every aspect and nuance of a biological brain, then we've essentially copied what biology does and his Chinese Room analogy goes out the window.

If I murder someone, then am destructively copied to silicon, my new substrate self is still answerable for the crime. What other choice would we have in a society where people can do this? Otherwise, murderers could simply put themselves into a medically induced coma for a couple days, be awakened, and declare "Hey, I'm not exactly the same person who did that crime. That person became unconscious and essentially dead to the world, and I am subtly different at the synaptic level now... so it ain't me! "

* really hoping all participants in the thread are familiar with the Chinese Room. If not, please google Searle on this seminal work.
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