• Echarmion
    475
    Hey everyone. I hope you can forgive me for the fanciful title, I could not resist.

    This topic is on whether the transporters in Star Trek kill people. Or, more generally, whether it is possible to "transport" you, the self, the consciousness, to another place without preserving your current brain. This includes not just some hypothetical teleportation device, but also the idea of "mind uploading" or "copying".

    There are two assumptions I want to make for the purpose of this discussion:
    a.) It's possible to perfectly copy the physical representation of our minds. That is the brain, with all its constituent parts, and whatever else turns out to play a part in our consciousness.
    b.) This copy can be "instantiated" or "run", that is whatever process is currently running in our brains can be continued.

    Given these premises, it seems to me that it should be possible to have "me" transported, uploaded or copied. Or will whatever results always be merely a "copy" and the "original" is doomed to be lost?

    This comic offers a humorous take on the basic dilemma.

    On the one hand, it seems evident that, if my body is atomized, I die. The process that is "me" stops running. This cannot be reversed by later reassembling my body.

    On the other hand, it seems also evident that, given the premise of a perfect copy, everything that makes me who I am, everything that "is" me will continue. How can I have "died" if all my memories and personality are still present, and to my internal perspective, I merely changed my position?

    And what if I don't even change position? If I am just atomized for an instant and then reconstituted? It seems to me that in this scenario, nothing of relevance has changed. I am still the same me. Whether or not you want to call it death is just semantics if there isn't any material difference one can point to.

    It follows from this that, if mind uploading is possible, then I can be copied and would henceforth exist in multiple versions, that are all still equally "me".

    What are your thoughts?
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    Ultimately, I think this is up to opinion. The idea of self is too abstract to really put in objective terms. I personally don't think it is the same person as far as the individual who is teleported is concerned, but to everyone else, you would be the same person. So the teleported individual dies and doesn't come back but the cloned individual has all of the dead person's memories and therefore is indistinguishable from the original to their friends, family, and colleagues. I believe they say over every seven years, every cell in your body is replaced. Are you the same person you were seven years ago? Everyone else seems to think so, you in the present seem to think so, and you in the past would probably say so.

    It's like the ship of Theseus in a way. A ship is docked, and every so often a storm comes in and damages a part of the said ship. If every part is replaced, is it still the same ship?

    I believe the answer is in the general consensus. If everyone thinks that it is the same ship, then it is the same ship. Really, everything in the universe is comprised of matter and energy, and therefore everything that isn't defined as "microwaves" or "Helium" (as examples) has been given an identity by us. Everything we define is also comprised of these things. So "Dogs" or "Chairs" don't exist unless a human mind classifies them as such, but the carbon in a dog's body or the iron used to make the chair will exist regardless.
  • Echarmion
    475
    Ultimately, I think this is up to opinion. The idea of self is too abstract to really put in objective terms. I personally don't think it is the same person as far as the individual who is teleported is concerned, but to everyone else, you would be the same person. So the teleported individual dies and doesn't come back but the cloned individual has all of the dead person's memories and therefore is indistinguishable from the original to their friends, family, and colleagues. I believe they say over every seven years, every cell in your body is replaced. Are you the same person you were seven years ago? Everyone else seems to think so, you in the present seem to think so, and you in the past would probably say so.TogetherTurtle

    Arguably, what you consider your self is down to opinion. Nevertheless, it should be possible, given your personal opinions of what "self" is, to identify the meaningful change that happens. Or in other words, to point out, or try to describe, what is missing from the "copy" that was present in the "original". Several other people have expressed the same position that you have to me, but I was never able to figure out what the actual difference between my view and theirs was. People don't usually think that they die and are reborn everytime they go to sleep. It's a possible position to take, but then it ought to be possible to point to the differences between the "dead" and the "reborn" you.

    It's like the ship of Theseus in a way. A ship is docked, and every so often a storm comes in and damages a part of the said ship. If every part is replaced, is it still the same ship?

    I believe the answer is in the general consensus. If everyone thinks that it is the same ship, then it is the same ship. Really, everything in the universe is comprised of matter and energy, and therefore everything that isn't defined as "microwaves" or "Helium" (as examples) has been given an identity by us. Everything we define is also comprised of these things. So "Dogs" or "Chairs" don't exist unless a human mind classifies them as such, but the carbon in a dog's body or the iron used to make the chair will exist regardless.
    TogetherTurtle

    I think the answer to the "Ship of Theseus" dilemma is not consensus but just context. To answer the question, you have to know why the question is being asked. Do you ask because you want to cross the sea? Then the origin of the planks if of no interest to you. Do you ask becasue you want to touch the same wood Theseus has touched? Then the origin of the planks is all that matters, and whether or not the planks even come in the shape of a ship is irrelevant.

    Which leads me back to my point: in what context is being "teleported" or "uploaded" a kind of death?
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I think consciousness, specifically the part that constitutes identity (inclinations, memory, whatever that one considers as an essence) is a pattern of matter-energy. If the transporter can replicate this pattern perfectly then death hasn’t occured. Imagine two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen (H2O). This pattern of atoms is called water. If at one place a particular molecule of water were disassembled and then another two atoms of hydrogen and oxygen were combined to form a molecule, then we would still call it water. Similarly, I believe that if the transporter could preserve and then reproduce the pattern that constitutes a personal identity then death hasn’t occurred. We’ve simply been transported as it were.
  • Amity
    578
    This topic is on whether the transporters in Star Trek kill peopleEcharmion

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transporter_(Star_Trek)

    A transporter is a fictional teleportation machine used in the Star Trek universe. Transporters convert a person or object into an energypattern (a process called dematerialization), then "beam" it to a target, where it is reconverted into matter (rematerialization). The term "transporter accident" is a catch-all term for when a person or object does not rematerialize correctly....

    ...the technology itself has been known to fail on occasion, causing serious injury or usually death to those being transported. This was demonstrated in Star Trek's 1979 film debut, Star Trek: The Motion Picture when a malfunction in the transporter sensor circuits resulted in insufficient signal being present at the Enterprise end to successfully rematerialize the two subjects, and Starfleet was unable to pull them back to where they had dematerialized from. The transporter system attempted to rematerialize what little signal was available, and despite the efforts of Kirk and Scotty, the system failed and both subjects vanished from the transporter pad. Kirk, visibly shaken by what he had witnessed asked, "Starfleet, do you have them?", to which the response was made "Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long, fortunately".

    ----------

    So, the answer to your speculative question is:
    A fictional transporter can kill fictional people, if there is a problem with said transporter.

    Scotty is not a murderer. How very dare you :naughty:
  • Echarmion
    475
    So, the answer to your speculative question is:
    A fictional transporter can kill fictional people, if there is a problem with said transporter.

    Scotty is not a murderer. How very dare you :naughty:
    Amity

    I am beginning to think I shot myself in the foot by making the Star Trek references so overt :wink:.

    The implications of this debate for something like mind uploading might someday be relevant though.
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    Arguably, what you consider your self is down to opinion. Nevertheless, it should be possible, given your personal opinions of what "self" is, to identify the meaningful change that happens.Echarmion

    I think that is my problem. I don't think any meaningful change happens at all. It's my belief at least that life doesn't have any meaning besides what we give it, so therefore, if we give the person the value that another once had, they might as well be that person. Same with the ship. The value or identity given to the ship has everything to do with what we think and nothing to do with inherent value in the real world. That changes when you have belief in a god or deities, but I don't. I do, however, acknowledge that there is no way to 100% prove god either way, so I think that it is an opinion, but that's just my opinion.

    I think the answer to the "Ship of Theseus" dilemma is not consensus but just context. To answer the question, you have to know why the question is being asked. Do you ask because you want to cross the sea? Then the origin of the planks if of no interest to you. Do you ask because you want to touch the same wood Theseus has touched? Then the origin of the planks is all that matters, and whether or not the planks even come in the shape of a ship is irrelevant.Echarmion

    I think that the answer does have to do with context, but also consensus and knowledge as well. It has to do with context because depending on what you wish to do with the ship, it can have a different identity. To the man wishing to cross the sea, maybe he just doesn't care if it really is the ship and doesn't wish to look further into it so he gives it the identity that everyone thinks it is. Because everyone thinks that it is the ship, the man wishing to touch the same wood as Theseus would consider it the same ship. However, if everyone knew that the ship had been restored, I don't think they would consider it the same ship.

    It's all interconnected in a way, but none of it has anything to do with the outside world other than how we interpret it. Identity lives inside our minds unless god is real is essentially my viewpoint.

    The implications of this debate for something like mind uploading might someday be relevant though.Echarmion

    I very much think so. As for how I would view mind uploading, I would simply be glad that I could be put to some use after death, even if the consciousness isn't continued.
  • Amity
    578
    I am beginning to think I shot myself in the foot by making the Star Trek references so overt :wink:.
    The implications of this debate for something like mind uploading might someday be relevant though.
    Echarmion

    But you knew that would happen and I happily obliged :wink:

    Yes. It is a fascinating debate. I think discussing the implications is already relevant, from wiki:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_uploading

    Underlying the concept of "mind uploading" (more accurately "mind transferring") is the broad philosophy that consciousness lies within the brain's information processing and is in essence an emergent feature that arises from large neural network high-level patterns of organization, and that the same patterns of organization can be realized in other processing devices.

    Mind uploading also relies on the idea that the human mind (the "self" and the long-term memory), just like non-human minds, is represented by the current neural network paths and the weights of the brain synapses rather than by a dualistic and mystic soul and spirit. The mind or "soul" can be defined as the information state of the brain, and is immaterial only in the same sense as the information content of a data file or the state of a computer software currently residing in the work-space memory of the computer.

    Data specifying the information state of the neural network can be captured and copied as a "computer file" from the brain and re-implemented into a different physical form.[24] This is not to deny that minds are richly adapted to their substrates.[25] 

    An analogy to the idea of mind uploading is to copy the temporary information state (the variable values) of a computer program from the computer memory to another computer and continue its execution. The other computer may perhaps have different hardware architecture but emulates the hardware of the first computer.

    These issues have a long history. In 1775 Thomas Reid wrote:[26] “I would be glad to know... whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.”
  • Amity
    578
    I would simply be glad that I could be put to some use after death, even if the consciousness isn't continued.TogetherTurtle

    This reminded me of organ transplantation. It is about continuing the function of the organ in another body. What would be the point of your mind being uploaded to someone else if consciousness wasn't continued ?
    The organ in question would be the brain. I am not sure that the original mental states would transfer over. However, it could continue to function with awareness but 'as new' ?
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    This reminded me of organ transplantation. It is about continuing the function of the organ in another body. What would be the point of your mind being uploaded to someone else if consciousness wasn't continued ?
    The organ in question would be the brain. I am not sure that the original mental states would transfer over. However, it could continue to function with awareness but 'as new' ?
    Amity

    I think anyone's brain could be of use as sort of a "librarian" for a database. It's hard to give computers personalities or the ability to differentiate between different things, (like dog breeds for example) so a human mind (in biological form or just having its neural pattern uploaded to a computer) could act as a stand-in for the typical search engine you might use now. Imagine using Google to search for information, but instead of typing into a search bar and letting the algorithm pull up pages with exact and relevant search results (with varying degrees of accuracy) you speak directly to a person that can fully understand what you are talking about and find you those results at light speed. We're talking a LOT of computing power here, (at least by today's standards) but it is theoretically possible as long as whatever makes the human mind conscious isn't inherently biological.

    As for just a brain transplant, it would be useful if someone had information that you needed but their body couldn't go on living, so you transfer them to another body. If the brain is where all experiences and knowledge is stored, then it only seems logical that the memories would be present in a new body.

    I believe I have seen some claims of brain transplants having been successfully performed on dogs. I remember watching a video somewhere about how Russian scientists performed the operation and documented it, but Russian scientists also claimed to have no Cosmonauts die during their space program, so I would take all this with a grain of salt.
  • Echarmion
    475
    I think that is my problem. I don't think any meaningful change happens at all. It's my belief at least that life doesn't have any meaning besides what we give it, so therefore, if we give the person the value that another once had, they might as well be that person. Same with the ship. The value or identity given to the ship has everything to do with what we think and nothing to do with inherent value in the real world. That changes when you have belief in a god or deities, but I don't. I do, however, acknowledge that there is no way to 100% prove god either way, so I think that it is an opinion, but that's just my opinion.TogetherTurtle

    But you did say you don't think it's the same person so far as the individual is concerned. But I don't see why I would not consider a copy "me" as well. So I wonder what your initial perspective was and where it came from.

    It's all interconnected in a way, but none of it has anything to do with the outside world other than how we interpret it. Identity lives inside our minds unless god is real is essentially my viewpoint.TogetherTurtle

    Does not everything live inside our minds, with the exception of the mind itself, and whatever is it's object?
  • Amity
    578
    As for just a brain transplant, it would be useful if someone had information that you needed but their body couldn't go on living, so you transfer them to another body. If the brain is where all experiences and knowledge is stored, then it only seems logical that the memories would be present in a new body.TogetherTurtle

    A brain transplant, if ever possible, would have to be done before someone died.
    I began to think along the lines of freezing a brain or its memories. A bit like egg, sperm and embryo storing. I found this:

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321235.php

    'When we die, the neural connections that make memories start to degrade. But what if our brains could be preserved? What if our memories could be backed up like computer data? One start-up company says it's possible.

    A start-up company claims it may one day be possible to preserve human brains and retrieve memories.
    Introducing Nectome, an organization whose "ultimate ambition is to keep your memories intact for the future."
    The company — co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate Robert McIntyre — says that soon, we may be able to preserve the human connectome and even "upload" our memories to the cloud.

    According to the Brain Preservation Foundation, the connectome is a map of the brain's neural connections, or those between brain cells.
    These connections are called synapses. Synapses are structures that pass electrical or chemical signals between neurons. In other words, synapses allow brain cells to communicate with each other, and these structures are important for memory formation.
    Using a technique called aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation — also referred to as vitrifixation — Nectome believe that they could preserve human synapses, along with the memories they have helped to form....

    ...While the preservation technique has shown some feasibility, scientists are still not sure whether it is even possible to retrieve memories from the human brain after death, and Nectome have yet to come up with a strategy that may enable them to "upload" retrieved memories.'
    ----------

    And that would seem to be the major problem. Our brains are not computers.
    I think that there would be something lost in the transference of the physical component of memory.
    That is the quality of experience and the way the memories might be triggered. The smell and sounds in the environment are important aspects. Phenomenon through the senses rather than thought simply might not 'compute'.

    I guess I am arguing against the reductionist theory of the mind, as per the Churchland's 'eliminative materialism'. Fom the little I know I seem to side more with Searle, Clark and Chalmers, see article:

    ----------
    https://philosophynow.org/issues/87/Philosophy_of_Mind_An_Overview

    '...To Searle, the reason computational logic patterns can’t be causal explanations of mind/brain behavior is that they are simulations. He points out that simulating a hurricane on a computer may tell you some things about the hurricane, but it doesn’t constitute causing a hurricane. And the simulation has no causal power to make the hurricane do anything, such as change course or grow less powerful. Likewise, simulated fires don’t burn anything, and simulated car crashes don’t bend any metal. Simulated logical patterns don’t cause mental states or influence brain states. Searle accuses the Strong AI people of confusing their virtual reality with the real thing...


    ...Clark shifts the philosophical emphasis from analysis of the brain to analysis of a human’s kinesthetic interaction with an ecological and social space. He points out that large-scale social projects, such as a building project or a disaster relief effort, occur across a considerably extended space and through the intersection of many people’s minds, and are not limited to neuronal firings in any individual brain. Clark, in a joint paper with David Chalmers, discusses the fictional example of Otto, a man with memory problems who remembers the location of a library (and other useful pieces of information) by writing it down in a notebook. They argue that Otto’s memory is literally in the notebook, not in his brain. Similarly, much of the memory of all of us arguably now resides in a variety of electronic devices...'
    ----------
  • Amity
    578
    I think consciousness, specifically the part that constitutes identity (inclinations, memory, whatever that one considers as an essence) is a pattern of matter-energy.

    If the transporter can replicate this pattern perfectly then death hasn’t occured [...] I believe that if the transporter could preserve and then reproduce the pattern that constitutes a personal identity then death hasn’t occurred. We’ve simply been transported as it were.
    TheMadFool

    I am interested in why you think that consciousness is a pattern of matter-energy. And what does this even look like ? How can something as nebulous as inclinations be included ?
  • Amity
    578
    Previous comments about identity living inside our minds, got me thinking about how our sense of identity is formed and how it changes over time. So:

    The issue of Identity over time ( continued )

    From https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-time/

    '...Suppose, as may one day be medically feasible, an individual A's still functioning upper brain is transplanted from A's body to the debrained, but living, body formerly belonging to B. Upon being transplanted A's upper brain is connected to what remains of B's central nervous system so that a person, call her A-B, results. A-B believes herself to be A, can Q-remember what happened to A, has A's psychological dispositions, and so on. Should we say that A-B is the same person as A, the same person as B, or an altogether new person? Psychological continuity theorists will have little hesitation in answering that A-B is the same person as A.

    A person can function fairly normally with much of their brain destroyed. Suppose A loses an entire brain hemisphere. Given the plasticity of the brain, and aided by our hypothetical future medical technology, it may be that A could survive such a loss. If so, it would be unreasonable to deny that A could survive the transplantation of only one brain hemisphere given that she could survive the transplantation of he entire intact upper brain.

    The putative conflict with transitivity arises when we consider a case in which both of the separated hemispheres of A's original brain are transplanted to separate bodies resulting in what certainly look to be distinct individuals. Suppose, one of A's brain hemispheres is transferred to B's body, resulting in a person PB, and the other to C's body resulting in a person PC. It flouts transitivity to say that PC is identical with A, and that A is identical with PB, but deny, at it seems we should, that PC is identical with PB.'

    -----------

    I really don't understand much of this. It is all highly speculative in any case.
    Remind me why are we so concerned with the issue ?

    My own interest would be in understanding both the internal and external influences on how we think of ourselves. Clearly we change over time but there is still the core 'I' which does the changing. It does not die but ideas do.
  • TogetherTurtle
    341

    '...To Searle, the reason computational logic patterns can’t be causal explanations of mind/brain behavior is that they are simulations. He points out that simulating a hurricane on a computer may tell you some things about the hurricane, but it doesn’t constitute causing a hurricane. And the simulation has no causal power to make the hurricane do anything, such as change course or grow less powerful. Likewise, simulated fires don’t burn anything, and simulated car crashes don’t bend any metal. Simulated logical patterns don’t cause mental states or influence brain states. Searle accuses the Strong AI people of confusing their virtual reality with the real thing...Amity

    The reasoning here is interesting. I think the difference between a virtual fire and a virtual mind is simply in function. Sure, a virtual fire can't burn anything in the real world, but it also isn't meant to. A virtual mind, however, can interact and manipulate the real world if given the right tools to manipulate them with. Essentially, the difference between a simulated force of nature and a simulated human mind is consciousness. What causes consciousness is more or less unknown though.

    If the human brain only uses electrical signals and chemicals to transfer its messages, then there is really nothing differentiating it from a computer anyway. Computers use electrical signals and stand-ins could be found for the chemicals. It actually brings up an interesting idea in biological computers, essentially growing a brain that is good at whatever task you need it to be good at. If you could get the contents of a human mind to fit in that, while also adding some synthetic components, you essentially have the same idea discussed above but even under skepticism like that above it works because where the human mind is transferred to is biological and technically not a simulation.

    I'll bookmark the article and read it when I get the chance.

    The putative conflict with transitivity arises when we consider a case in which both of the separated hemispheres of A's original brain are transplanted to separate bodies resulting in what certainly look to be distinct individuals. Suppose, one of A's brain hemispheres is transferred to B's body, resulting in a person PB, and the other to C's body resulting in a person PC. It flouts transitivity to say that PC is identical with A, and that A is identical with PB, but deny, at it seems we should, that PC is identical with PB.'Amity

    I think that they are all different people now. Person A, PB, and PC all have different brains (at least in structure) and think differently. Also, if you transfer person A's brain to PB and PC, person A no longer has a brain and doesn't really exist. That's my view anyway.

    ...Clark shifts the philosophical emphasis from analysis of the brain to analysis of a human’s kinesthetic interaction with an ecological and social space. He points out that large-scale social projects, such as a building project or a disaster relief effort, occur across a considerably extended space and through the intersection of many people’s minds, and are not limited to neuronal firings in any individual brain.Amity

    They may not be limited to any one brain, but computers are also not limited to any one piece of hardware. Computers communicate through the internet all the time. I think that would be the equivalent of the interaction with social space. To experience the ecological world, they could simply have cameras for eyes and speakers for speaking. That is how they would interact kinesthetically with their environment.

    I really don't understand much of this. It is all highly speculative in any case.
    Remind me why are we so concerned with the issue ?
    Amity

    I don't think anyone fully understands any of this. As a species, we know more about what is on the surface of Mars than we know about how our own minds function. Not that martian exploration isn't important, I just figure that we would have got to the thing closest to us first.
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    But you did say you don't think it's the same person so far as the individual is concerned. But I don't see why I would not consider a copy "me" as well. So I wonder what your initial perspective was and where it came from.Echarmion

    I would consider it me, but as for others, I think it is once again up in the air. Maybe I just worded that wrong. Sorry about that.

    Does not everything live inside our minds, with the exception of the mind itself, and whatever is it's object?Echarmion

    I think the question is not "Does not everything live inside our minds...?" but "Can we even know?". How do we know that we aren't in a simulated reality? How do we know that we aren't something else having a dream of our existence? It reminds me of a part of the Cthulu mythos about the father of all the gods who sleeps and dreams of our existence. In the event that that is true, would our brains be real at all? Is there a way to reach outside of our tiny perspective of the universe and see what is true?
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I am interested in why you think that consciousness is a pattern of matter-energy. And what does this even look like ? How can something as nebulous as inclinations be included ?Amity

    Well, death is my proof. There’s no difference between me alive and me dead in terms of structure - everything (cells, tissue, organs) is in the same place. As it’s consciousness and identity I’m concerned about let’s stay with the brain. So, no structural difference between a dead brain and living brain. Yet one has consciousness and the other doesn’t. My theory is that what’s missing from the dead brain is a particular pattern of activation and interaction within itself (neuronal and regional) - which is consciousness and identity.
  • Amity
    578
    I am interested in why you think that consciousness is a pattern of matter-energy. And what does this even look like ? How can something as nebulous as inclinations be included ?
    — Amity

    Well, death is my proof. There’s no difference between me alive and me dead in terms of structure - everything (cells, tissue, organs) is in the same place. As it’s consciousness and identity I’m concerned about let’s stay with the brain. So, no structural difference between a dead brain and living brain. Yet one has consciousness and the other doesn’t. My theory is that what’s missing from the dead brain is a particular pattern of activation and interaction within itself (neuronal and regional) - which is consciousness and identity.
    TheMadFool

    If it's consciousness and identity you are concerned with, then there are varying levels of consciousness which can be researched to try and explain what it might be. Also, cases of brain damage which affect a person's identity; memory and behaviour. It is too simplistic to say 'death is my proof'. It explains nothing about what identity is other than that if there is no subject alive there is no identity. It tells us nothing about e.g. the subjectivity of inclinations - that part of my question you didn't answer.

    It seems like you share Dennett's view ( of which I know very little I admit ) when he said that only a theory that explained conscious events in terms of unconscious events could explain consciousness at all: "To explain is to explain away".

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness_Explained

    I enjoy reading Dennett but can't agree with this reductionist view.
    I do think that any real or substantial findings will not come from philosophical speculation but a variety of disciplines - neuroscience allied with social and behavioral sciences perhaps being the best bet.
  • Amity
    578
    I think the difference between a virtual fire and a virtual mind is simply in function. Sure, a virtual fire can't burn anything in the real world, but it also isn't meant to. A virtual mind, however, can interact and manipulate the real world if given the right tools to manipulate them with.TogetherTurtle

    I have no idea what a virtual mind is. I understand that there are models of a virtual brain out there in science world which can be manipulated to assess changes in structure to behaviour. Not sure about current research. Can you give me examples of how a virtual mind could change the real world, thanks.

    If the human brain only uses electrical signals and chemicals to transfer its messages, then there is really nothing differentiating it from a computer anyway.TogetherTurtle

    Really ?
    A computer does not have nerve endings to receive data. It would never say 'Ouch ! That hurts. '
    It is not connected to muscle fibres which act on information. Avoidance of pain.
    It does not become conscious of itself or how it fits into the world.

    It actually brings up an interesting idea in biological computers, essentially growing a brain that is good at whatever task you need it to be good at. If you could get the contents of a human mind to fit in that, while also adding some synthetic components, you essentially have the same idea discussed above but even under skepticism like that above it works because where the human mind is transferred to is biological and technically not a simulation.TogetherTurtle

    Interesting. Where is the information on biological computers ?

    Computers communicate through the internet all the time. I think that would be the equivalent of the interaction with social space. To experience the ecological world, they could simply have cameras for eyes and speakers for speaking. That is how they would interact kinesthetically with their environment.TogetherTurtle
    .

    I don't think that computers experience anything. They might be able to interact via technology. However, there is no sense in which they are experiencing the human concerns re those situations mentioned above:
    '...large-scale social projects, such as a building project or a disaster relief effort, occur across a considerably extended space and through the intersection of many people’s minds, and are not limited to neuronal firings in any individual brain'.
    But that might be a good thing :)
  • Amity
    578
    Does not everything live inside our minds...?Echarmion

    I challenge you to go out into the streets of London and ask that question.
    Transported from an earlier identity to a new consciousness, people and memories die a little.

    Streets of London lyrics:

    Have you seen the old man
    In the closed down market
    Kicking up the papers
    With his worn out shoes?

    In his eyes, you see no pride
    Hands held loosely at his side
    Yesterday's paper
    Telling yesterday's news

    So, how can you tell me you're lonely
    And say for you that the sun don't shine?
    Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
    I'll show you something to make you change your mind

    Have you seen the old girl
    Who walks the streets of London
    Dirt in her hair
    And her clothes in rags?

    She's no time for talking
    She just keeps right on walking
    Carrying her home
    In two carrier bags...

    ...And in the all night cafe
    At a quarter past eleven
    Same old man
    Sitting there on his own

    Looking over the world
    Over the rim of his tea cup
    Each tea lasts an hour
    And he wanders home alone...

    ...Have you seen the old man
    Outside the seaman's mission
    Memory fading with
    The medal ribbons that he wears?

    In our winter city
    The rain cries a little pity
    For one more forgotten hero
    And a world that doesn't care

    So, how can you tell me you're lonely
    And say for you that the sun don't shine?
    Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
    I'll show you something to make you change your mind

    Songwriter: Ralph Mc Tell
  • Echarmion
    475
    I think the question is not "Does not everything live inside our minds...?" but "Can we even know?". How do we know that we aren't in a simulated reality? How do we know that we aren't something else having a dream of our existence? It reminds me of a part of the Cthulu mythos about the father of all the gods who sleeps and dreams of our existence. In the event that that is true, would our brains be real at all? Is there a way to reach outside of our tiny perspective of the universe and see what is true?TogetherTurtle

    Well we cannot know any specifics because, as you say, we cannot leave our own perspective. Since we are affected by things that are not out selves, there must be something that's not identical to our minds. Even if we are all dreams of a god, that god is still not us, it is more than us, and thus (partially) outside of us. I think therefore something thinks.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    In my view, as a physicalist and a nominalist who doesn't buy genidentity (identity through time), the issue is simply if one is willing to consider the later instantiation "the same x" despite there being a temporal, spatial and possibly material disconnect from our usual temporal, spatial and causal-material contiguousness. In other words, the only difference from our usual dilemma is that there's a spatio-temporal gap that's not usually present, and the new material may not be causally connected to the previous material in the normal manner.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    If it's consciousness and identity you are concerned with, then there are varying levels of consciousness which can be researched to try and explain what it might be. Also, cases of brain damage which affect a person's identity; memory and behaviour. It is too simplistic to say 'death is my proof'. It explains nothing about what identity is other than that if there is no subject alive there is no identity. It tells us nothing about e.g. the subjectivity of inclinations - that part of my question you didn't answer.

    It seems like you share Dennett's view ( of which I know very little I admit ) when he said that only a theory that explained conscious events in terms of unconscious events could explain consciousness at all: "To explain is to explain away".

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness_Explained

    I enjoy reading Dennett but can't agree with this reductionist view.
    I do think that any real or substantial findings will not come from philosophical speculation but a variety of disciplines - neuroscience allied with social and behavioral sciences perhaps being the best bet.
    Amity

    Thanks for the link. I guess I was trying to explain consciousness in physical terms. How does one explain brain damage and the subsequent loss of mental capacity in non-physical terms?

    What is argument for a non-physical consciousness?
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    Well we cannot know any specifics because, as you say, we cannot leave our own perspective. Since we are affected by things that are not out selves, there must be something that's not identical to our minds. Even if we are all dreams of a god, that god is still not us, it is more than us, and thus (partially) outside of us. I think therefore something thinks.Echarmion

    Fascinating. Maybe someday we will find a way. Until then, we work towards that.
  • TogetherTurtle
    341
    I have no idea what a virtual mind is. I understand that there are models of a virtual brain out there in science world which can be manipulated to assess changes in structure to behaviour. Not sure about current research. Can you give me examples of how a virtual mind could change the real world, thanks.Amity

    To define what a virtual mind is, we must first define what a mind is. I find that a quick definition from the internet that sounds about right is a good place to start.

    1.
    the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.

    So, if a mind is what enables us to experience the world, then a virtual mind is what a computer would use to experience the world. Something similar yet different is a neural network. It is defined as follows.

    1
    a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system.

    So, a neural network is essentially a computer program that tries to mimic consciousness in one aspect by modeling itself after how neurons fire. Experiments with neural networks have been partially successful. For instance, Google has been working on a neural network that can identify dogs by breed, simply by giving images of a said breed and then quizzing the network. If the system finds a trait that is common between pictures, it uses the information on breed and traits to make connections and then can more accurately classify new pictures when they are given. This is very primitive compared to our own or even animal brains, but it is certainly a step in a bold new direction.

    So, a virtual mind would be something on par with our own minds. Something that can not only identify dog breeds as quickly as us but also pick up on social cues and other complex things that animals can do just fine but computers completely lack the ability to do. I think that computers will develop the ability to do these things just as we did, through a lot of trial and error (via evolution), but they have the advantage of us guiding them through and upgrading their brains regularly rather than getting an upgrade whenever the forces of nature decide that it is advantageous.

    So, how could a virtual mind change the real world? Well, just like how we do. We use our hands to pick up rocks and sticks and move them to our pleasure. A machine could do that with synthetic hands, and with the right materials used in construction, you might not even know the difference between them and a human at first glance.

    Really ?
    A computer does not have nerve endings to receive data. It would never say 'Ouch ! That hurts. '
    It is not connected to muscle fibres which act on information. Avoidance of pain.
    It does not become conscious of itself or how it fits into the world.
    Amity

    Our current machines are not outfitted with such things, but they can be. However, I think the question quickly becomes "should we?". Is it ethical to make a machine feel pain? We only feel pain because it is a necessity. If you start bleeding internally or eat something poison, then pain is the only way you will know. A machine might not need to feel pain to work and may, in fact, benefit from not feeling pain. If I were you, I would rather have a virtual mind help me shut down a failing reactor rather than complaining of the heat coming off of it.

    A computer might not have nerve endings, but it does have connections to cameras and heat sensors and speakers and microphones that can do the same jobs, as well as connections to tools that detect things we aren't able to sense, like infrared light or invisible toxic gasses. If the question then becomes, "how do they even realize that all of this is real, how are they aware?", then I would redirect you to the question of "how do we even realize that all of this is real, how are we aware?".

    Interesting. Where is the information on biological computers ?Amity

    There is some but the ones I speak of are pure fiction as of now. I think I recall that MIT is already experimenting with it, but it's more along the lines of using biological compounds (like DNA or RNA) to do math. It is purely hypothetical, but if we can get better at both biological and synthetic engineering, I don't see why we have to isolate ourselves to just one. People already get hearing aids or pacemakers to enhance their bodies, and phones and computers are already a staple in everyday life, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think that we will cut out the middle man and put the computers right in our bodies, as well as changing our own bodies to better accommodate the machines we implant.

    I don't think that computers experience anything. They might be able to interact via technology. However, there is no sense in which they are experiencing the human concerns re those situations mentioned above:Amity

    I don't think they do as of right now but most signs point to them being able to in the future. I think that's why it's important we think about all of this now, because if we wait until then, we might have a lot of catching up to do on what makes us human or what a human can even be.

    So in essence, the field is certainly in its infancy, but if we see it through we may not only be able to ascend to levels of knowledge not even thought possible, but create new life in the process.

    Or maybe we're wrong. If anything, it is good to challenge preconceived notions of who we are and what we can become, even if we don't change what we think. We just have to know that we're doing the best that we can.
  • Amity
    578
    Thanks for the link. I guess I was trying to explain consciousness in physical terms. How does one explain brain damage and the subsequent loss of mental capacity in non-physical terms?

    What is argument for a non-physical consciousness?
    TheMadFool

    I find it strange that some people cannot see what I can. But perhaps that indicates the point I am trying to make. We may all have the same brain structures but there is a difference in our level of awareness and subjective assessment of the world and ourselves. And that can affect our objectivity and sense of identity over time.

    I think it common sense that humans are more than just skin, bone, and connections. Why do philosophers give themselves such a hard time...

    Here is link which explains the effects of brain damage in terms other than physical matter:

    https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/

    '...For some people, the emotional, behavioural, physical and cognitive changes after brain injury can have an impact on existing and future relationships. There are a number of ways in which this can happen and a number of different outcomes. Some relationships may strengthen, whereas others may become strained over time or even completely break down...'

    In my view, as a physicalist and a nominalist who doesn't buy genidentity (identity through time)Terrapin Station
    So you identify as a physicalist and a nominalist. I am not sure what that entails. What does this mean to you, when and how did you decide ? Did it change your way of life ?

    I would be surprised if you didn't already know about Chalmer's Hard Problem of Consciousness and the various arguments involved:

    https://www.iep.utm.edu/hard-con/

    'Explaining why consciousness occurs at all can be contrasted with so-called “easy problems” of consciousness:  the problems of explaining the function, dynamics, and structure of consciousness.  These features can be explained using the usual methods of science. 

    But that leaves the question of why there is something it is like for the subject when these functions, dynamics, and structures are present.  This is the hard problem...'
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I find it strange that some people cannot see what I can. But perhaps that indicates the point I am trying to make. We may all have the same brain structures but there is a difference in our level of awareness and subjective assessment of the world and ourselves. And that can affect our objectivity and sense of identity over time.

    I think it common sense that humans are more than just skin, bone, and connections. Why do philosophers give themselves such a hard time...
    Amity

    I'm not convinced. To be frank I'm the type who likes to go beyond science and materialism. Even with such a strong motivation I haven't found any evidence of the non-physical. Can you kindly tell me how is it that you believe in a non-physical mind. Share your insight. It could help me a lot. Thanks.
  • Amity
    578
    So, a neural network is essentially a computer program that tries to mimic consciousness in one aspect by modeling itself after how neurons fireTogetherTurtle

    'Tries to' and 'in one aspect ' being the operative words here. Human consciousness is more than neurons firing.

    Our current machines are not outfitted with such things, but they can be. However, I think the question quickly becomes "should we?". Is it ethical to make a machine feel pain? We only feel pain because it is a necessity. If you start bleeding internally or eat something poison, then pain is the only way you will know. A machine might not need to feel pain to work and may, in fact, benefit from not feeling pain. If I were you, I would rather have a virtual mind help me shut down a failing reactor rather than complaining of the heat coming off of it.TogetherTurtle

    Yes. Of course I can see the benefits of computers, robots in everyday life and in extreme circumstances. To boldly go where no man has gone before- or where it would result in pain or death.
    The thing is - there would be no awareness and no sense of being bold. No sense of accomplishment.
    That is the difference in type of consciousness and yes, we would not necessarily wish to burden a computer with what it means to be a human.

    how do we even realize that all of this is real, how are we aware?".TogetherTurtle
    The first part is another philosophical argument which does not concern me. I doubt the value of such speculation. However, I know that others become quite activated and enthused by it.
    How are we aware ?
    Well, that is the question of consciousness addressed by various disciplines.

    We just have to know that we're doing the best that we can.TogetherTurtle

    Well, we can hope that we are doing the best we can but we don't know that we are.
    To hope is to be human.
  • Amity
    578
    Can you kindly tell me how is it that you believe in a non-physical mind. Share your insight. It could help me a lot. Thanks.TheMadFool

    No. I think I have explained it to the best of my ability. If you don't understand what I have said then I can't take it any further. Thanks.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    No. I think I have explained it to the best of my ability. If you don't understand what I have said then I can't take it any further. Thanks.Amity

    :ok: Thanks
  • Amity
    578
    ThanksTheMadFool

    My pleasure :up:
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