Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Is a person just their specification?

The notion that a person's consciousness can be realised in a simulation or computer program has become almost an assumption of the age, yet it is far from clear that this can be done.

If it can be done then it implies that a person is just a specification, because that is all a program is. Are we just our specifications?

Here's a thought experiment I put to my partner. He is very skeptical on matters metaphysical and believes consciousness to be an illusion that accompanies our complex thought processes.


Jon's Girlfriend Experiment
====================

Jon's girlfriend is abducted by a mad scientist who then anaesthetises her and replicates her to a precision such that no test or examination could distinguish the replica from the original. The scientist is careful, however, and at all times knows which is the original.

Of course, both Carenzas think they are original. Both have the same past memories, and the recollection of being anaesthetised (though they woke up in different places).

Jon is then presented with an ultimatum from the mad scientist - he must choose one of the Carenzas to take back with him. The other Carenza will be incinerated!!!! (Remember that at all times, the mad scientist knows which Carenza is the original but no one else knows).

Jon makes his choice and the losing Carenza is sent to the incinerator :( The mad scientist then announces that, in fact, Jon has chosen the copy and that the original Carenza is now dead.

I put it to Jon that, by his thinking, it wouldn't matter that his Carenza is the copy - the one he chose has identical specification and there will be absolutely no practical difference to his life as a result of his choice.

Of course, it did bother him and I could see Jon walking away to rethink his basic assumptions.


Does it bother you that the original is dead? It bothers me!!! Seriously - if you think it matters then I think you are attributing more to a person than their specification.

Another point: Supposing it were possible for my consciousness to be preserved in a computer after my death so that, by some technological / metaphysical feat, my vision in my dieing moment suddenly changes from doctors standing around me to a wonderful synthetic universe inside a machine!!!! That being the case, we are saying that my continued conscious existence is down to a program running.

But what if we run that program right now while I am alive and well? Will my consciousness suddenly leap into the machine and leave my body zombie-like? I rather doubt it!!! It would be saying that, by running a certain program on a machine, any person's consciousness can be abducted!!!!!!!

I assert that such programs happen all the time. We think computers are the only processing devices besides brains, but by selection of a different set of parameters besides voltages on logic gates you find the whole of natural existence is running countless programs on a continuous basis. Okay, they're not what we would call programs because they don't do anything of tangible use to us, but ANY system of evolving parameters is a process.

On this basis, if a program were able to abduct me (metaphysically speaking) then it would be happening constantly!

I think you've probably gathered by now that I do not think a person is a specification. We have the power to do that to others by dehumanising them, but I'll bet no person ever lived who wanted that done to themselves.

17 comments:

Hurlyburly said...

I believe i have read a very similar ethical dilema in a book called "The pig that wants to be eaten - and 99 other thought experiments"

If you havn't read it i seriously recommend it to you as it was one of the most thought provoing reads i've ever enjoyed.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Carenza: Nice to see you again!

It would be helpful if you would contribute your comments to other Bloggers' posts as well.

There have been quite a few similar posts to this recently so I won't repeat my issues with this kind of analogy, however your post is interesting owing to the "Girlfriend Experiment"

Unfortunately it cannot be termed an experiment, as it is a hypothesis (given that it is not currently achievable considering the present state of research and experimentation into Cloning and Consciousness Studies), however, if viewed hypothetically it raises certain questions Metaphysical, Philosophical and Existential.

Regarding your second question relating to the computer stored consciousness, again this is not practical (yet), and has been discussed through the Sunday Service over the last few weeks from articles in the Science sector about programmed computer sentience (very limited of obviously)

And I agree with you, of course a person is not just their specification - our specification is subjective and binary; our sentience is the link to other subjective consciousness and we are all one consciousness.

Carenza Waters said...

Yes, it is a 'thought experiment'.

And you're right Karl, I don't have time to follow this blog. I just have ideas that resurface from time to time and I feel a need to convey them, for what they're worth.

I've emailed Tony saying I'm happy to just email things like this to him, and pass my membership to someone who can follow the blog more closely. I'm still happy to do that.

Remember: In the beginning there was nothing - not even beginnings.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Carenza: Thank You!

I hope that you do find time to follow this blog at some point as I'm sure you would identify with many of the points raised by other bloggers, which all assists in the development of the theory.

And from nothing, must at some stage arise a beginning, which is what the discussions on this blog are all about.

Baphomet. said...

Maybe at the end of the day we are all some crazy experiment by some higher force.Now we have been created will it ever end or will the Daemon keep us trapped forever.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

*sings*
Always look on the bright side of life...........
Do-Do Do-Do Do-Do Do-Do
*smile*

Your verging into Erich Von Daniken territory there Baphomet, are you a reader of his books?

Baphomet. said...

Karl,funny you should mention Eric Von Daniken,i read Chariots of the Gods years ago and recently bought a copy for my girlfriend.But i have always had the belief that ufo's are us from the future having discovered time travel.They say ufo's are spotted at the time of wars,maybe we come back to view our mistakes in history, like reliving ones life again.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Baphomet: Hmmmmm! I think if our future selves had mastered time travel then we'd also be able to communicate with our past selves better than the sporadic reports of UFO sightings and communication of today would suggest.

Plus, of course, if our future selves travelled back in time to view our mistakes in history, then in their own timeline they would be changing their history and probably wiping out the timeline that led to their own existence.

Or Something!
*smile*

Nice angle, Dave. Thanks

ra from ca said...

Interesting post. You are making me think of Ishiguro's novel "Never Let Me Go" which frequently haunts me.

I would tend to agree we are not just a specification. I am puzzled by people who would want to believe that. It seems like they want to deny there is any mystery.

woodsprite said...

My thoughts on the two Carenza puzzle:

If both Carenzas are identical in every sensory way, it would not matter to ME which I choose because the two would be the same. This assumes they have the same capacity to grow and develop cognitively and emotionally within my experience.

The real Carenza being incinerated is equally bad for either if they are both sentient beings. But the real Carenza would have the advantage of further lives within her Bohmian IMAX, whereas the simulated one would simply end.

What the question identifies for me is that "life" implies not only perception and response in a programmed manner but also the capacity to grow and change. So the thought exercise has been useful.

Thank you Carenza.

Patrick Booker said...

Hi Carenza,
Just something based upon a memory. I saw a brilliant cartoon a long time ago - must have been at least ten years. But it was about this idea. It was about a teleportation machine that dissembled your molecules and transferred you to another location. But it eventually emerged that that 'you' were destroyed and replaced by another 'you' with identical memories. I seem to think that in the cartoon, no-one much cared, as the device was so convenient.
It was a very clever and quite haunting cartoon, but unfortunately I cannot remember anything about its name or who created it. Maybe someone else can recognise it from my description.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Patrick: Long time no hear Patrick, nice to see you again!

Now, this whole teleportation idea opens up a whole new debate!

Assuming a device could be invented, which would identify the quantum state of matter of an individual in one location and transmit that pattern to a distant location for reassembly, you would not have actually transported the individual, you would have destroyed them in one location and recreated them in another. Thus, philosopically, would it be YOU that had been teleported, as there would be a break in the continuity of consciousness!

mental traveller said...

I think this discussion raises the question (kind of) dealt with in Being John Malkovich. Who is to say we don't jump in and out of other people's consciousness all the time? If we accept the reality of quantum entanglement, then we must also accept the possibility that at some level we are all one and can experience each other's realities. It might be that we quite often assume the identity of other people, but of course that involves assuming their memories and sense of continuity (which could be completely illusory). So unlike the characters in the film, we have no sense of slipping into someone else's "being", we just do it.

This is no wierder than the idea of eternally repeating our own lives. Maybe we have the "choice" of repeating our own lives, or becoming someone else, either in the past or the future or at the same time. Perhaps these choices could be determined by some kind of vibration or resonance associated with individual consciousness. In moments of crisis , for example in comas, or terrible sickness, or near death , or at the point of death, or even while we are sleeping, we may have the ability to transcend the habitual identification with our particular bodies.

I personally don't like the idea of "becoming" a computer programme, but I have to accept the possibility that I already am one. I certainly can't prove otherwise.

I don't think that is likely, though. What we do see is that some people have greater empathy or telepathy connecting them with others. Maybe the corpus callosum between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is a physcial manifestation of some kind of "portal" pattern that exists as a morphogenetic field allowing the sharing of consciousness between individuals, whether they be person to person, or person to nature, or ... whatever.

Anthony Peake said...

MENTAL TRAVELLER: Always good to see a new name on this blog. Welcome. I am interested to know if you have come to this blogsite via my book or just by chance. If it is just by chance I am fascinated by your perceptive comment with regard to us "repeating our lives" - which is central to my theory.

If, however, you are already aware of ITLAD and CTF then your choice of example was quite specific.

As I say, great to have your contribution. Pleaee feel free to add any other comments as you see fit.

p.s. We have been putting together a list of 'itladian movies' (or more accurately a blog member called Hurly Burly has been, with assistance of others). I suspect that we may have missed "Being John Malkovich". I have this movie on DVD but I have yet to get round to watching it. This I must do asap.

mental traveller said...

Anthony, I came across you a week or two ago in the latest journal of IANDS , the near-death experience group. I then found your website and read your essay, and am now looking forward to reading your book. I was also thrilled to find another fan of "The Beginning of Consciousness In the Breakdown of The Bicameral Mind," which I read several decades ago and have since only come across one other person who had read it.

The loose ends in my own theory of everything relate to telepathy, synchronicity, and "memories of past lives" ... I'm not sure how or if you account for the latter in the "eternal repeat", which is certainly an elegant explanation of deja-vu and other phenomena. It also jelled very strongly with theories of Stephen Hawkings and others about event horizons on the edge of black holes.

I wonder if you or anyone else has come across recent reports of a girl in America who had a heart transplant and then experienced the horrific memories of the girl whose heart she had received. Not sure of its credibility, but it reopens all sorts of question about where memories are "stored". The fact that we re-experience something when our brains are prodded with electrodes doesn't necessarily mean they are "stored" in the brain, but could for example mean that that part of the brain can "access" the memories. Or perhaps they are not even memories the brain is accessing but the actual events themselves, and we are serious time-travelling, "reinhabiting events" rather than "remembering" them .. although maybe there is more to re-membering that we remember!

Anthony Peake said...

MT: Glad to have you on board. Have you considered joining in as a "full member". Drop me an email at cheattheferryman@aol.com and i will give you further details.

When you mention IANDS do you mean the magazine "Vital Signs" or did you get hold of a copy of the article I had published in the Journal a few years ago?

With regard to your very reasonable question with regard to telepathy, reincarnation and the idea that memories are stored elsewhere may I suggest that you check out some of the postings on this blog by Karl L LeMarcs. Karl and I are working on an uber-theory that will take itlad ("Is There Life After Death") and CTF ("Cheating The Ferryman") into a equivalent "Unified Field" Theory of consciousness. When you read ITLAD you are reading, in effect, the first draft of something far bigger and far more elaborate ... or so we hope!

Finally, glad you enjoyed the Jaynes reference. Are you aware that there is a very active "Julian Jaynes Society". This is run by a gentleman called Marcel who is a sometime visitor to this blogsite. Google them. You will find some interesting stuff on their website.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Mental Traveller: Welcome indeed, and thank you Tony for your kind words in your comment to MT.

I was in complete agreement with you Mental Traveller in your first comment until your Corpus Collosum ponderance, but your thoughts are very interesting given what I have previously written on here relating to the Corpus Collosum and the duality of subjective consciousness in general.

Tony is correct when he advises you to read through some of my previous posts regarding your own "loose ends", and I especially place some links below to some that you may find useful to begin your ITLADic studies.

ITLAD Glossary

The 'Sensation' Of Being Stared At
[by Karl L Le Marcs]

(an introduction to my "Collapsing the Consciousness wave (CtCw) theory)

Where Is The Internet? (An Analogy)
[by Karl L Le Marcs]


I hope we hear more from you on the blog and if you want or need any assistance or advice on what previous posts to read on a given subject then please ask me.