Michael Battalio

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Serious conversations (part 39):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth entries deal with extending one’s life artificially.

Me:         Another thing to consider: what becomes of our interactions with other people? Do we each have our own machine we live in? Do we all exist as programs on one really large machine where our individual programs can talk and interact? What defines an interaction? Will there be levels of permission that are allowed? Will we have a choice in the matter? What about free will as a machine? Inevitably there will be evil people in the machine, think of what they will be able to do. What could they become? These are all answerless questions at the moment because this entire thought experiment is predicated on us actually getting the technology to move to machines at some point, so I don’t know if it is worthwhile to consider these questions.

        I suppose the question is to what extent is the stream of consciousness actually our selves. And will we be able to distinguish our voice from others. I would venture to say yes in the same way that I can tell the difference between when I am saying something and when someone else is speaking. I can recognize that the voice is coming externally, that it is entering my consciousness through one of my senses and not originating within me. I would interpret telepathy as another sense where my brain receives external input. Again, speculation though.

        It doesn’t matter what we define ourselves as; it only matters what our selves actually are. Nonreligious believe it is a purely physical issue. It doesn’t matter if people take issue with the brain being the center of self if the brain is actually the origin of self. Herein lies our biggest issue with this. No one actually knows what the self is. It seems to me that the brain is what most people believe it to be, and that assumption seems natural to me. I can feel myself thinking in my head. I don’t feel myself thinking with my arm or foot or digestive system. My body does (mostly) what my consciousness (that I feel to be in my brain) tells it to do.

Another interesting point from my friend: “If your actual brain itself was a computer, and you could copy and paste yourself and you could simply download a new ability, I don't think you could even call that human at all.  I'm not sure how you could be that and still maintain a sense of self, though, as I said before, you'd presumably have some central processor choosing what to download and when/how to copy.  But maybe remaining human isn't necessary.  You could willingly choose to become something else.”

And that’s the extent of serious conversations on bodily replacement. Hopefully this will be revisited in a few years. Our next entries deal with space exploration.

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