inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #76 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 3 Feb 03 09:25
    
(And lest it sound as if I'm marginalizing Cory, I think the ground
he's staking out -- exploring the human implications of the field of
ideas that clusters around the post-cyberpunk, post-algorithmic,
extropian nexus in SF -- is critically important. The subject of
science fictional study is the human condition, seen in the bright
light of new ideas about our selves and our surroundings, after all.
That and creating crazy works of art :)
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #77 of 254: ROBERT WORRILL writes (tnf) Mon 3 Feb 03 18:51
    


This is from Robert Worrill:


      Cory, I enjoyed your story very much, I became completely involved as
if I was in another reality and read it all in one sitting at the computer.
Thanks so much for the experience.
        Another story which has done this to me is at:
        http://www.kuro5hin.org/prime-intellect/mopiidx.html
      The first chapter has some hard things to stomach then the story gets
huge. The book was written over a number of years sporadically. The title is:
The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect.
       Regards,
        Robert Worrill
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #78 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 3 Feb 03 19:07
    
Is there a question in there?

I thought Prime Intellect was pretty good -- I even wrote it up on my blog.
It's sparked an entire fiction section at Kuro5hin, which is great news.

Glad you liked the book!
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #79 of 254: turing testy (cascio) Mon 3 Feb 03 20:10
    
Cory, one aspect of the DaOitMK world that I found myself getting stuck on
was the casual willingness to commit suicide that many of the inhabitants
seemed to have. I know that it wasn't presented directly as such in most
cases, but that's what it looked like to me. It appeared that people were
willing to kill off their current incarnations in favor of a clone &
restore-from-backup in cases of serious illness; am I interpreting that
correctly?

I see a difference between identity-of-consciousness and continuation-of-
consciousness. That is, I'm perfectly willing to accept that the force-grown
clone and restoration is in every way that matters a duplicate of me, but
*this* version of me is still around, still self-aware, and none too willing
to off myself in favor of the other copy. Obviously, in the universe of the
story, that philosophical stumbling block has been surmounted; nonetheless,
it didn't feel true to me.

Did I simply misinterpret your scenario while reading it well into the wee
hours of the morning?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #80 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 3 Feb 03 20:38
    
This was a subject of some discussion with my editor and my writers'
workshop. There's certainly reason to believe that those of us alive in the
present day would be a little squeamish when faced with the "opportunity" to
commit suicide and be reborn into another day, and extended hand-wringing by
those of us who *did* take the plunge over which one is really whom?

But here's my thinking: people who were freaked out by this would either
adapt or die. Put another way: if you don't believe that backup-and-restore
gives you consciousness contiuity, you'd die after seventy-some years.
Everyone else would live forever.

There's no good reason, existentially speaking, to believe that the you that
wakes up in the morning is the you who lay down his head the night before,
but people who get really worried about this crap will end up quivering,
sleepless nutjobs and will be outcompeted by us less refractive types. If
you're born to backup-and-restore, you'd never give it anymore thought than
brief adolescent excursions into collegiate why-is-the-sky-blue philosophy.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #81 of 254: Scott Underwood (esau) Mon 3 Feb 03 21:30
    
It reminded me a bit of playing solitaire on computers, where one of the
options is to restart the game you just lost. "Let's try that again."
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #82 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 3 Feb 03 21:58
    
Absolutely -- or saving game-states in games like Zelda and so forth.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #83 of 254: turing testy (cascio) Mon 3 Feb 03 22:37
    
I'm not particularly squeamish about the idea of doing back-ups, restoring
after an accidental or natural death. I'd actually very much like that
option. There would undoubtedly be some social adjustment to get over the
"that's not really him/her" reaction, but I can see that as soluble. What
I remain unmoved by, however, is the notion that people would be willing
to end a particular physical existence in order to let another physical
existence take over.

The "how do you know that the you that wakes up is the you that went to
sleep?" question is superficially related, but aside from the deep
biological roots of sleep (which would winnow out with Darwinian
efficiency those who are unable to accept the need to sleep), there's the
simple observable fact that the "you" that wakes up in the morning is
physically the same as (down to the vast majority of your atoms) the "you"
that went to bed the night before. While one could never know with perfect
certainty that you're still you from last night, the physical connection
is a strong indicator of continued consciousness.

Hans Moravec, in _Mind Children_, confronts a similar issue in his 
discussion of uploading one's mind into a robotic medium. Mapping (at 
whatever quantum level) and booting into the new form may well be enough 
for the robot-you to know it's you, but could still leave the meat version 
looking at an unwelcome demise. His solution is to do the transfer "live," 
connecting the meat brain and the robot brain bit by bit, so that the 
individual consciousness is not broken.
 
I know; it's a story (and, despite my whining about this point, a rather
enjoyable one) and not an attempt to describe reality. But the technological
possibilities it paints are certainly plausible, and the resulting
philosophical questions are ones we will, eventually, confront first hand.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #84 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Feb 03 03:14
    
Moravec is spot on the nail. He also, in my opinion, addresses two of
the key problems with the backup/restore model. Which are: how do you
know that the "new you" really _is_ you (that is, that it hasn't been
tampered with in any way and is equivalent to the old version in every
way), and -- implicitly -- how do we deal with problems like the
rapidly-becoming-a-plot-cliche one in which the protagonist wakes up
only  to discover they've been restored from a stale backup, and after
the backup was taken their original went and did something illegal,
immoral or fattening?

Moravec succeeds because, to use a computery analogy, instead of
messing around with backup tapes, he turns your brain into a RAID array
and mirrors it over onto a new [active] storage device. 

Greg Egan goes one step further in "Schild's Ladder" -- people have
their internal states mirrored in storage light years away,
continuously spooling updates, so that if something *very big* goes
wrong  locally (a supernova, say) they  won't lose any  memories. This
does, however, play merry hell with plot tension!

But Cory is right about the competition aspect. People who won't
accept any form of backup will be outcompeted by those who do. (Unless
they succeed in getting the technology banned before it is first 
deployed -- like, say, reproductive cloning -- because they're so
afraid of it they lobby to have it criminalized.)
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #85 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Feb 03 03:15
    
Cory: is there a UK edition  of "Down and Out" due any time soon? ;-)
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #86 of 254: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Feb 03 04:44
    
I just have to comment: I think that people who actually *believe* that 
some meaningful aspect of their consciousness can be "backed up" and later 
"restored" will most certainly be selected out: the gene for "goofy" 
doesn't promise much by way of survival. I tend to ignore Hans and the 
extropians for that reason: bad candidates for evolution.

People who worry about extinction tend to be much better candidates, in my 
book.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #87 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 06:24
    

Well, "believe" is your key word there.  It's only a matter of "belief" if 
you postualte something mystical about human consciousness.  If it's a 
matter of information being stored in physical ways, then we'll either be 
able to do it or we won't, and we'll find out: nothing to do with belief.  
If there's a "soul," obviously things get more difficult.  But then I 
think we'll notice the difference.

Most of the people I've know who take the idea seriously seem pretty smart 
to me, so I take their arguments seriously enough to want to know what 
they're up to.  Each to their own idea of goofiness, I suppose.

The one stumbling block I have trouble getting past is that while I can 
accept the idea of my consciousness being =duplicated=, I can't see how it 
could be =transferred=.  While the new me might be me in every meaningful 
way, to itself and to everyone else, the original me =died=, and that 
specific conscious state --- the one I am living, my life -- =ended=.  So 
while there's a certain reassurance in backups, I guess, I don't think I 
would fear death any less.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #88 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Feb 03 06:48
    
Cory, existence proof for the transferrence of consciousness: you
don't notice it, but the neurons in your brain are replaced (very
slowly, over a period of decades -- mean life expectancy of a
myelinated nerve is something like 70 years). On a much faster time
scale, individual protein and neurotransmitter molecules in each
individual cell are created, used, and broken down on lysosomes.
Diffusion processes lead to the replacement of the individual atoms --
in a very real way, you are not the same person you were two years ago,
and are an almost entirely different person from the you of a decade
ago.

Let's extend this to the macroscopic level. If I cut off your hand,
you are still "you". If I give you a brilliantly lifelike myoelectric
artificial hand, you are still "you". If the hand contains pressure
sensors and we can rig them up to stimulate the nerves that previously
led into your hand, you are still "you".

Now. What  happens if we replace a neuron from the surface of your
cerebral cortex with a microchip with connections to all the other
neurons that previously talked to the fleshy original, running a
program designed to emulate the original neuron? Are you  no longer
"you", even though your consciousness is partially (okay, 0.00000001%)
supported in silicon? Rinse, cycle, repeat -- until  your brain is no
longer biological. At which point, if any, do you stop being "you"?

The point I take away from this argument (which is basically the Hans
Moravec take) is that unless we  get away from pure materialism -- and
I am a materialist, I haven't seen any evidence to contradict
materialism -- then we have to start treating consciousness and
identity as emergent properties of matter, in which case different
_kinds_ of matter may display the same or similar properties.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #89 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Feb 03 06:49
    
Cory -- do you see materialism (okay, let's call it "deep"
materialism, because it explicitly views consciousness as something
fungible, like software) as an essential characteristic of the new SF?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #90 of 254: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Feb 03 07:17
    
To me that 'transfer of consciousness' bit is like saying you've 
transferred the horse into the car ("horsepower'). Well, kind of... but a 
car's not a horse, and a specific car ain't a specific horse. You might 
duplicate some of the operations of my 'consciousness,' if you ever quite 
figure out definition and parameters etc., but it's not me, and it's not 
human consciousness.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #91 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 07:21
    

"Not me" I can see an argument for.  Where do you get to the notion that 
it's not "human consciousness"?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #92 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Feb 03 07:58
    
Wow, some great discussion here.

First, the easy one:

> is there a UK edition  of "Down and Out" due any time soon?

Why, no, but the UK rights are available via my agent, Donald Maass
(dmla@mindspring.com) if you know any likely UK publishers!

[venality off]

Re: consciousness uploading, in no particular order

* Me without my hand is *not* the me with my hand. It's a different me.
Losing a hand sounds like a powerful way to alter cognition to me. I'm a
different me when my back is in spasm. Ever neuter a tomcat? Different
animal afterward, right? Bruce Sterling set me straight on this back in
September.

* I think that any squeam we experience when confronted with uploaded us or
robot us is cultural. We've had lots of bald assertions through history
about the seat of identity and what it means to be human. If you felt that
the human condition was irredeemably compromised by [literacy|city
life|prosthetics|etc] and couldn't get over it, you ended up marginalized
and forgotten by history. Remember, there *are* people in the Bitchun
Society who don't buy into the whole package and end up living in enclaves
or space because they can't get over their ingrained fear.

* Deep materialism and fungible consciousness. This is a frequent theme in
new sf (and old sf, too), but I think it's less important than a general
hacker ethos, i.e., a rejection of repeatable controlled experiments in
favor of assembling a corpus of YMMV superstition that's generally
indicative of some recipes that produce some results some times. Shades of
Feyerabend's "Against Method."

* Will we stick our heads in the shredder after our consciousness has been
transferred into some canopic computer? I think of the range of
potential human somatypes and cognitive models as being subsets of those
occuring today (i.e., if there are foot fetishists today and tomorrow the
only way to reproduce is via foot-sex, the foot-fetishists will out-evolve
the rest of us). And there are clearly people today who fervrently yearn for
transcendance of their bodies -- these people will leap feet-first into
uploading, and will provide examples of how post-people live for the rest of
us.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #93 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:04
    

They might, and I'm sure their post-body consciousnesses will have fun, 
but won't the leapers themselves die?  Won't that conscious entity cease 
to exist, replaced by an identical one with all its memories?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #94 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:10
    
Recursion!

Sure, they'll "die" but in the eyes of their peers and by their own lights,
they will have marvellously survived.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #95 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:16
    

But If I am in =this body=, I can't disregard that!  It's all very well 
for my peers and for that consciousness that carries on just like me, but 
what's in it for =me=?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #96 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:21
    
Transcendance. And good UI. Even if the refresh process isn't destructive,
good UI would make it so. Just lie down in the recovery chamber, Mr.
DeSelby, and you'll awake shortly.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #97 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:27
    

But I'll never wake up.  Someone else just like me will.

I don't mind the idea of that consciousness continuing -- I'll happily 
make backups -- but I'm going to make this particular consciousness in 
this particular vessel last as long as happily can.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #98 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:28
    

Say, did you ever argue with Damon about this?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #99 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:38
    
Scraps, I think you're describing a temporal phenomenon, not a universal
truth. Say you've already died a hundred times and been ressurected into a
perfect body without any aches or pains, and now the current body is getting
old and decrepit. How much sticktoitiveness will your guns have then?
Admittedly, the first step's a doozy, but it's like riding a bicycle, I'm
guessing.


I never did talk with Damon about this. Did he have a PoV on it?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #100 of 254: gone (scraps) Tue 4 Feb 03 08:44
    

Even if I've done it a hundred times, I'll know that I'm dying evry time I 
do it.  I buy the arguments for the value of continuing to duplicate my 
consciousness -- for one thing, if there are other consciousnesses out 
there who love me, it would be selfish not to do so.  And then there's a 
kind of Pascal's wager: what if there =is= some kind of 
mystical-soul-thing, what if my old consciousness/awareness =does= 
transfer?  What if =no one dies at all=?  

But I don't believe it, because I don't see any physical reason to believe 
there's a continuity between my consciousnesses.  I think there is a 
rupture, and that is death for the original consciousness, and whatever 
happens to the duplicate consciousness, the original one =experiences that 
death=.

I don't know what Damon would think of this, but I know that he firmly 
maintained that stepping into a matter transporter was suicide.

Have you read Greg Egan's "Learning to Be Me"?  It's all about getting 
neurotic about this problem, just like me.
  

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