Opera and Inspiration

An assortment of news:

Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review to Freeze-Frame Revolution, and also listed it among 2018’s Best Summer Reads. Of course, Publisher’s Weekly also gave a starred review to βehemoth, so some of you might want to factor that into your equation…

 

The Inspirational Listsicle

About two years ago, I was first approached by Jonathan Cowie from the “Science Fiction Science Fact Concatenation“, an SF site run by scientists and engineers. They were seeking out soulmates— i.e., scientist/engineers-turned-SF authors— in the hopes that such folks would be willing to write a brief essay about the Top Ten Twentieth Century Scientists Who Had Inspired Them. I had proved myself worthy, Jonathan said, and asked me to join them at their court in Camelot.

I leaned on my sword and said nothing.

More accurately, I said Sure, but I was kind of busy at the moment and it might take a while. Jonathan assured me that there was no hurry; SFF Concatenation was doing this to commemorate their tenth anniversary in 2017, so I had almost a full year. I figured that should be plenty of time.

Ahem.

Every few months since, Jonathan sent a polite email, saying they were still interested, and that there was still no hurry. After I missed their 10th anniversary there was even less hurry, and yet they were still interested. And I kept saying, Sure, still up for it, and I kept pleading the heaviness of my workload, but in fact my delinquency was at least partly due to the fact that I was having a really tough time finding ten 20th-century scientists who I could describe as personally “inspirational”— at least in the revelatory, shaft-of-dusty-sunlight-through-the-stain-glass-window sense. I mean, sure, I loved the way Feynman cut through the bullshit at the Challenger hearings when NASA kept trying to obfuscate about that damned O-ring, but did that really qualify?

My solution, ultimately, was to cite not Ten Inspirational Scientists, but rather Ten Scientific Inspirations. That widened the net enough to let me include German philosophers and French explorers. The damn really broke when I realized that nobody said my scientific inspirations had to be famous. Didn’t matter if any of you had even heard of them. If I owed my doctorate to the fact that some dick on  my committee said I should be “throwing bombs for Greenpeace” and I set out to prove him wrong, you gonna tell me that wasn’t inspirational?

Anyhow, it’s up now, only two years late. Most of those described therein— well, six out of ten— aren’t even dead yet.

 

When Science Makes You Wanna Scream Like An Opera

The Engineer (not to be confused with the subject of the Ian Anderson song of the same name).

The Engineer (not to be confused with the subject of the Ian Anderson song of the same name).

I’ve talked about this before— hinted here, gone into a bit more detail here. For want of any third-party collaboration you could be forgiving for wondering if I was making the whole thing up. Which is why I’m pleased to announce that the official Fish To Mars website is live and taking visitors. A few rooms are still under construction, but most of it’s pretty slick: character bios, story lines, librettos, real-world science. There’s even a trailer.

The opera kinda-sorta premieres next month in Bergen, May 22-24 (the BUG and I expect to be in the audience). I say kinda-sorta because it’s only 45 minutes long and ends on a cliffhanger. The full-scale opera, spanning the time from the late Devonian up to maybe five hundred thousand years from now, won’t be ready until 2020. Assuming the Funding Gods are willing.

Anyway, for those of you wondering what the hell I’ve been doing all this time instead of getting off my ass and writing the next novel, this is part of the answer. Check it out.

vlcsnap-2018-04-26-14h22m06s090

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday April 26 2018at 10:04 am , filed under writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

67 Responses to “Opera and Inspiration”

  1. Cool list with the Ten Inspirations. Your comments for Hans Moravec were especially fun. This exact phenomenon has always bothered me when reading/watching things like Altered Carbon, or more recently, re-watching the entire run of TNG on Netflix. It’s impossible to watch now without a sense of horror at all the crew members blithely accepting murderous dissolution in the transporters, only to allow someone else with their face and memories steal their life. Bones was right to fear those things.

    Aside from point of view issues, I’m also skeptical that you could cleanly separate a consciousness unchanged from the meat that shapes it, with all of its unique chemical cocktails and physical influences. You could maybe transfer memories if you want to view memory as an objective recollection of events, rather than a highly mutable manifestation of a physical process that changes each time your recall it, but it wouldn’t be you. It would just be something with a personality shaped by whatever meat it inhabits, that recalls similar events in a different fashion.

    Maybe the key for this thing to work is to run the persona in emulation. Rather than a program inserted into a disparate platform, you insert a program that suppresses all physical inclinations of the new platform, and forces it to mimic the old. Like any emulation, there’d be an efficiency penalty though. You’d have to be narcissistic enough to believe that the universe would be better off with a gimped something that sounded and acted like you, even though you’d still be dead.

  2. Congratulations on the starred review, and the ‘Best of’ pick. Is it permissible to observe that whoever chose their ‘Best of Summer’ list this time is clearly a person of unusual taste and discretion? (Cough, ahem).

    I also wanted to say that I find your list of inspirations, well, inspiring, as much for the explanations around the choices as the choices themselves. Nice work.

  3. The story synopsis on the Fish To Mars site is so good I just read the whole thing out loud to my wife last night (she found it equally delightful), ending with “this is why I love reading Peter Watts”.

  4. Angus M: Is it permissible to observe that whoever chose their ‘Best of Summer’ list this time is clearly a person of unusual taste and discretion? (Cough, ahem).

    Why, yes. I think it’s safe to say that History will judge at least two of those picks as timeless classics that transcend not only the concept of genre, but of Literature itself.

    Ian Mathers:
    The story synopsis on the Fish To Mars site is so good I just read the whole thing out loud to my wife last night (she found it equally delightful), ending with “this is why I love reading Peter Watts”.

    Keep in mind that, all that site’s wittering on about “real science” notwithstanding, the story itself is, well, operatic. Which is to say, a bit more over the top than my usual staid and understated style.

  5. I’m sorry, I don’t get that last. You’ve been messing around with digital graphic arts stuff, or was the link supposed to point at something other than a bigger version of the image? That Blindsight game thing maybe?

  6. DA:

    Aside from point of view issues, I’m also skeptical that you could cleanly separate a consciousness unchanged from the meat that shapes it, with all of its unique chemical cocktails and physical influences. You could maybe transfer memories if you want to view memory as an objective recollection of events, rather than a highly mutable manifestation of a physical process that changes each time your recall it, but it wouldn’t be you.It would just be something with a personality shaped by whatever meat it inhabits, that recalls similar events in a different fashion.

    Yeah, I’ve always found it kind of funny that transhumanists, many of whom (IME) are staunch atheists, believe in souls.

  7. Hochachka’s environmental physiology (the one he wrote with Somero – Strategies of Biochemical Adaptation) really opened my eyes when I was an undergrad. Still have my copy sitting on a shelf here.

    Glad to hear that Brooks is still a shit-disturber. When I met him in Nebraska he’d just published his Red Book, which according to a vagrant student from UBC was supposed to shatter paradigms left and right. I thought that it was intended as a hand-grenade, but it never seems to be referenced any more. The Nature of Diversity and that sort of thing seem to have left more of a mark.

  8. I have no desire to copy my consciousness after reading Egan’s Dust and Kelly’s Think Like a Dinosaur, and watching The Prestige. But I’d be okay with migrating it into a different vessel and leaving this one empty. That I believe I’d still be me even with new hardware potentially shaping my outward personality into something not recognizable to others as me maybe implies a belief in a soul-like thing. I bought Metzinger’s book but got distracted after the first chapter and need to return to it, so I’m still ignorant of what his work says about this.

    I don’t know if subscribing to the Gaia hypothesis indicates going off the rails or not, but looking at the earth’s wind systems makes me think maybe not: https://earth.nullschool.net/

    Tull’s through TO this summer, and Bluesfest in Ottawa…

  9. Well, transhumanism does have some religious trappings. I am really hoping that one day, they get that gradual replacement thing good and ready. It would be nice to leave the moribund bunch of carbons we are trapped in behind.

    I am pretty sure the world would end up like Altered Carbon and not like one of Greg Egans wonderful optimistic novels, though. That VR torture scene still gives me nightmares, i havent watched the series yet, but it cannot possibly be as bad as the book in that regard.

  10. DA:
    Cool list with the Ten Inspirations. Your comments for Hans Moravec were especially fun. This exact phenomenon has always bothered me when reading/watching things like Altered Carbon, or more recently, re-watching the entire run of TNG on Netflix. It’s impossible to watch now without a sense of horror at all the crew members blithely accepting murderous dissolution in the transporters, only to allow someone else with their face and memories steal their life. Bones was right to fear those things.

    I don’t know if he invented the concept, but there’s a 1956 novel by Jack Vance, To Live Forever, that uses the same trope adopted by Morgan: the wealthy periodically back-up their memories, and in the event of their death those memories get downloaded into a new body. I read it back in the early 80s and had the same reaction: it’s not living forever to have a string of copies, each of which remembers being the previous iteration.

  11. The K: Altered Carbon[…] i havent watched the series yet, but it cannot possibly be as bad as the book in that regard.

    It isn’t. That adaptation was far too timid to explore the more interesting aspects of that setting or the more extreme elements of Mr. Morgan’s book.

    If memory serves, that was where he was uploaded into a female body to be tortured because of women’s greater capacity to experience pain or something? Yeah, that’s probably a non-starter in the current political climate. It missed out on the author’s assertion that women are the default form of humanity as a result, which probably would have been worth some feminism points.

    PhilRM: it’s not living forever to have a string of copies, each of which remembers being the previous iteration.

    It’s not immortality in the classic sense, but it would still probably be a good idea in certain cases–back up crucial civic or military leaders during a crisis, exceptional scientists. Maybe Bill Murray.

    You know there are still going to be plenty of wealthy narcissists that would do it regardless. You know that Trump would clone himself if he could, if only to get around the the remaining legal obstacles to dating his own daughter.

  12. PhilRM: I don’t know if he invented the concept, but there’s a 1956 novel by Jack Vance, To Live Forever, that uses the same trope adopted by Morgan: the wealthy periodically back-up their memories, and in the event of their death those memories get downloaded into a new body. I read it back in the early 80s and had the same reaction: it’s not living forever to have a string of copies, each of which remembers being the previous iteration.

    How is that different from going to sleep and waking ?

  13. Y.: How is that different from going to sleep and waking ?

    From the point of view of the copy? It’s not. From the point of the view the original? Well, they’d be dead, so you’d have to posit an afterlife scenario to find out their opinion. Their unbroken stream of consciousness (sleep is a different level, not a cessation, of consciousness) ended.

  14. As an atheist, I totally believe in Souls, just like I know god exists. As a powerful meme distributed in millions of believer’s brains. If I walk into a Mosque and say “Allah is shit!” Allah will strike me down. That’s plenty real for me.

    And human souls exist but are not metaphysical, so they’re a lot more fragile than the theists would prefer. And if we’re really potentially substrate independent, then surely every night we die when we go offline, and get rebooted as a slightly different updated version of ourselves.

    Which makes sleeve hopping a la altered carbon a bit more palatable I guess. I’ve been watching the show, it looks great although I have to wonder how static this world’s tech is that Takeshi can spend 250 years on ice and still be current on wake up.

  15. DA: Their unbroken stream of consciousness (sleep is a different level, not a cessation, of consciousness) ended.

    What’s the big deal then?

    Our stream of consciousness is inherently fragmented. Copying would not make our lives any worse or mattter in any metaphysical sense. People who think so are deluded.

  16. Peter, I just read your Concatenation piece and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment, in the Hans Moravec section, about uploading-your-conciousness nonsense, at least as it’s usually portrayed. Every time I run into the trope of some character “transferring” their consciousness, without any further explanation, whether in an SF novel or TV show, I want to bang my head against the wall and scream exactly what you said: When you “upload” your consciousness into a clone, robot, computer, whatever, you’re not necessarily transferring the conscious entity you regard as “you”; you’re creating a copy. While the copy might have all of your memories and think of themselves as “you”, the original “you” is still gonna be stuck in your original body, if not dead, no more, ceased to be, bereft of life, shuffled off this mortal coil, etc. Glad to see that at least one SF writer is thoughtful enough about this to acknowledge it.

  17. Y.: What’s the big deal then?

    Our stream of consciousness is inherently fragmented. Copying would not make our lives any worse or mattter in any metaphysical sense. People who think so are deluded.

    I can’t tell if you genuinely don’t understand, or are just doing your usual contrarian thing here, so forgive me if I over-explain needlessly.

    To the copy it doesn’t matter. To the universe at large it probably doesn’t matter–it would be content to accept the copy and call it the same person. But there’s an original source that will be dying, and it probably matters to them. A faxed document does not become the original document. The original still exists with its own point of view, and is on its way to the shredder.

    If someone put you in a room,showed you a perfect clone of yourself, informed you that it would be assuming your life and then pointed a gun at your head, would it matter to you? Are you under any illusion that when you die, your point of view will transfer to the clone? Is it any comfort that as far as the universe is concerned you will still exist, but your life is ending?

  18. DA:
    You know there are still going to be plenty of wealthy narcissists that would do it regardless. You know that Trump would clone himself if he could, if only to get around the the remaining legal obstacles to dating his own daughter.

    That was not an image I needed in my head, but yeah.
    One of the things that I did like about the Netflix version of Altered Carbon is that they made clear how utterly corrupting the technology is.

  19. DA, “If someone put you in a room,showed you a perfect clone of yourself, informed you that it would be assuming your life and then pointed a gun at your head, would it matter to you?”

    But in that case it’s not a perfect clone. Its viewpoint has diverged from the original. The metaphysical question only arises if the technology exists to make a perfect copy of a person’s mind instantaneously, so that no particle is different between the two. Any scenario in which it takes time – a few seconds, a few nanoseconds – to make a copy would result in a divergence between the part of the mind that was copied first and the part that was copied last. It would not be the same mind. It would be a different person.

    If the technology existed to make a perfect copy instantaneously, and extinguish the first mind simultaneously with the creation of the second, that might raise the question of whether there is a difference between the first mind and the second – of whether the first person died, or was merely transferred.

    The technology to do that would have to be of a sufficient order of difference from anything we have currently, though, to kind of place this discussion, at present, in the same category as the question of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

  20. Phil: But in that case it’s not a perfect clone. Its viewpoint has diverged from the original.

    Not really relevant to the point I was making. It was a simplified example to illustrate an issue that Y questioned in regard to the specific scenario of multiple clones, each remembering the last. For that purpose it wouldn’t matter if it was simply a really good actor instead of a clone–the point was that your life was going to end regardless, even if you were still alive from the point of view of everyone else in the universe.

    On your point, I don’t see why there would be any reasonable expectation of “consciousness transfer” whether or not the copy is made a hundred years after the original dies, or whether it’s made at the same time the body is obliterated, as is the case with the Star Trek transporter scenario.

    Each is an instance of that persona, and could exist at the same time if you weren’t also destroying the original. Morgan acknowledges this in AC with his whole “double sleeving” thing, basically confirming the whole process is a duplication.

  21. DA, “On your point, I don’t see why there would be any reasonable expectation of “consciousness transfer” whether or not the copy is made a hundred years after the original dies”

    I’m not entirely sure what my point is because it depends on a detailed knowledge of a technology that doesn’t exist, and possible cannot exist. I’d like to argue that if there is any difference in experience between the two minds, then they are different people (as they were at the end of Altered Carbon), but given that people, or some people, seem to have multiple selves within them, and that the definition of “self” remains up for philosophical debate, I’m not willing to go to the mat on that; I’ll only say that I think in that situation that I would feel like the characters in fictions such as Morgan’s, Egan’s, Kelly’s and Nolan’s.

    I’m not sure how you could make a copy “a hundred years after the original dies”, but if you could make a complete, instantaneous copy, but not activate if for a hundred years (technically, and philosophically, what would it mean to “activate” a copy?), would that gap in time make a difference to anything, or would location of the consciousness within this world be like a quantum particle which follows a wave pattern apparently divorced from time? (That is, you fire a particle, then another, and another, and watch the wave pattern develop, and it doesn’t matter whether you fire those particles in rapid succession, or wait years between each firing – the wave pattern will build up regardless. If I’m understanding the two-slit experiment correctly…)

  22. I think the ‘Ship of Theseus’ paradox has a lot in common with municipal heritage building committee meetings…

    Just noticed a small typo on the Top Ten: “a upload scenario ”

    For those of us here grappling with some of this stuff, this link is to a Hans Moravec paper on uploads (among other things): https://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/project.archive/general.articles/1998/SimConEx.98.html

  23. Reading through the plot of your sci-fi opera, the horror experienced by the Greeter on discovering the nutritional requirements of humans seems like a callback to the excellent “The Baby Eating Aliens”, which I learned about from you.

  24. Dam… Damn… I see what you did there :)

  25. DA: A faxed document does not become the original document. The original still exists with its own point of view, and is on its way to the shredder.

    You don’t get it.

    Spirit is information. If one piece of information is identical to the other one, in informational content, it’s the same thing.

  26. That plot point about the Greeter being disgusted by the overheating + air breathing animals having been deliberately gengineered into compulsory cannibalism didn’t make ANY sense until i read that old post where you mentioned vegan ecoterrorism.

    Anyway, i might seriously renew my passport just to come see this, it sounds like An Event! (and i’ve never seen an Opera, and my bf likes polar bears)

  27. Phil: It would not be the same mind. It would be a different person.

    I’ll take practical immortality over hair-splitting metaphysical bullshit artistry.

    No really what the fuck? Do we wanna live practically forever or do we wanna show off our giant intellects debating pointless nonsense?

  28. Y.,

    I have zero desire to live forever. I do wonder if I’d be alive at all if a different one of two hundred million sperm got there first, but I honestly have no idea.

  29. Y.: I’ll take practical immortality over hair-splitting metaphysical bullshit artistry.

    Nah. You’ll take a dirt nap. You’d be buying a ticket to a show for someone else, but you’ll never see it.

    It’s not metaphysics to suggest that life ends when the body ceases to function. It’s metaphysics to suggest anything else.

    Y.: No really what the fuck? Do we wanna live practically forever or do we wanna show off our giant intellects debating pointless nonsense?

    Lighten up. Door’s over there if you’re not interested.

  30. DA: It would just be something with a personality shaped by whatever meat it inhabits, that recalls similar events in a different fashion.

    To be fair, Morgan tries to address this (kind of) in Altered Carbon. I’ve only read the book, so I don’t want to post spoilers here in case the show takes a different tack.

    But the “sleeves” in the book are affected by the meat they inhabit. The “sleeve”, obviously, believes he is the actual person. The “original” has been obliterated, therefore doesn’t believe anything. When both exist concurrently… you’ll have to get the book to read that part.

    Y.: If one piece of information is identical to the other one, in informational content, it’s the same thing.

    This too is a valid point. I am information, therefore any perfect recreation of that same information is also “I”. Or is there something uniquely “mine” that defines which “self” is “original”, and which a “copy”?

  31. Fatman: To be fair, Morgan tries to address this (kind of) in Altered Carbon.

    Yes, I acknowledge that. My point was more general, but in AC he did, for instance, make the character slightly irritable because of a nicotine addiction in the meat.

    My point is people underestimate the extent to which we *are* our bodies. Drastic changes in chemical makeup and neurological composition would have a much more profound influence on a person’s behavior than most “people as software running on different hardware” scenarios allow. The resulting person would probably be alien to people that knew their original platform.

    The whole idea of people as a collection of memories is problematic, because we know that human memory is ephemeral. It’s not static information. It’s a physical process, and it changes every time you recall something. Eye witness testimony is ironically the least reliable form of evidence offered in a court of law, yet is the one we mistakenly attribute the most weight to.

  32. Fatman: This too is a valid point. I am information, therefore any perfect recreation of that same information is also “I”. Or is there something uniquely “mine” that defines which “self” is “original”, and which a “copy”?

    People aren’t a static data file on a computer. Even those have timestamps and metadata to identify one *instance* of a file over the other. If you copy that data, both files can be edited and exist simultaneously. Editing one does not automatically change the other. They are no longer the same file, even if you delete the prior instance.

    People are books that keep rewriting themselves. You can copy that book at any point in time, but as soon as it exists, it begins to diverge and is no longer the same book. The only thing that tends to confuse people with these cloning scenarios is the fact they usually involve the destruction of the original in close proximity to the creation of the copy. If you allowed the original book to continue existing alongside the copy, there would be little confusion.

    I find it’s useful to replace terms like “consciousness” or “self” with “Point of View” when considering these things. Or if you prefer something more concrete, think of it as floating camera. Just because the cameras are physically similar, doesn’t mean they are viewing the universe from the same fixed viewpoint. Even if camera B receives the film that camera A shot and can stitch it into an unbroken narrative, it doesn’t make camera A *become* camera B.

    The question is, are we the camera, or the film? In the event you consider yourself the film, see my comments above regarding the problems with seeing people solely as a collection of memories, rather than an inseparable part of the physical volume they exist on.

    If you want to achieve a sort of immortality by creating genetically similar people with some shared memories that will live on after you, we already do that through childbirth. But the consciousness, or POV, of the parent does not magically project into the child, no matter how much they resemble the parent.

  33. Fatman: But the “sleeves” in the book are affected by the meat they inhabit. The “sleeve”, obviously, believes he is the actual person. The “original” has been obliterated, therefore doesn’t believe anything. When both exist concurrently… you’ll have to get the book to read that part.

    Morgan’s books are well, entertainment. The whole stacks thing is complete BS that doesn’t make any sense if you look at it more closely.

  34. Fatman: This too is a valid point. I am information, therefore any perfect recreation of that same information is also “I”. Or is there something uniquely “mine” that defines which “self” is “original”, and which a “copy”?

    The degree of your delusion, perhaps.

    Greg Egan has a beautiful short story about this, called ‘The Walk’. Read it 😉

    You can find it here:

    https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v16n14_1992-12/Asimovs_v16n14_1992-12_djvu.txt

    search for first occurence of ‘the walk’.

  35. Y.: Morgan’s books are well, entertainment.

    As is all science fiction. It’s thought provoking entertainment though. There can be as much value in breaking down an ultimately unconvincing idea as there is celebrating one that holds up under scrutiny. Both inform us as we shape the future.

  36. DA: As is all science fiction. It’s thought provoking entertainment though. There can be as much value in breaking down an ultimately unconvincing idea as there is celebrating one that holds up under scrutiny. Both inform us as we shape the future.

    Neverthless, the stacks do not make sense.

  37. Y.: Neverthless, the stacks do not make sense.

    I’m not aware that anyone here, including the author of the blog post, argued otherwise. The point that most of us were discussing here was the flawed premise it was based on. The only one who seemed to be arguing at any point in support of traditional immortality through duplication was you.

  38. DA: The only one who seemed to be arguing at any point in support of traditional immortality through duplication was you.

    Subjective experience is what matters.

    Stacks make no sense because we are our brains and our bodies. And memory is distributed holographically through the brain. (I believe)

    There’s just no way stacks could work that way. How could you simulate the entire brain out of your spine and superimpose that onto another brain?

    Unless they were something like the nDoli device, which was an artificial neural network emulation of the brain running on some hyper-advanced optical computer.

    But Morgan never went out and said that.

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. The stack can’t be a replacement brain because the high bandwith nerves that go out of our eyes, for example, don’t go into the spine. It can’t be a memory store because memory is in the entire brain, somehow.

    Maybe there’s some clever way of making it work but I don’t see it. Then, I’m a pleb.

    Shit I just realised Morgan lurks in these threads.

    Oops. Um, I like your books, the world-building and all that, I’ve re-read most of your books at least three times and I swear upon the ashes of JFC Fuller that you’re pretty cool for a bolshie, even though you seem to be of the less sophisticated atheist type who is probably in need to spend a week stranded at a desert isle with with Peter Turchin and Ara Norenzayan..

    Please don’t hate me :-|, I’m just a loyal reader.

  39. >Y.: Stacks make no sense because we are our brains and our bodies.

    Are you arguing this with me? Because I said the same thing in the first post of the thread, and again since.

    The only way I could make them make sense was to consider them a form of emulation, where the drives and inclinations of the host were being suppressed, and simply made to mimic the behavior of the simulation running virtually inside the head. So there’s no real consciousness derived from the organic processes of the body, just a program forcing a host body to respond in certain ways, because that’s the way the original person it’s simulating would have responded based on their unique physiology.

    Which again begs the question of why you’d bother, other than narcissism. A marionette isn’t you, any more than a clone would be. You’re still going to die.

    Of course, Morgan’s own description is at odds with this. Why would a marionette remark about the nicotine addiction of the host body. If it was just acting out a simulation, it would ignore the physical drives of the host in favor of the program.

  40. Regarding the whole “perfect copy / death versus sleep thing (DA and Y, primarily)

    It is not at all certain that sleep does not disrupt the semi-mythological “continuity of self”

    Pic related:
    https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2014-11-17

    Having said that, it is not even at all obvious there “is” such a “thing” as a continuous stream of consciousness, or indeed that said stream exists unfettered on its “normal” platform even if we assume there is such a thing as “truly continuous consciousness stream” and it is not regularly terminated and re-established from “cold store” under normal physiological conditions such as sleep cycle.

    Consider:

    the “you” changes with each new memory or experience or capability, and also with each additional dead neuron in your brain (there is such a thing as “ethanol induced neurodegeneration” for instance, but even if you do your best to steer clear of all toxicants and physical trauma, neurons die naturally all the time, and in fact their pruning is important for learning new things).

    Our physiology experiences all kinds of change all the time, and it is not apparent that “separating a consciousness from the meat that shapes it” and moving it to a different kind of substrate would be that much of a change compared to the shit that goes down with “meat that shapes it” all the time under normal operating conditions (let alone under somewhat less-than-normal operating conditions like, say, a moderate concussion or sleep deprivation of a few days).

    So, all in all it is not quite obvious that say, gradual replacement of brain with some different substrate (and gradual transfer of whatever set of processes that “make up” a conscious experience to an entirely simulated operation on top of some “plotdevicium” supercomputer) would constitute a bigger loss of “you-itude” than reading two Watts books without sleeping while drinking alcoholic beverages 😀

    On a related note…

    It is, perhaps, interesting to consider the conscious self as a runtime (program lifecycle phase reflecting the period during which it is actually executing),

    It is trivial (okay, not really trivial but definitely doable and has been done numerous times) to transfer programs between different computers and computer architectures.

    It is somewhat less trivial, but in principle doable, to transfer program states between computers and/or across cold reboots (“hibernation” functionality of modern PCs and android’s app lifecycle are among more straightforward and common examples, but you could also, say, freeze program state in a VM, then reproduce it faithfully in a new VM)

    It is very nontrivial to transfer an actual “runtime” mid-execution to another PC without first “pickling” the program state to storage and then carefully restoring it
    (as far as I know, and I may be mistaken, nobody ever migrated a “runtime” on-the-fly between two different computers, and it seems that doing so would require some very high-grade hardware hacking)

  41. Y.: Morgan’s books are well, entertainment. The whole stacks thing is complete BS that doesn’t make any sense if you look at it more closely.

    Wasn’t arguing whether it “made sense” or not, merely pointing out that Morgan made an effort to address some of the previously expressed concerns about mind uploads.

    Also the “spinal” refers to the location of the stack in the wearer’s body – the stack itself is “cortical”, if I remember correctly. The stack only uploads information to a data bank, which could be a sophisticated neural emulation, if that’s easier to digest,

    Good story from Egan, although the interpretation depends on how you choose to read it.

  42. 01, “It is very nontrivial to transfer an actual “runtime” mid-execution to another PC without first “pickling” the program state to storage and then carefully restoring it”

    I think a distinction is warranted between non-sentient programs (e.g. modern computers) and sentient “programs” (e.g. people). With current computer programs it is the experience of the external users of those programs that is important in that they want the program to work the same in the new computer as it did in the old. With a person trying to transfer hir consciousness from hir current body to another body (of some form or other) what is most important is the experience of that person. Changes that external viewers find undesirable are, from the transferee’s POV, secondary. If the transferee is now an asshole, but happy in the freedom of hir new shell, the fact that sie is now an asshole will only matter to hir insofar as it affects hir life, or hurts those sie cares about.

    If it is a sentient being making the transfer, rather than a non-sentient but running computer program, the lived experience of that transferee could/should help facilitate that transfer in ways entirely unavailable to a non-sentient being.

    As we become more deeply immersed in virtual environments, will it become increasingly difficult to distinguish the boundaries of environments? If it becomes impossible to make the distinction, are there implications for where one’s consciousness actually resides?

  43. @O1

    That’s very interesting. I dont suppose you could point me towards something more than a cartoon in support of it? It was always my understanding that sleep is not a cessation of consciousness, merely a submerged level of awareness. The brain is still functioning during that time, and is still minimally aware of its surroundings.

    I know that people are constantly changing, and nobody is really the same person they were at some point in the past, but it is an interesting to think I may have already died thousands of times already when I go to sleep.

    Unless I’ve totally misunderstood you though, which is entirely possible, when you go on to talk about the transfer of programs between two machines, information in that context is ultimately just a change made to the physical state in a disparate object. You’re not really transferring anything. You’re flipping switches or arranging magnetic grains on storage media in the new device, in order to cause one device mimic another. The old device does not become the new device just because the new device is mimicking a pattern of behavior.

    Humans are hardware and software both, and I don’t see how you could cleanly separate the two except as a simulation designed to mimic the gestalt. If I have a chemical imbalance that causes depression, or a genetic cocktail that causes me to be an alcoholic, or an excess of testosterone that causes aggressive behavior, those things inform who I am, and I would not be the same if you somehow magically managed to extricate my memories and place them in a different shell. Those are significant conditions that shape a life for years.

    I dont even want to get into the biology of cognitive functioning, mostly because Im not qualified. But lets say intelligence really does have a biological component. What happens when you put poor Dr. Watts into a lower performing brain like mine? What happens if you’re placed into the brain of a psychopath?

    These things all seem much more significant to me than you’re saying they are.

  44. @DA

    Point being, there is also currently no way to prove or disprove whether consciousness “crashes” during sleep (say, right before REM phase which may very well be part of the process of instantiating a new one, that would be a neat pattern).

    From the perspective of the awakened person, there would be no subjectively detectable difference between “each night, a person dies and right before REM phase, a new person is instantiated in a manner that ensures they inherit previous one’s memories and inclinations” and “each night, consciousness just enters a reversible suspended state”

    I find no particular reason to believe one way or the other.

    Eventual improvement in understanding the mechanics (and function 😉 ) of consciousness will of course show which version is correct one, but I just see no grounds to reject the “sleep as death-of-consciousness-followed-by-re-instantiation” hypothesis

    It is definitely not sillier than, say, “quantum brain” hypothesis group, and that one actually has stuff published (despite … dubiousness of room-temp macroscale quantum systems)

    As to humans being “both software and hardware”, it is actually true of all computers.

    No two CPUs are the same.

    No two RAM sticks are same
    (fun fact: each time you do a proper no-holds-barred hard reboot modern DDR has to be re-trained to re-establish a number of very precise timings that can not be established pre-boot and in fact are expected to fluctuate significantly between reboots.
    So modern RAM literally changes itself at a very low, fundamental level every time you fully power-cycle the system*, and this fact necessitates re-doing a number of precise tests and adjustments to avoid catastrophic failures)

    We just design our software so that most of the times, software artifacts can move across computers with relatively little pain and produce consistently similar results, and design our computers so that operation of two systems remains consistent and “lawful” within certain very tight tolerances.

    But at a fundamental level each computer specimen remains unique, and at this point of technological development it also undergoes appreciable irreversible low-level changes during normal operation (depending on configuration… say, if you have SSDs, lol, that’s a tremendous kettle of fish). It takes a lot of effort to make that NOT apparent.
    And if you poke around (say, try to overclock your RAM or what not), it is liable to become rather apparent.

    My point regarding the “runtime” as artifact of modern computer software+hardware was to point out that in modern software+hardware computing designs, there is a certain thing (a certain type of flipping them switches) that does not trivially “transfer” between different computer systems without first being committed into a more “static” program lifecycle phase, even under permissive definitions of “transfer”, and this particular kind of thing, the “runtime”, presents a curious parallel to “ongoing subjective stream of consciousness” (whatever that may actually turn out to actually “be”)

  45. *also, “fully power-cycling” a modern desktop/server is a surprisingly hairy business because unless you set certain bios settings just right or bother with both powering down AND pulling out the CMOS battery AND wait for all capacitors to fully drain, a number of obscure low-level settings (particularly pertaining to DDRn+1 😉 RAM timings) can survive across reboots and wreak havoc
    (usually they wreak havoc upon overclocking community, but there is no scientific reason why a particularly bad series of unfortunate events would not make “that kind of thing” matter in a production system, after all, space ray influence is sufficient to induce data corruption in non-ECC RAM at a rate that is detectable with very basic tools)

  46. I had not previously realized that an opera about lungfish with a story by Peter Watts was something I needed, yet now the merge knowledge of its existence fills me with joy.

  47. 01: From the perspective of the awakened person, there would be no subjectively detectable difference between “each night, a person dies and right before REM phase, a new person is instantiated in a manner that ensures they inherit previous one’s memories and inclinations” and “each night, consciousness just enters a reversible suspended state”

    Thanks for the response. I’m not sure I buy the whole “sleep = death” thing, but even if I accept it for the sake of argument, one can still pretty clearly discern a divide between discrete instances of the “person”. In a more granular definition of a persona as a contiguous series–a linear progression of “consciousness episodes” manifested by a biological platform that cease to manifest when that platform ceases to function, starting a non-contiguous sequence duplication on a discrete platform is still pretty clearly a separate instance of that series. It will diverge and can progress simultaneously with the original if the original is allowed to continue.

    Even in your runtime transfer scenario, you’re not actually moving anything. You are physically changing two discrete platforms for the purpose of making one mimic the other. The runtime on the original machine could still progress there, unless you *also* terminate it.

    At any rate, thanks for your insights, they’ve been very interesting. Although I did notice you sidestepped the points I raised on specific instances of biological factors that define a person. Those seem to be non-trivial to me for the purpose of any scenario involving “consciousness” transfer into a disparate platform (dissimilar biology).

  48. @01

    Thanks for showing up with your considerable brain-power, and I’m not being ironic here.

    Thanks aside…

    You still think porn addiction is just a myth? For the record, I told my mum about my porn addiction, explained it thoroughly despite the awkwardness of the situation, she went to talk to an eminent psychiatry professor and basically he said the same things I did.

    I really appreciate my mum being level-headed and basically unflappable. I guess you can only see so many people die before you develop a zen attitude to most things.

    Another psychiatrist I talked to told me I had a decent knowledge of the problem, for a layman.

  49. Aardvark Cheeselog:
    I’m sorry, I don’t get that last. You’ve been messing around with digital graphic arts stuff, or was the link supposed to point at something other than a bigger version of the image? That Blindsight game thing maybe?

    No, the link’s not in the graphic. The link to the opera website is in the text above the graphic.

    Lars: Hochachka’s environmental physiology (the one he wrote with Somero – Strategies of Biochemical Adaptation) really opened my eyes when I was an undergrad. Still have my copy sitting on a shelf here.

    Hey, that’s the book that gave me the idea of giving neuroinhibitors to the rifters in Starfish; I hadn’t previously known that high pressure increases neuron firing rate. And the whole Ganzfeld/semitelepathy thing arose from the neuroinhibitors.

    More of an influence than I even realized.

    Lars: Glad to hear that Brooks is still a shit-disturber. When I met him in Nebraska he’d just published his Red Book, which according to a vagrant student from UBC was supposed to shatter paradigms left and right. I thought that it was intended as a hand-grenade, but it never seems to be referenced any more

    Yeah, “Evolution and Entropy”. (The second edition was green, implying that the revolution was over and it was time to rebuild.) Dan says the ideas in that book continue to be cited, just not credited to source. It happens.

    Phil: Tull’s through TO this summer, and Bluesfest in Ottawa…

    For the first time ever I haven’t bought tickets. The last time was just such a disappointment; Marcel Marceaus has a better voice at this point than Anderson does. (Although I hear rumors that he’s recruited someone else for lead vocals this time around?)

    DA: From the point of the view the original? Well, they’d be dead, so you’d have to posit an afterlife scenario to find out their opinion. Their unbroken stream of consciousness (sleep is a different level, not a cessation, of consciousness) ended.

    Ehh, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Sure, dreams are a kind of fragmented consciousness, but other stages of sleep are dreamless; I think you do have a cessation of consciousness every night.

    Even if you don’t, you could certainly argue that anyone who’s undergone general anesthesia is functionally identical to an uploaded/rebooted mind.

  50. Joe Ray: Every time I run into the trope of some character “transferring” their consciousness, without any further explanation, whether in an SF novel or TV show, I want to bang my head against the wall and scream exactly what you said: When you “upload” your consciousness into a clone, robot, computer, whatever, you’re not necessarily transferring the conscious entity you regard as “you”; you’re creating a copy.

    And yet, if you follow the rest of this comment thread, there’s a cogent argument to be made that we lose the self every time we lose consciousness. (I’ve played round with a short-story premise in which an especially-sane person holds up a doctor in his office, forcing him at gunpoint to continually pump him full of stimulants because he doesn’t want to fall asleep and “die”, but it never went anywhere.) I confess I haven’t quite resolved this to my own satisfaction.

    DA: If someone put you in a room,showed you a perfect clone of yourself, informed you that it would be assuming your life and then pointed a gun at your head, would it matter to you? Are you under any illusion that when you die, your point of view will transfer to the clone? Is it any comfort that as far as the universe is concerned you will still exist, but your life is ending?

    This is exactly the scenario with which I challenged Cory Doctorow after reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. He never answered it to my satisfaction.

    Then again, there’s the whole sleep/anesthesia thing. I think I’m tending to go with Y on this one…

    PhilRM: DA:
    You know there are still going to be plenty of wealthy narcissists that would do it regardless. You know that Trump would clone himself if he could, if only to get around the the remaining legal obstacles to dating his own daughter.

    That was not an image I needed in my head, but yeah.

    Oh yes it was. You may not have wanted it in your head, but we all need it there. There are certain things it behooves us to keep firmly in mind.

    xbat: Anyway, i might seriously renew my passport just to come see this, it sounds like An Event! (and i’ve never seen an Opera, and my bf likes polar bears)

    I don’t think there are any polar bears that far south. And keep in mind that this year’s performance ends halfway through; the whole thing won’t be ready until 2020.

    It’s a work in progress.

    Y.: Neverthless, the stacks do not make sense.

    I asked Richard once: so, what’s the deal with the rest of the brain in the sleeves? If the resleeved self is housed in these cervical stacks, the prefrontal cortex is still up there, right? Is it conscious? Is it aware, but the stack just never gives it the keys to the chassis so it goes quietly insane because it can’t do anything but watch? Do they pith the sleeves to keep them from suffering?

    He didn’t actually have an answer for me.

  51. Paul Harrison:
    I had not previously realized that an opera about lungfish with a story by Peter Watts was something I needed, yet now the merge knowledge of its existence fills me with joy.

    Don’t get too invested. That’s the first step on the road to crushing disappointment.

  52. Peter Watts: Ehh, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Sure, dreams are a kind of fragmented consciousness, but other stages of sleep are dreamless; I think you do have a cessation of consciousness every night.

    It may be that I’m conflating some level of brain functioning with “consciousness”. 01 was persuasive in their argument that we can neither prove nor disprove the continuance of consciousness during sleep at this time.

    But episodic consciousness, or a persona, or the pattern of thought and behavior we deem ourselves is a manifestation of the body, and unique to the body that manifests it. Any replication of that behavior outside of the body is still just mimicry. That body/mind is still functional during sleep, and still aware of its surroundings, albeit at a diminished level.

  53. One last point I’ll throw out here. Arguments in support of “consciousness transfer” seem to hinge around the idea that from the point of view of the mimic, they “are” the original. This is true.

    But so what? People believe lots of things that are demonstrably false in the physical universe. Some people earnestly believe that they are Elvis, or Jesus. It’s not their fault. Their neurological makeup leads them to believe this. It’s still demonstrably false.

    The only difference in the case of a clone, is that in typical scenarios, someone deliberately inflicted this state on the resulting being.

  54. Loved reading through that list. Very interesting stuff.

    On consciousness transfer/ immortality, I honestly believe the only way to achieve anything close to this would be altering one’s own body. Unfortunately, the meat is what we are and there’s nothing to transfer unless it’s just information.

    Unless you were able to add some kind of nano-machines, or symbiotic lifeforms capable of constantly repairing damage to your body, I don’t see how we beat aging and disease. It would have to be an added defense always on guard. Then maybe, a human could live indefinitely. I just don’t know how the hell else it would be done. Otherwise, your just making an elaborate copy.

  55. DA:
    One last point I’ll throw out here. Arguments in support of “consciousness transfer” seem to hinge around the idea that from the point of view of the mimic, they “are” the original.This is true.

    But so what?People believe lots of things that are demonstrably false in the physical universe. Some people earnestly believe that they are Elvis, or Jesus. It’s not their fault. Their neurological makeup leads them to believe this. It’s still demonstrably false.

    Demonstrably false? That assumes that there is some platonic ideal of what ‘original’ means in the context of a human consciousness, and that copying violates it but sleep/slow change over time doesn’t. I’m not convinced we’re proven that’s the case. I’m not sure it’s fundamentally POSSIBLE to prove it. It’s like saying “Gay men can’t be husbands to each other, because a husband is married to a wife.” If you believe that way, it’s absolutely true. If not… it’s not? ‘Husband’ is a human construct. So is ‘original’ and ‘identity’ in terms of human consciousness. You don’t believe a copy of you that is exactly the same is you. Fair enough. I do. My definition for human identity is ‘similar enough with a rough sensation of continuity.’ I’m more comfortable claiming a neuron-by-neuron recreation of my brainstate 5 minutes from now, but running a million years in the future, ‘me’ than I am the contents of this physical body ten years from now if, tomorrow, I get shot in the head and lose most of my memories and my personality’s radically altered.

    Me 6 minutes from now would consider the 1-minute-old-but-far-in-the-future copy much closer to me too, although I certainly wouldn’t want to die to let it replace me (at least, no more than I normally do). I’d be comforted to know that it will one day be out there if I’m going to die anyway, though. And if I could ‘become’ a copy without facing a loss of conscious awareness, I’m happy to do it. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s never been proven to me why I shouldn’t consider this so (I mean, yes, there are a lot of technical problems for why many versions of it might not be feasible, but in principle).

    If we never get the chance to do it, this is all just an interesting debate. But let’s say it one day does become possible to do this kind of thing, brain backups, immortality through ‘clones.’

    Those who think it’s death won’t do it, or will suffer some weird existential crises when a copy of them first wakes. Those who don’t will use it, and outlast and probably out replicate the others who never try, and they and probably most those of the first group who find themselves copies, and also finding no subjective experience of being different from this imaginary concept of ‘original’, will start to think of being instantiated anew as little different than we presently think of waking from sleep.

  56. Angela D,

    Well, technically, breeding and producing offspring is very similar to making an “elaborate copy”. Its just that nature does this a bit sloppily and throws in some randomness along with of course merging to separate genomes into a new, unique copy.

    This argument of “well a copy wouldn’t be me exactly as I am, so forgot the whole idea” is absurd. Hell I’ve daydreamed for 10 minutes before, had a minor revelation, and truly feel like I was a different person after that. BUT, I am still the same ‘person’. It gets even weirder for me, now in my 40’s, to look back on myself from 10 years ago… who the hell was that idiot!

    So what if we ‘change’ when we get uploaded/transferred? Ever fall in love? Ever lose a close family member? That is a major change to ones ‘self’. And yeah we are more than our minds, our bodies do contribute to how we think and behave. I would argue that our surroundings do the same, as well as any external stimuli that comes our way.

    Worried about existing in VR? Well guess what, we already do. The VR is in our heads. Its just that we are not connected to anything except the nerves in our bodies. Our brains collect nothing but a complex pattern of impulses and convert that into the VR landscape in your head. No reason why we cannot design a system that does it even better.

  57. Peter D: That assumes that there is some platonic ideal of what ‘original’ means in the context of a human consciousness, and that copying violates it but sleep/slow change over time doesn’t.

    I’m flexible on the definition of consciousness. I’m not out to cling to some rigid definition of self–I’m aware it’s a construct of the mind, and therefore of the body. If you want to define a consciousness as series of evolving consciousness episodes manifested by a human body, I’m fine with that. A series can still be considered a whole by what it includes and also what it excludes.

    But at some point , there was a first instance of that consciousness (at least until someone brings a quantum view of time into the argument, at which point my head will explode) . If you make a copy of that consciousness that could exist simultaneously with the original if the copy was made while that series was in progress, then it is another instance–two series immediately diverging, and never really the same at any point after creation. You’re not continuing the first instance–that series is still in progress. You’re giving birth.

    Rejiggering the definition of consciousness within the confines of the human body is something I’m very open to. But it’s a greater leap by far when you start talking about what is essentially a byproduct of a unique biology, and claiming that it can exist outside of that body and be the same thing without straying into metaphysics. By all means, indulge your speculation, but I’m going to be skeptical as fuck about this. There is far more work to do to make that case.

    I’m open to the idea of a number of related “consciousnesses” being created through the years and defined by their broadly similar characteristics, like a breed of dog. For instance, if someone ever made the terrible decision to inflict another copy of me on the universe, they might be seen as *a* DA. Each DA would consider themselves DA, and consider other DAs as *another* DA, but nobody would consider them to all be *DA*. A Corgi is not all Corgis, and all Corgis are not Corgi, even though I cant tell them apart.

    Mostly people would just wonder who keeps creating these verbose assholes. They do go on.

  58. DA: But at some point , there was a first instance of that consciousness (at least until someone brings a quantum view of time into the argument, at which point my head will explode) . If you make a copy of that consciousness that could exist simultaneously with the original if the copy was made while that series was in progress, then it is another instance–two series immediately diverging, and never really the same at any point after creation. You’re not continuing the first instance–that series is still in progress. You’re giving birth.

    Again, I find it a distinction without a difference from the perspective of pre-copy me. After the copy, and subjective experiences I have make us different and prevents THAT me from becoming the copied me, but if there are no subjective experiences then for me prior to copying, I assert that I WILL be both. And, if there wind up being two of us, from the perspective of pre-copy me, BOTH of them will me. From the perspective of either pre- or post-copy me, I don’t see any particular reason to assume one is ‘more me’ because one version of me happens to have mostly a similar batch of atoms. It’s just as arguable that the ‘copy,’ because I INTENDED to become this digital simulation (or whatever mechanism) is more entitled to identify itself as me, should only one be able to do so. Which I’m not convinced of either.

    I mean, I understand the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is (outside of popular SF stories) not the most favored one, but what if that was true, that at every quantum decision reality branches? Me two weeks from now is now not one person, but multitudes, branching off. Each of them is still me, though. If several were ever brought together through a SFnal-McGuffin, which is me? All of them. Just versions. They’re not each other (because after the split they’ve had their own experiences), but they’re all ME (the person who was the root of that particular branch).

    I guess what I’m saying is that identity is not inherently a 1-1 relationship that persists through time, such that you can claim that a copy of me in a computer or clone body is not me. It just looks that way because of how we generally experience reality so far. You can choose to define the set of brain states that result ‘naturally’ as a continuation of the same identity. But you can just as easily define the set of brain states recorded and reproduced elsewhere as one as well, instead of or in addition to the other, and, yes, that way wind up with multiple DAs, or multiple Peters that claim the same identity. We’d probably have to make some really complicated rules to handle that (getting even more confusing that, once you reach a certain point of abstracting identity-as-data, you can fork and re-merge).

    A Corgi may not be all Corgis, and all Corgis may not be the same Corgi, but… every copy of Avengers: Infinity War is STILL Avengers Infinity War. If I watch one, I’ve seen that movie, and even if they add new scenes for the DVD release or something, I can say I’ve seen the movie, just not every iteration of it because it’s diverged, and sure the experience of seeing it on a big screen might be different from seeing it at home in fundamental ways but… still saw that movie. (I mean, I actually haven’t seen any copy of it so please no spoils). Similarly, whether I come back to this thread after falling asleep, or after my brain’s been copied and uploaded into the Internet, I think it’s just as valid either way to say that I came back to the thread.

  59. “Marceau has a better voice at this point than Anderson does.” – I’m sorry to hear that. Time to resleeve…

  60. test.

  61. test

  62. This debate about if copies of ourselves reminds me of an old Outer Limits episode: Think Like a Dinosaur. Interstellar teleportation, person is copied and teleported and once confirmed the original is destroyed. In the show there is an error and the original person lives, but later doesn’t want to ‘balance the equation’ once it is found that her teleported copy made it OK.

    IF we ever do become capable of uploading our minds there would need to be rules in place to prevent someone from making hundreds,,, millions of copies of themselves.

  63. DA: Thanks for the response. I’m not sure I buy the whole “sleep = death”thing, but even if I accept it for the sake of argument, one can still pretty clearly discern a divide between discrete instances of the “person”.In a more granular definition of a persona as a contiguous series–a linear progression of “consciousness episodes” manifested by a biological platformthat cease to manifest when that platform ceases to function, starting a non-contiguous sequence duplication on a discrete platform is still pretty clearly a separate instance of that series. It will diverge and can progress simultaneously with the original if the original is allowed to continue.

    Even in your runtime transfer scenario, you’re not actually moving anything. You are physically changing two discrete platforms for the purpose of making one mimic the other. The runtime on the original machine could still progress there, unless you *also* terminate it.

    At any rate, thanks for your insights, they’ve been very interesting.Although I did notice you sidestepped the points I raised on specific instances of biological factors that define a person.Those seem to be non-trivial to me for the purpose of any scenario involving “consciousness” transfer into a disparate platform (dissimilar biology).

    @ DA

    The “runtime migration” scenario is kind of “shady” because as far as I can see (and I did check and so far found nothing) nobody actually did this to a computer, ever.

    I think it’s worth noting that unlike say, data/code stored on a disk (or in RAM, or even CPU cache) runtime is a dynamic process (one could say a dynamic process of software-hardware interaction, though the software/hardware distinction fades a lot if you take “runtime view” of how modern processors handle code)

    Your scenario (rearranging a second system to duplicate the first”) would be correct if (and I’d like to once again take opportunity to remind that, despite computers and runtimes being literally artifacts of human making, no one actually “migrated” a runtime “on the fly” between two distinct platforms) we proceed about this matter by making the second platform run, well, same runtime exactly in sync with the first one

    Then, yes, you would have two systems that have exactly “same” dynamic process happening on them (for a while, as long as we do what it takes to keep them in sync), and when synchronization ends you would get “two separate runtime guys” 😉

    BUT
    One could also be going “ship of Theseus” way about this business, by gradually shifting execution path from one platform to another (though it would have to be some very exotic hardware to even theoretically permit that)

    The second scenario would seem far less challenging in terms of “personal identity of runtime” issues than the first one (and both are very theoretical, though I vaguely suspect a toy version of “ship of theseus migration” could be jerry-rigged from existing server CPU hotplug functionality, maybe, sort of)

    As to the issues along the lines of “what happens if you get moved into a worse brain”, I kind of forgot, sorry :)

    I think we already know what it feels like to run on an impaired brain, since humans regularly impair their brains for fun.
    The psychopath issue would be perhaps more challenging morally, but strictly speaking it’s not different from moral consequences of discovering a “psychopath pill” without any additional upload / brain-migration weirdness.

    Yes, given certain luck (or lack of luck) the “new platform” would affect the properties of the mind, but you would also get that if you modify, for better or worse, the operation of a given brain (which is something that happens all the time, though so far really spectacular mods are yet to be developed) so it doesn’t suffer any additional weirdness from having “mind uploading and downloading” added to the scenario.

    Honestly, a more interesting branch of this argument would be physicalist non-computationalism along the Bicklian lines of “mind/consciousness is a physical process, like oxidation, and much like even a very refined computer simulation of oxidation does not result in rust buildup IRL, a simulated mind would still not be the “real thing”

    but
    1) that would require for a “mind” to be non-computational (body-temperature quantum system woo is popular as justification for such views, but not strictly necessary)

    2) it does not strictly preclude AI (but the AI construct would require a special component to implement said physical process)

    3) I am not entirely convinced it would significantly change the copy-identity problems because it does not necessarily seem to make minds un-copyable (even though non-computationalists tend to believe that to be the case)…

    I mean, it’s not like there’s universal law against transferring ongoing physical processes between substrates (I have transferred, might even say imperfectly copied, certain kinds of oxidation between substrates when starting a barbecue 😀 ) but it is an interesting argument branch to ponder, especially if one abstracts away quantum brain stuff

    @Y
    I still consider it highly dubious construct, yes.

    But I wish you luck with psychiatrists

  64. *DA here. For some reason the ‘Crawl has stopped accepting posts from me–the upload process simply fails with no further explanation. Someone probably enabled a “good taste” filter. If for some reason a bunch of duplicate posts show up, I apologize, and readers will have to determine whether or not they are the same post, or different instances of a post that exist independently of each other.

  65. 01: I still consider it highly dubious construct, yes.

    You know, I would be dubious too but why do I get withdrawal symptoms if it’s not an addiction?

    Plus various weird things happening in my brain whenver I stop jerking off to porn with regularity.

  66. Y.: You know, I would be dubious too but why do I get withdrawal symptoms if it’s not an addiction?

    Plus various weird things happening in my brain whenver I stop jerking off to porn with regularity.

    Back in my 30’s, before I was married, I decided to stop masturbating… just to see how long I could go and if there would be a big difference in how an orgasm felt after going so long. Not sure why I decided to do this, but since age 15 or so I had not went more than a day without.

    First couple of days I felt fine, after that I just felt, numb. Almost like I wasn’t really happy or sad I was just emotionally null. By the 5th day I was a little scared because I wasn’t getting horny anymore and was wondering if my libido would come back to normal. Then I had my first real physical side-effect. I went to the restroom to pee, and I felt something come out that wasn’t pee. Looked down and it was semen. No feeling at all, just what appeared to be my normal amount of semen had come out. I freaked out, first time in my life something like that had happened. I ended that little experiment as soon as I got home that day. Oh, and that first orgasm after maybe 7 days… nothing special :(.

    I think we are wired up to masturbate, at least males are. Its just a normal, healthy addiction. Drugs are simply hijacking that same system.

  67. livens: Almost like I wasn’t really happy or sad I was just emotionally null.

    I’ve almost never not felt emotionally null. Sometimes I feel sad and don’t even feel like getting up from bed, sometimes I feel vaguely happy, very infrequently I’m a little angry but 95% of the time I don’t feel particularly happy or sad.

    Isn’t everyone like this? Everyone says happiness is a fleeting, infrequent emotion.

    livens: and I felt something come out that wasn’t pee.

    Hmm. I don’t really get that but the tip of my penis is frequently sticky, so it seems some seminal fluid is leaking out.

    livens: Its just a normal, healthy addiction.

    Bitch please.
    (facepalm)

    Do you even know how many orgasms are needed to exhaust the prostate so what comes out is just slightly sticky fluid, not the stuff people usually call semen?