Picture: correspondent. Have you seen Kar Lee’s book Where are the zombies? I don’t quite agree with his conclusions, but I really like the way he sets out the problem.

Array tomography has revealed that the brain is even more staggeringly complex than we thought. I must confess that I understand the huge numbers involved about as well as a dog understands algebra, but this would seem to be bad news for brain simulation projects.

There’s an interesting video of Alva Noë on Edge.

You can now hear John Searle’s philosophy of mind lectures from Berkeley on iTunes (via). I’m afraid they haven’t been edited, so you can also hear Searle dealing with a lot of routine admin and bitching about the size of the room.


  1. 1. Tweets that mention Conscious Entities » Blog Archive » Interesting stuff -- Topsy.com says:

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  2. 2. Kar Lee says:

    Hi Peter,
    Thank you for mentioning my book. As for the conclusions, I myself treat them only as hypothesis, something to be revised, corrected, or completely overturned as more evidence is revealed. I have benefited a lot from discussions in this forum. Please keep up the good work you are doing here.

  3. 3. Trond says:

    Yes, I enjoyed “Where are the zombies?” very much. Thank you for writing it, Kar Lee!

  4. 4. Kar Lee says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Trond. I really appreciate it.

  5. 5. Vicente says:

    I do like the book very much too. Quite rigorous and amusing at the same time. I great entry point for anybody that would like to join this “conscious world”. I really recommend it.

    With respect to the conclusion, I am not quite sure that I have fully understood the hypothesis that KL presents. I agree with Peter that the introduction to the problem is brilliant, but (as it has to be) the “solution” proposed is not that easy to digest, in my case I feel I am not getting some important conceptual nuance necessary to grab the idea. Maybe I should wait for “Universal Mind for dummies” release.

    Regarding brain simulation… he he… I told you 😉

  6. 6. Kar Lee says:

    I have already fallen in love with the title “Universal Mind for Dummies”. But I think I might write one titled “Universal Mind by a dummy”, which is perhaps more accurate…. 🙂

    The thing that attracts me to the universal mind concept is that it recognizes the hard facts of this material world, and provide a plausible way to get around some common dualistic problems such as that a mind has to be attached to a physical body (making a non-physical mind having some physical attribute: location), and the problem of total number of minds versus total number of conscious bodies..etc.

    The only problem of the Universal Mind concept is that it still has to resort to epiphenomenalism, which is itself self-destructive if not modified.

    I think the hypothesis still needs further development.

    I am glad that you like the way the problem is introduced in the book.

  7. 7. DIMA says:

    What a wonderful book Kar Lee! Really awesome. Both amusing, educational and highly entertaining 🙂

    I do have a few “qualms” so to speak. Some of the things you mentioned in the middle of the book are not really addressed anywhere towards the end. For example, you mention that it is highly dissatisfying taking things at face-value (such as the initial bafflement to the existence of consciousness) and yet you take the probable existence of the universal mind at face value as well. Do you find it attractive for it to remain that way just like all of the other constants?

    My other example is that it also turns out to be a bit of a cop-out to proclaim that the universal mind is all that exists and all that we are (as individuals observers) are merely separate viewpoints when previously you had an open discussion about immortality, psychology, meaning of life, suffering and all other core aspects of the human existence. How does the existence of the universal mind address these questions? It does not.

    Your final postulate doesn’t seem to answer the problem as well. How does it help “me” (my viewpoint) that some unknown universal mind experiences everything there is to experience in life (even though its existence is as unexplainable and irreducible as the existence of the universe as a whole) when all that I am is but merely a flash in a complete void darkness where the chances could have been stacked against me since birth and life is merely a detour of suffering and pain on its way to death. So my viewpoint then is part of a universal mind, but so what? I am still mortal, suffering, didn’t win the lotteries that truly matter in the social environment I live in and the lottery of life I actually “won” is more like a debt I have to repay on a credit card whose bill I haven’t racked up.

    There are some more quibbles I would mention along those lines but I think you get the point.

    Great read though!

  8. 8. Kar Lee says:

    Hi DIMA, I am very glad that you like it. If this book can generate the kind of deep thinking that you have, it has served its purpose.

    I share some of your qualms, and most strongly about the last point because I am struggling through life myself.

    Let me try to address the last point first, and see if it makes any sense. I metaphorically look at an individual as a window through which the universal mind acquires a viewpoint, and providing the source of consciousness for this individual. I might have gotten the window metaphor from Max Velmans’ “reflective monism” (“the universe has different views of itself through you and me” type of thinking). Equivalently, I also metaphorize the same conscious individual as a program run by the universal mind (performing the CPU like function, concurrently running many other programs as well, and providing the source for consciousness). If the point of view provided by one particular “window” is “bad”, then the fact will be if you the universal mind look through that window, it feels “bad”. It is just the characteristics of this window you are looking through. The “knowledge” that there are other better viewpoints will not help you because this viewpoint does feel bad, and through which, you will not feel other “better” viewpoints. So, I think you are right. The universal mind hypothesis does not help one deal with one’s daily struggles (the things that are happening when looking through “this” window). But then, if you take the view that this particular viewpoint is unique in its own way, we might just as well sit back and relax, and pay attention to its uniqueness, and see how it goes, and get as much out of it as possible before the window is eventually closed, at which point, you lose this particular all together. It then may help the struggle a little bit.

    That brings us to the second question regarding the meaning of life and immortality and all that. What I try to say is when we ask for the meaning of something, we are looking for alternatives. (As Vicente pointed out many posts ago, the word “meaning” has a lot of meanings, such as in the “meaning” of life vs. “meaning” of this symbol. I am referring to the meaning in the “meaning of life”). If there is no alternatives, then the question itself lost its meaning. If our nature (as the nature of the universal mind) is existence, then existence is the only possibility and there is no alternatives. If the manifestation of existence are these viewpoints (or loci of experience, and all of them), then there is no alternatives. To overcome the “curse of immortality”, which is a curse because of the accumulation of memories, making the world completely repetitive, the immortal has to keep forgetting memories. If we are the universal mind, the only way for us to avoid “the curse of immortality” will be to keep closing old windows and opening new ones.

    Finally, your first point. Indeed, it is just a hypothesis. But if this universal mind hypothesis is true, it seems to provide a pretty good picture for the phenomenon that we called consciousness, which is, in my own definition, equivalent to “personal existence”.

  9. 9. Trond says:

    The universal mind theory reminds me of Back to the Future, where Marty and Doc travel back in time and meet their younger selves. They know their own consciousness is inside that other guy’s head, but they don’t have access to it.

  10. 10. Vicente says:

    in my own definition, equivalent to “personal existence”.

    You could even say that is required for existence itself. Can we say there is an object if there no observer for it? what would be this Universe with no conscious sentient beings to experience it? In my opinion, nothing, it wouldn’t exist. What is a movie that nobody watches?

    Regarding lotteries, and life struggling, I think that except for very extreme cases it is not easy to compare people lifes in terms of suffering and happiness. I believe it is a very destructive and negative exercise to compare our lifes with others ones, because you don’t have access to their consciousness, to their real experiences, which is what matters. Probably if you could do that, you would find that people you think unfortunate are not that much and the other way round. We are inclined to think that other’s lifes are better. In my opinion, except for extreme cases and certain time periods, most of us move around an average psychological wellfare….

    The point is that one thing is how consciousness happens to be, and another thing is what their contents are. If I can use the metaphor: one thing is the technology that allows us to make a movie, another thing is the script of the movie, and a third thing is whether a particular spectator likes it or not. The three aspects are not independent, actually they are coupled to each other.

    I am not sure what of these aspects is really addressed by the Universal Mind approach. To me a good theory of consciousness should tackle and provide explanations for the three of them.

  11. 11. Richard J R Miles says:

    Peter/Kar. Thank you for the mention of Kar’s book ‘Where are the Zombies?’ and enabling it to be read on line. Eloquently written, involving a vast amount of knowledge, provoking thought. I noticed a couple of typing errors, if you’re interested, on page 42, 2nd paragraph there seems to be a ‘d’ missing off the end of define, also on the bottom of page 108, I think it should be ‘glossed’ over, which at least shows I have knowledge of those bits!I think today a lot of people are becoming like zombies, like a tree, a plant or some creatures that do not need to acquire consciousness to survive. I think the addition of consciousness was an evolutionary advantage for those creatures having an already established autonomic system, but needing to extend the search for sustenance from their immediate area, and needing to cope with unpredictable dangers as a consequence. Using the analogy of a ship with Captain Conscious looking outside while Engineer Autonomic maintains the internal workings of the ship. Sometimes the Captain through unforseen circumstances will need to try and do what the ship or the engineer will not want to, but Captain Conscious is in charge and pushes the ship beyond what is normal, not concerned so much as the ships Engineer Autonomic who has its work cut out coping, at times with little or no spare capacity. I hope my reasoning makes sense for the evolutionary selection of these connected systems, with differing perspectives or points of view. Thanks again for ‘Conscious Entities’ and the book.

  12. 12. Kar Lee says:

    Trond, that is the concept!

    Vicente, it is an interesting question to see if one can compare a person’s psychological well being with another individual’s in any meaningful way. One way is to invoke the “problem of other minds” and take the position that since we have no direct access to other people’s internal subjective feelings, and therefore any comparison is questionable. One the other hand, one can simply conduct a third person study, taking the investigator (you) out of the picture momentarily (until a later time), and compare two subjects under test: Person A and Person B. In taking this approach, the concept of psychological well being becomes just a model (a model temporarily assigned to a black box to help with the study for behavioral prediction). This kind of comparison becomes quite meaningful. For example, we can probably infer from behavior that the person who has just won a tennis match in a championship competition is happier than the one who has just been beaten up. Some kind of happiness index does seem to exist. We can therefore generalize this concept into people’s daily lives. Now, at this point, it is still just a model to help behavioral prediction, and nothing more. Now, guided by the observation that my own behavior (the investigator himself) is much inline with those of the subjects under study, I am willing to take a leap of faith and believe that maybe this happiness index applies to me as well. At this point, after the leap, this conceptual happiness index become grounded in my own internal subjective world and my own happiness can be conceptually compared. Taking this approach, it is possible that most people’s happiness indexes are, on the average, about the same. “Successful” people feel just as bad (or good) as “unsuccessful” people. But now since this happiness index is grounded in my internal subjective world, instead of having to conduct life long study of other subjects, I can go back to my own experience over time and “know” that there have been extended periods of happy living in my life, and there have been extended periods of less happy living in my life, I can imagine some individual who has a lot of extended periods of happy living in his life with relatively few periods of unhappy periods, and this person becomes a happier person than someone who is just the opposite. So, I am willing to take the view that happiness between individuals can be meaningfully compared, and there are happier lives and there are less happy lives (Some windows get better views than others, but the views are forever changing until the window is closed 🙂

    Regarding your movie metaphor for consciousness, I will say the hypothetical Universal Mind is the viewer, and the content is provided by the material world, and the technology is provided by the interaction (note, interaction does not imply inter-influence necessarily, taking the view of epiphenomenalism).

    Hi Richard [11], thanks for pointing out the typing errors. I will try to fix them in the next update. I think the engineer wrote the book while the captain was asleep 🙂

  13. 13. Kar Lee says:

    Richard [11], no I take it back. The captain wrote the book and now the engineer has to deal with the mess 😉

  14. 14. Trond says:

    What the Universal Mind theory does for me is explain how there can be multiple minds – they are all the same – and what happens before and after life – different lives.

    But unless I consider its connection with my brain a fantastic coincidence, it makes it harder to understand how that connection was established. Did I decide what views I’d like myself, all alone in the universe?

  15. 15. drew hempel says:


    I did a blog post on that Alva Noe presentation. I also emailed the UMASS professor who commented to Alva Noe.

  16. 16. Kar Lee says:

    “..But unless I consider its connection with my brain a fantastic coincidence, it makes it harder to understand how that connection was established. Did I decide what views I’d like myself, all alone in the universe?..”

    I have this metaphor to think about how the universal mind interacts with the physical world: It is like how the CPU interacts with the software applications. This is not a model. It is just a way to think about it. Traditionally, a big problem in dualism is the difficulty in thinking about how two things that belong to completely different domains, i.e., mind and body, can interact, and how that can leave the law of physics intact. The CPU/software interaction provides one a way to think about it. If I may carry this way of thinking a little bit further, whether it is justified or not, I will ask, “Does the CPU have any choice to run which program?” Of course, it does not. It runs them all, all at the same time. But one program will not have any knowledge of another except through the software layer itself. Looking out of the view of one program, the CPU cannot tell that it itself is running other program concurrently. It only has the view of that program and it thinks it is (or runs) that program. All the views are mutually disconnected, except through the mechanism in the software layer.

    So, yes, if we carry this way of thinking further, the CPU (universal mind) is alone in its universe because it is the only one. But then, it itself is the non-software part of its entire universe (what about the RAM, ROM I/O ports etc? Let’s forget about those). So, with this way of thinking, the universal mind is the universe, the non-physical part of the universe. But then, can you use the words “all alone” (sound very lonely) to describe the universe? Like, is the universe all alone in the ….universe…?

    In thinking that way, we have simply projected our human emotions into this discussion because if you are the universe, you can either think of it as being great (I am the universe!), or lonely (no one else besides me 🙁 ). But these are just human emotions.

  17. 17. Vicente says:

    Kar Lee, let’s accept metaphor(16) is closed to represent how things are. Then, let me ask you why? It happens with technical theories that interact with humans lifes. For example, Dawkins’ selfish gene theory… well it can explain some aspects of our life, but at the end of the day it leaves me with “hot head and cold feet”.

    What we need is something that, we come to know it, we can say (with a big grin and a relaxed voice), aaahhh so that is it !! For the time being, all approaches are absolutely unsatisfactory to quench this human need to understand, why? how? etc…

    I believe that one of the intrinsic features of human existence is that truth is not available for us. We have to become a bit non-human, i.e. to disconnect, or get detached a bit from our brain, to get just a hint, of what truth might be.

  18. 18. Trond says:

    Kar Lee, the CPU metaphor makes sense to me in explaining what’s going on when you’re inside a program. When I asked if I would be all alone I was less concerned about the feeling of loneliness (like you say, it would also be quite awesome), and more interested about the technicality of arranging such a setup for yourself. It seems that in a lot of theories, unless you explain some basic premise as a coincidence, there has to be an intelligent being “setting it up”. I accept that the Universal Mind “just exists”, that the stuff out of which you can make programs/views “just exists”, but the bridge between them can have a logical explanation.

    That’s also why I’m wary of thinking that humans are unequipped to understand – we understand ramdomness, so why not a more logical explanation?

  19. 19. Kar Lee says:

    Vicente and Trond,
    I think both of your comments
    “What we need is something that, we come to know it, we can say (with a big grin and a relaxed voice), aaahhh so that is it !!”
    “I accept that the Universal Mind “just exists”, that the stuff out of which you can make programs/views “just exists”, but the bridge between them can have a logical explanation.”

    lead to the same question: “What does it mean by understanding it?” (to have a logical explanation is to understand it). But this is an interesting question on its own right. Take, for example, electromagnetism. A moving electric field produces a magnetic field, and a moving magnetic field produces an electric field. How do they do that? What is the logical explanation that can cause a moving magnetic field to become an electric field, and vice versa? Now this is the kind of duality that can never be explained. They just are. A physicist may tell you that it has to be because of local U(1) gauge symmetry (pardon my physicist’s mumble jumble), but then why should there be such a symmetry? At this point, I recall Paul Davis (a rather well know physicist) wrote in a book “Cosmic Jackpot”:
    ” There is a famous story…….about a lecture on the nature of the universe. Part way through the talk a woman at the back stands up and denounces the lecturer, claiming that she knows how the universe is put together: the Earth rests on the back of a giant elephant that stands on the back of a giant turtle. The bewildered lecturer responds by asking what the turtle is standing on. “You may be very clever, young man,” the woman shoots back, “but you can’t fool me. It’s turtles all the way down!”

    This lighthearted anecdote illustrates a seemingly unavoidable problem that confronts attempts to give a complete account of reality: how to terminate the chain of explanation. In order to “explain” something, in the everyday sense, you have to start somewhere. To avoid an infinite regress — a bottomless tower of turtles — you have at some point to accept something as “given”, something that other people can acknowledge as true without further justification……….a levitating super-turtle, a turtle that holds itself up without the need for additional support. The same general argument applies to the search for an ultimate explanation of physical existence.

    The trouble is, one man’s super-turtle is another man’s laughingstock. Scientists who crave a theory of everything with no free parameters are happy to accept the equations of that theory (for example, M theory) as their levitating super-turtle…….. ”
    —— end quote —–

    I don’t know if we need to accept the mind-body interaction (the way the proposed universal mind interacts with the physical world) as given, and start from there, or make it into a laughingstock.

    Maybe, at some point, it is beyond our ability to go further. But somehow, we are quite comfortable accepting a moving magnetic field “is” an electric field, and not asking how that comes about. The question is why are we comfortable with that, and not with others?

  20. 20. Trond says:

    Kar Lee, I must confess I do have less trouble accepting the relationship between electric and magnetic fields. While I am no physicist by any means, I imagine the behavior is predictable and could be replicated in a computer simulation. If future physicists deem it ultimately unpredictable because of randomness, I will accept that as well.

    But what we are trying to explain here is so complex that I think we should allow ourselves to dig deeper. First we have minds hooked up to the state of certain particles in the universe. Then we have the fact that those particles are, in our case, fit to provide the minds a very coherent experience. And, as if that were not enough, we need to assume one of two things: the brains are either able to predict the existence of such a strange phenomenon without influence of the mind itself, or minds can influence brains in such a way that it looks like it’s the brain doing it.
    If all this is a coincidence, then fine, but if not, I demand an explanation!

    Happy New Year!

  21. 21. Richard J R Miles says:

    I think most people accept that theories can change, and even if scrapped they have often served a useful purpose filling an otherwise empty gap, like x being the unknown quantity. If it is possible to laugh or ridicule an hypothesis then all well and good, though it means that I will have to accept the earth is not supported by turtles, along with the non existancce of phlogiston and magnetic effluvia. Religeon fills a need and survives as a reault, but knowledge is gradually diminishing that need. Galileo and Darwin were ignored, laughed at and ridiculed by the staunch, critical and religeous thinkers, yet their hypothesis survived to become theory.
    Evolution has taken a very long time for humans to have reached the stage where self investigation is even possible, let alone being able to ascertain exactly what is going on, or why. I do think the proven approach we have is evolution which in terms of investigating ourselves has got a long way to go, as frustrating as it may seem. I think it will eventually prove that what we refer to as our soul will die when we do as individuals. There is no reason to think otherwise at the present time.
    It should be of no surprise that we have universals as we have all been thoroughly mixed up with the breeding over the entire history of our evolution involving billions and billions of such unimaginable amounts. Most of us ending up today with at least an average level of universal sameness, both mental and physical connected by interacting nervous systems having evolved together making your red the same as my red, the exception proves the rule. Our individual mixture that we may or may not like, including our inherited persona, plus the circumstances we find ourselves growing in, has an effect on our individual universal sameness. This is how we are all similar but a bit different. Obviously some are not privileged with ability, time or circumstances to think about anything other than survival, others cannot be asked, or have to modify their facts to fit in with their religeon, which like smoking some cannot live without, but their red is usually the same as my red. There are no easy answers but for me the theory of evolution works, advanced by science, technology and the skill of simple philosophy and our imagination enabling us to say ‘what if’.

  22. 22. Kar Lee says:

    Happy New Year to you and everyone who is reading!
    The behavior of electric field and magnetic field is definitely predictable: They follow laws. What was not predictable was what laws they follow, and that came from observation. Once the laws were found, we went back and did a post-diction, and argued why it had to be so, because of such and such, this and that. You can simulate it with a computer by just coding them in, solving the equations numerically.

    Regarding digging deeper, absolutely. Whether we can ever dig deep enough to give ourselves a good enough explanation is another matter. After all, what you are describing is the Hard problem. I will definitely join you in demanding an explanation 😉

  23. 23. Vicente says:

    Happy New Year to everybody !!

    Kar Lee, the post-diction idea sometimes does not apply, and pre-diction sometimes is successful. I was thinking… let’s take the extreme case of prediction i.e. you are given the GUT or the TOE (Great Unification Theory or Theory of Everything), os with a few elegant equations and enough time, you could pre-dict the history or possible histories (I assume some randomness) of the Universe…

    Will that GUT/TOE predict the appearance of consciousness? I say appearance since I assume that consciousness would not be any of the parameters of the GUT/TOE. I think not. The case is that in order to have the GUT/TOE conscious intelligent beings are required to produce it. (off the record I will confess you, that I believe that the GUT/TOE will not even predict the potential existence of life).

    The point is: do we have any idea of how to integrate consciousness into a physical model, which needs of intelligent consciousness to be developed in the first place?

  24. 24. Peter says:

    Happy New Year!

  25. 25. Kar Lee says:

    Hi Peter, I like your new look! New year, new look. You look great!

    Hi Vicente, whether GUT/TOE will predict the appearance of consciousness depends on what one means by consciousness. If we assume TOE is really the TOE of the physical world, then no doubt it will predict the appearance of a group of creatures that look and behave exactly like what we call humans today. And I am sure, given the assumption that the TOE is really the TOE, it will predict the existence of what is now known as my living physical body as well. (I do disagree that it will not predict life. It has to. “Life” is really just some time limited automatic systems that will respond to their environment in a way that benefits their own reproduction (sexual or asexual) before they run out of time. If the TOE is any good, it has to predict the appearance of this kind of physical systems.) But consciousness is a little bit different. If you define human as being conscious, then TOE predicts the appearance of consciousness because it predicts humans. As long as you can define consciousness in terms of physical things, TOE predicts it. If not, then it does not. To me, I think you cannot define consciousness in terms of physical things. So, to me, it cannot predict the appearance of consciousness.

    Consciousness is a useless concept in the physical world because it is explanatory irrelevant/redundant. It is only a useful concept in the situation when we realize that ah…I am conscious myself! I do have a view point! The concept of consciousness has to be “self-applied”. It is therefore a mental concept that has no external existence.

    If I take my line of reasoning further, then I have to say TOE cannot predict the appearance of consciousness because it cannot predict my having a view point in this universe. It only predicts the existence of a physical body that is associated with my name.

  26. 26. Richard J R Miles says:

    Vincent, my idea is that a basic form of consciousness evolved with the somatic nervous system as an addition to the existing basic autonomic nervous system in order to adapt to the increasing need for movement for survival. Unlike a tree, plant and creatures that live in one place. More complexity together with intelligent consciousness evolved eventually from that.

  27. 27. Vicente says:

    Richard, it is not very clear to me what is or was, the basic autonomic nervous system or the somatic nervous system. Nevertheless, and taking your idea of consciousness evolving to help movement, note that probably many flying insects have achieved an incredible mobility with a very simple (extremely optimised though) nervous system, while humans have diminished their natural (built-in ability)mobility (e.g. compared to apes akins) and increased their conscious awareness concurrently… I find that your idea does not seem to fit very well what natural history shows us.

    In addition, to assign a competitive advantage value to consciousness from an evolutionary approach is quite controversial… Think that the champions of evolution by far, bacteria, have no nervous or motor systems…

  28. 28. Richard J R Miles says:

    Vincente (remembered the ‘e’ this time) Using basic as a word is probably wrong as would be simple, as these systems are far from basic or simple, perhaps ‘early evolved system’ would be better. That aside, for me the autonomic nervous system either in early evolution or now, is the unconscious part of a creature that works 24/7 automatically from conception, growing, controlling all the internal functions without necessary awareness of the outside world, like the flying insects you referred to, which seem to mostly survive through their size, environment and speed of fairly random mobility. I think the somatic nervous system developed in addition to this with part of the brain connected to developing senses and muscles that provide external information eventually to control movement not only for finding sustenance but to avoid being killed. Creatures more adept at this would become bigger and stronger not necessarily quicker in their mobility, but more skilled and adaptable in their movements due to their increasing awareness/consciousness. Being able to mostly make the right decisions in moving in the right way for fight or flight, to hide or trap or not moving at all would have obvious advantages over those that did not or had not yet evolved to such an extent. The best at mastering variety of movement and dexterity with muscle and sense memory to suit their environment would stand more chance at passing on their skills to the next generation. Which I think fits in very well with natural history. Humans still follow the same evolved ways as do other creatures needing to recoup at night turning down or off our conscious, somatic nervous system. While our autonomic nervous system carries on 24/7 keeping us alive, hopefully. Clearly human consciousness with their combined somatic skills has enabled them to ignore evolution and is now out of control with increasing population showing no restraint. This could be quite attractive to the ever evolving bacteria which does not sleep.

  29. 29. Craig from Az says:

    Maybe I’m missing the point, but…

    In the first chapter, the example of the teleportation creating two identical versions of “me” – the author states “With the transporter and the atom replacement procedure, we are forced to figure out whether it is the material or the structure that truly defines one’s personal identity. Depending on the sequence of deconstruction and reconstruction, we arrived at two different conclusions. Something is not right.”

    Indeed. The reason something is not right is that the author seems to have assumed some kind of mystical uniqueness of the “self”. It seems apparent (to me, at least) that the two identical copies of the person on the transporter would each have the exact same memories, sense of self, experienced qualia, etc. There is no problem of trying to decide which one is the “real self” – there is no such thing. There is only the feeling of “self” produced by the brain, and each of those two selves have it. All the above, of course, assumes the mind is a “merely” a product of the brain. But since the whole point of the chapter seems to be “assuming the mind is just a product of the brain, can we do a thought experiment to disprove that assumption?” As best I can tell, this thought experiment fails to disprove that assumption (of course, failing to disprove is never the same as proving…).

  30. 30. Kar Lee says:

    Excellent question!
    Indeed I think something is missing…let’s see if we can figure out … In the same section of the book, there is this following discussion:

    “But the two procedures, the tele-portation and the atom replacement procedure, are essentially the same procedure. Both start with one person, and ended up with two identical copies. If you are that person, how will you feel? Which body will you end up in?

    This is the big question! If you are a third-person onlooker, there is no problem whatever because what happened is just one living human got copied into two identical humans. If there were one Clark Kent to begin with, there would be two Clark Kent afterward, end of story. But if you happen to be this person who has just gone through this procedure, it will be really troubling, especially if one of the two copies will need to be destroyed for some reason, because it could be you who
    will get destroyed. It is a big deal.”

    Could the missing part be the unwillingness to let go of the “on-looker” position, and take on the first person position? Now suppose if you are going to go through teleportation, and you have to sign a waiver of some sort to indicate if somehow accident happens, and you have been transported into two identical copies, which one they should destroy, how will you choose? Remember, on the waiver form, there are only two choices: Either the one with the original body material, or the one with identical but “new” material. How will you choose? (I have a feeling that you are going to say: It does not matter. See if my feeling is right…)

  31. 31. Charles Wolverton says:

    Richard –

    It appears that we have traveled much the same path, only you have gone much further down it than I. So perhaps you can address an issue regarding phenomenal experience that I keep raising but to which no responses are ever forthcoming. Eg, see the first item (labeled “13”) in this comment:


    If one does what you (and I to a lesser extent) have done, viz, back off a few millenia and ask what sensory capabilities did humans need in order to “flourish”, there are some obvious ones: detect the presence of objects, determine the features (size, shape, etc) of a detected object, determine it’s relative motion, possibly recognize the kind of object it is, et al. But many if not all of those capabilities could in principle be implemented by a TV camera and a computer program working on the camera’s output. And for these capabilities, the phenomenal experience – the sense of being in the Cartesian Theater – is a nice-to-have, not a necessity. Which raises the obvious question: what – if any – needs require that experience? Not what needs can be satisfied better with it, but what needs would go unsatisfied without it?

    I have an idea or two, but I’d be interested in any you might have come up with.

  32. 32. Trond says:

    Charles Wolverton,
    “So perhaps you can address an issue regarding phenomenal experience that I keep raising but to which no responses are ever forthcoming.”

    If by that you mean there has been a lack of responses, I’m happy to give you mine. You say there is no need for an additional personal experience since the brain’s neurons already take care of everything that has to do with behaviour. I agree with that, and for that reason I don’t think consciousness has evolved. If believing that you are in a Cartesian theater has any advantage, evolution would make us act that way, and we still wouldn’t need to have an actual experience. However, do you agree that if my personal experience / quale really does exist, in the sense that it has nothing to do with evolved behavior, I can in fact tell that it’s not an illusion?

  33. 33. Kar Lee says:

    Craig [29], I just re-read your comment. It is so worthwhile re-reading it. Specifically I would like to respond to this section:
    “It seems apparent (to me, at least) that the two identical copies of the person on the transporter would each have the exact same memories, sense of self, experienced qualia, etc. There is no problem of trying to decide which one is the “real self” – there is no such thing. There is only the feeling of “self” produced by the brain, and each of those two selves have it.”

    To bring the question of the “real self” to the forefront, suppose I already have you fully deconstructed using the transporter’s front end, and then I want to know how you would like me to re-construct you: using the original body material, or some new stuff found nearby the re-construction station? (specifically, say, would you like Hydrogen Atom #43689 in the blue print to come from the original hydrogen atom in your old body or from a local “hydrogen reservoir” next door to the reconstruction platform? same type of hydrogen atom, same energy state) How would you choose, and why?

    May I add that to Mr. Scotty who is operating the re-constructor, he does not even care because he is going to tell you that (just exactly like your comment) no matter which one he uses, he is going to get the “same” guy (structurally). But he is he, you are you. As the one who is being manipulated on, which way would you choose? Old material or new material?

  34. 34. Charles Wolverton says:

    Craig –

    I agree with your comment and will elaborate a bit.

    It probably helps to be a bit more precise about the timing of the reproduction event. Since that idea is a fantasy, we can give it fantastic properties. So, let’s make it instantaeous and assume it occurs at time T. Then at time T- there is one organism, at time T+ there are two identical copies of the same organism. And since I accept your interpretation of “person” as being defined not only by the biology of the organism but also by its experiences, memories, feelings, etc, all of which are captured in the organism’s biology, at time T+ there are two persons who are identical with one possible exception: the sense of “self”.

    Now, I see only two possibilities (and infer you do as well). Whatever the “self” is, either it is something that arises, emerges – whatever verb one prefers – naturally from the biology of a person or it is an added something. A person who assumes the latter is a dualist of some stripe, and it’s incumbent on a dualist to either adequately explain to those of us who aren’t what that something is or accept that we’ll be skeptical of assertions they make that depend on their dualism. So, let’s assume that the self is a natural product of the biology of a person. Then at T+ there are two organisms that are the same person (in the agreed to sense) including having the same sense of self. That may be an uncomfortable thought for some (although since it’s a fantasy, it’s not clear why it should be), but that seems to be the logical consequence of the assumptions.

    But starting at T+, the two organisms diverge – their environment and experiences can’t be exactly the same (eg, a person’s exact position in the environment can’t be shared) and neither can their biological development. Consequently, all questions of what the cloned organism feels, thinks, fears, etc, must be related to that organism both before and after T. After T+, the clone is a distinct person whose feelings, thoughts, fears, and sense of self are distinct from those of the cloned organism. Close, but distinct.

    Modulo the fact that it’s a fantasy, this all seems quite straightforward. Questions like “which body are you in” are mysterious only because they are poorly worded. I just described what the situation is for the cloned person and the clone. If “you” means the cloned person, “you” continue as before. If “you” is the clone, at time T+ “you” will have the same memories, preferences, desires, etc, as the cloned person but will then start to live your own life which will come to have your own new memories, experiences, associations, etc. What more is there to say?

    1-POV vs 3-POV has nothing to do with it. The sense of self is inherently 1-POV. So what? No one questions that. At some point suggesting that anyone who doesn’t find the fantasy baffling has missed some never-defined subtlety begins to smack of hubris.

    Issues about destroying the cloned person or the clone are a smoke screen. If one accepts my description of the situation, the issue becomes quite straightforward. An a priori agreement by the cloned person to be killed post cloning is effectively a pact for assisted suicide, presumably at least unenforceable legally, possibly criminal itself. An agreement for the clone to be killed could be considered murder for hire, possibly a capital offense. Whoever does the killing would certainly be tried for first degree murder. So, why is any of that confusing or mysterious?

  35. 35. Charles Wolverton says:

    “You say there is no need for an additional personal experience since the brain’s neurons already take care of everything that has to do with behaviour.”

    No, I asked for ideas about why we have phenomenal experience. I don’t dispute that we do or even that it’s beneficial. I just wonder if it’s necessary for some capability that we currently have and is critical.

  36. 36. Kar Lee says:

    Charles [34], here is just a simple question: If you are going to be teleported, and you need to sign an agreement before the procedure, indicating in the event of an accident that two identical you were reproduced at the receiving end, which one of the two should be preserved.

    This is just a simple question.

    In a survey asking (by Chalmers?) philosophers whether they were willing to take the teleporter (and risked being killed, in the sense that the guy reconstructed is not really you), many philosophers chose not to answer, citing the lack of knowledge.

    http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl (look for the Teletransporter part)

    This is definitely one stand one can take. Or you can refuse to answer by claiming teleportation is impossible. But if the atomic Lego block structure of human body is assumed, you will have to accept that teleportation is in principle possible. Once you accept the possibility, then you have no choice but to answer the simple question raised to you: After teleportation, which one is the real you and which is the clone. The best way to force one to confront this situation is to ask you to sign an agreement indicating which body after reconstruction is really you, not allowing one the liberty of pulling out of the situation by claiming the third party view (oh gee, both will feel like me! but no, that is not the point, you have to make a choice now before you are deconstructed!). That is the whole point. This is what I argued extensively in the book.

    At this point, it is not clear which stand you are taking: denying the possibility of teleportation, or denying the Lego-block-like structure of human body?

  37. 37. Kar Lee says:

    You can get more fine breakdowns in the survey by choosing “fine” in the Response details box.

  38. 38. Trond says:

    Charles, does it make sense if I replace “personal experience” with “phenomenal experience”?

  39. 39. Charles Wolverton says:

    “At this point, it is not clear which stand you are taking: denying the possibility of teleportation, or denying the Lego-block-like structure of human body?”

    Neither, I’m denying that there is any point in trying to answer a never-ending sequence of questions that don’t need to be answered, at least not by me.

    “does it make sense if I replace “personal experience” with “phenomenal experience”?”

    I assumed that, so my response stands as is.

  40. 40. Trond says:

    Charles, then how do you respond to my suggestion that phenomenal experience is *not* beneficial, and any reason why it should be could just as well be behavioral?

  41. 41. Charles Wolverton says:

    Trond –

    “If believing that you are in a Cartesian theater has any advantage, evolution would make us act that way”

    I referred to the CT just to try to clarify what I meant by phenomenal experience (PE). Rewording your question with that in mind, it becomes:

    “If having PE has any advantage, evolution would make us have PE.”

    We do have it, which suggests the possibility of evolutionary advantages. And my question is: what might those advantages be?

    “do you agree that if my personal experience / quale really does exist …”

    Which I do.

    “I can in fact tell that it’s not an illusion?”

    No. I have occasionally said that PE may be an illusion, but it now strikes me that “illusion” isn’t the right word. Unfortunately, none better springs to mind, but in any event anyone able to convincingly describe what PE is and how it comes about would become instantly famous.

    “phenomenal experience is *not* beneficial, and any reason why it should be could just as well be behavioral?”

    I don’t get this. I assume that any advantages owing to PE would manifest themselves in more successful behavior, in which case your statement seems to become:

    “if PE had advantages that were manifested in more successful behavior, couldn’t that just as well be behavioral?”

    I don’t know how to parse that.

  42. 42. Trond says:

    If you enumerate successful behavior that PE may cause, such as an increased appreciation of self, you should see two possibilities for each case. Either PE causes it, or one particular arrangement of neurons in the brain causes it. The former is magic, the latter is a obviously a consequence of evolution. Anyone would be drawn to the second conclusion, so my question is: How would such a list illuminate the nature of PE?

    To elaborate further on my sentence in hope of making it parsable, though it is (intentionally) a paradox:
    if PE, as opposed to particular patterns of neurons, had advantages that were manifested in more successful behavior, i.e. a chain involving both neurons and muscles, couldn’t that behavior, when identified, just as well be caused caused by a pattern of neurons that *behaved* as if PE were present?

  43. 43. Charles Wolverton says:

    Trond –

    It appears that you are casting me in the role of defending something that you term “magic”, but I’m not quite sure what it is. I’m not promoting or defending anything, just asking a relatively straightforward question.

    Look around your room. Presumably there are books, furniture, possibly a pet, etc, in the room. The experience of living in a theater set, of “seeing” something rather than nothing, is what I mean by PE. It may be in some sense an “illusory” experience perhaps akin to “seeing” a mirage, but in either case the experience is real. As far as I know, that people have the experience per se is not in dispute. What is in dispute is what conclusions to draw from the fact that it has so far escaped explanation. What I call “qualiaphiles” conclude that it is some combination of “immaterial”. “nonphysical”, “ineffable”, “irreducible”, “unanalyzable”, et al. I conclude nothing.

    If one thinks carefully about the “processing” of the neuronal activity consequent to light that is reflected by objects in your FOV impinging on your retina, one can conclude that there is a lot that can be done without forming the so called “mental image” of the objects in your FOV, ie, the P: detect the presence of objects, assess their relative motion, identify their type, et al. Given that, I’m asking for ideas about why we have that PE.

    “I can say no more.”

  44. 44. Charles Wolverton says:

    Oops – “… in your FOV, ie, the PE: detect …”

  45. 45. Vicente says:

    I’m asking for ideas about why we have that PE.

    Charles, without that PE there would be no we, there would be no questions, there would be nothing…

    there is a lot that can be done without forming the so called “mental image”

    Well a lot… as much as bacteria can mess around… what do you “mean” by doing a lot? That mental image usually includes the interpretation of the image in addition to the image. When you say that you see furniture around, is not true, the “furniture” is only in your mind, out there you just have a piece of wood. You, add the concept of furniture to the piece of good. e.g. for a cat a chair is just a piece of wood where to sharpen its claws, not much different from a tree trunk, but the cat also has got the mental perception of the object, but lacks what you add as subject…

    Still, the main problem is why and how that image exists. Maybe we have inverted the whole process, maybe Plato was right, that PE is what really exists, and we project it onto matter in order to transform pieces of wood into furniture…..

  46. 46. Vicente says:


    The former is magic, the latter is a obviously a consequence of evolution.

    The former is unknown not understood… physics and evolution become magic after few whys cycles.

    the latter, could be a result of evolution, but that is definitely not obvious. Evolution is not a “raw material” creative process, it just reshuffels and rearranges… yesterday I was reading the evolutionary explanation of how hearing appeared, just the anatomical construction of the ear bones chain from the jaws bones, without any mention of how the nervous system was reconfigured in parallel and the hearing cortex adapted….looks magic… When you look at it in detail evolution requires a lot of faith (for the moment).

  47. 47. Trond says:

    Charles, my point is that you won’t find out why PE exists by looking for evolutionary advantages.

  48. 48. Trond says:

    Vicente, not obvious in the sense that I can write a paper about exactly how it happened, just in the sense that most people would agree that the brain is a result of coincidence and pruning. Evolution makes it less random, but only so much.

    Like you say, anything we don’t fully understand becomes magic, but consciousness is double magical because it is so easy to explain away. I really feel this is my consciousness talking, on the subject of itself, but as long as I don’t have proof, anyone can claim it’s just my evolved brain’s hard-coded bias.

  49. 49. Charles Wolverton says:

    “without that PE there would be no we, there would be no questions, there would be nothing…”

    Without justification, assertions like this are just noise. As I read it, this one is total nonsense since blind people don’t have what I’m calling PE. If you think I’m using the term incorrectly, help straighten me out. Otherwise, the exchange becomes mere playground “Yes it is!”, “No it isn’t!”.

    “what do you “mean” by doing a lot?”

    I gave examples in the cite I provided to Richard and my last response to Trond. Did you even bother to read them?

    Re furnitire, if you had spent some time reading EPM or at least the excellent summary somebody posted, you would understand that someone who has read it doesn’t need lectures on perception. More hubris.

    “the main problem is why and how that image exists.”

    Wow, why didn’t I think of that! (Now I know the answer to my question above.)

  50. 50. Kar Lee says:

    Fun metaphor of the day:

    Bystander to crying robbery victim, “Get over it. Be rational. Don’t do anything stupid. You will recover.”

    When the bystander himself gets robbed one day, he yells, “I want to kill the robber!”

    That is the difference between the first person view and the third person view.

    In philosophy of mind, the two camps can be roughly classified as
    1) Chronic bystanders (Hard problem? What hard problem?)
    2) Victims, or people who think in a victim’s way (The problem is really hard!)

    Have fun!

  51. 51. Vicente says:

    Charles, what I suggest is that you take your time to understand what is justification, what is understanding and what is to demonstrate something, and then how can they be applied to my asserstion. And please do it without your PE, maybe then you can tell me what is to be or not to be, that is the question.

  52. 52. Vicente says:

    KL, in your fun metaphor the bystanders are also victims, pickpockets steal their wallets everyday, thiefs break into their houses, gangs burn their cars, etc etc but they are so stupid that they don’t notice it. They just stand there with a funny self-sufficient expression in their faces, saying… we have crime in town?? really??

  53. 53. Kar Lee says:

    This “fun analogy” came to me when I was reflecting on some debate we had in the States years ago between the pro-capital punishment (PCP) and anti-capital punishment(ACP) camps. An ACP politician was arguing for the case to eliminate capital punishment (during a campaign speech?). He was asked what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered (something along that line). He responded, “I don’t care what the laws says. I want to kill the guy.”
    This, reflects the skill of a politician, who could quickly turn a question against him into something he could gain sympathy with. And it also illustrates one crucial point: Thing looks very different when switching from the third person point of view to first person point of view. (You can say you are anti capital punishment, but if someone kill your wife, you may just want to kill the murderer)

    I am someone who likes to plan for his future. When the stupid teleporter is going to split my future into two, I want to know which one is really my own future. This does not stem from my inability to imagine having two parallel futures, but from knowing that if someone construct a clone of mine from my body blue print while I am still alive, that clone is not me. But that is what the teleporter does. From a what I called the “atom-replacement machine” angle of reasoning, I concluded just the opposite. The “clone” is me. So there is a paradox. But if I assume Newtonian mechanics to be true, I have no choice but to conclude that both teleporter and the atom-replacement-machines are conceptually possible, and doable. Thus the paradox.

    But somehow I have difficulty getting this point across.

  54. 54. Kar Lee says:

    Charles [34],
    I just went back and re-read you comment in [34], more discovery:

    “I just described what the situation is for the cloned person and the clone. If “you” means the cloned person, “you” continue as before. If “you” is the clone, at time T+ “you” will have the same memories, preferences, desires, etc, as the cloned person but will then start to live your own life which will come to have your own new memories, experiences, associations, etc. What more is there to say?”

    Now I believe you have identified yourself as the “cloned person”, i.e., the one with the original body material. This point I missed and did not respond well in [36]. My mistake.

    If that is the case, please consider the “atom-replacement machine”. Functionally it works like the transporter, but with different sequence. It takes out atoms from your body, one at a time, and replace them with identical species of the same atoms from some outside “atom reservoir”. So, for example, one hydrogen atom from you heart is taken out, and replaced with another hydrogen atom from a balloon, inserted into the same location in your heart to take the place of the old hydrogen atom, etc. At the completion of the atom replacement procedure, you have a brand new body, but an old “self”. You can interpret that as after a heart replacement surgery, you have a new heart, but you are still yourself (better: identical heart grown in an outside nutrition dish from your own stem cell). In this sense, even though you have a new body with old structure, your continuous stream of consciousness can tell you that you are still your old self. You can check for your identity each step along the way (like after each atom’s replacement). At any point in the process, you can choose to stop.

    So, if you think about this atom replacement procedure, how is it different from the process of constructing your “clone” in the transporter? You regarded that as not “you”, and consider its destruction homicide rather than assisted suicide in [34]. The only difference is one is reconstructed all at the same time (transporter), and the other is reconstructed one atom at a time (replacement procedure). In both cases, the individual has a brand new body, same structure. Why is it in one case, you regard it as merely a clone, and the other case, it is still you?

    Am I making any sense to you?

  55. 55. Vicente says:

    KL, I have never paid much attention to the teleportation arguments, because I believe them impossible to carry out. In addition to the technological difficulties, there seems to be some quantum impediment… Newton mechanics are definitely not usable in the teleporter system… I don’t really consider it a thought experiment rather pure fiction, thus disolving the paradox. I am of little help in this line.

    Regarding life planing, I have a mate that says, you must always have a plan B, and a C in case B fails, eventually you will have to improvise a plan D on the fly… it is good to plan, because it helps to organise present, and if you are organised today, you will probably be better prepared to cope with whatever comes tomorrow….

    Anyway don’t consider a too far planning horizon, I can tell you that you atoms are going to be teleported, can’t guarantee you if they will be reassembled, maybe some in the sea, some in a cloud, some in a Melbourne’s home pet…

    But, I bet “we” will have the opportunity to “sit with a couple of cold beers” and when knowing the truth, say… so that was it! ha ha… one of the things I would like most (in this life or another) is to be able to discuss with all the people with whom I have shared this interest for consciousness in this life the solution of the conundrum, maybe in another reality, maybe we’ll not be people anymore, just “minds bouncing ideas” as somebody said (where is Lloyd?), that will be a great moment.

  56. 56. Richard J R Miles says:

    Charles, re comment 49. I was still in the process of trying to understand your question re comment 31. I am a bit slow but presume it is now no longer necessary by your last statement, as I am not quite sure what that means, but I hope you’re ok.

  57. 57. Trond says:

    Kar Lee, I think the teleportation argument is great! I’ve used it a couple of times, to very little success however, most recently on my brother. Like most people, he denied any philosphic problem with the idea, and instead focused heavily on the moral issues of murdering the first guy or having him commit suicide, which I think is beside the point. It’s strange how people have such different takes on this.

    And Vicente, that’s really a beautiful thought! I genuinely hope that will happen. I must say, I’m also quite jubilant I’ve found this community, particularly you and Kar Lee. I’ve never spoken to anyone who sees eye to eye with me on this, and now I have.

  58. 58. Kar Lee says:

    All thanks to our host Peter’s wonderful platform.

  59. 59. Peter says:

    Ah, you guys make it all worthwhile! 😉

  60. 60. Craig from Az says:

    Karl Lee [54] – sorry for the delayed response. I think the difference in our approaches to the teleportation problem is that I believe there is no “good” answer – both selves (no matter whether made with the original or new material) will feel like the “true” self. Death to either one will feel just the same. Asking me in advance which one I want to kill (IMO) sheds no light on the conundrum. If you are a materialist, the question as to which one is “real” is meaningless.

    My original reason for bringing this up is that you seemed to conclude that because there is no good answer to this paradox that it must be impossible. I disagree with that conclusion – you can easily leave both beings alive. The only issue is how to deal with their past, their stuff, their relationships, etc. Just because we’ve never had to do this before doesn’t mean it is impossible.

    Or you could pick one clone to destroy. Maybe cruel, but not a logical impossibility.

  61. 61. Kar Lee says:

    Craig [60], glad that you responded. You response is exactly what I have expected and I understand why. There are certain things that I am not getting across.

    When you said, “both selves will feel like the true self”, while the statement is factually correct, it has avoided the essential element of the question. Your statement comes from putting yourself in both view points (think about it, if you don’t, you cannot make this assertion). This response is very similar to a hypothetical situation when you find yourself imprisoned with another death row inmate and when it comes the time for execution, the King is going to pardon one of you and killed the other. The executioner asks you, giving you the power to choose the outcome, “which one should I execute, you or him”, and you responded, “it does not matter, both he and I will feel just as bad.” While this statement is factually true, as true as the statement about the clones, the statement has avoided the most essential part of the question: Do you want to live or die? Do you want to get yourself destroyed?

    The way I posted the question in the transporter argument is an attempt to bring the focus back into this essential element: the hope for self preservation. When I artificially created a situation when one of the reconstructed bodies has to be killed, one has to realize that “oh boy, one of them is actually me and I might get killed!” and start to think about the situation up close and personal, instead of standing from a comfort distance away. But it sounds like you are taking the position that both reconstructed bodies are you. If indeed you are taking this position, I will have to ask you this: if you can claim two bodies to be your bodies, aren’t you edging towards panpsychism? Because if you can take two bodies to be your own, you can take 10 thousands and more. Then, who exactly are you? The Universe? What makes you “YOU”?

  62. 62. Craig from Az says:

    Kar Lee [61] – excellent summary – yes, you wrote down exactly what I believe to be true. And your question – “what makes you “YOU” – is the crux of the entire issue. IMO, “YOU” is the state of your brain at any point in time, including all it’s memories, algorithms, etc. If (as in your example) you can make an EXACT copy of this, then that is ME. If you make 10,000 exact copies, there will be 10,000 humans that all think “this is me, this is what I feel like, this is my past, etc.” But from the second they are created, they begin to diverge.

    Regarding your 2nd paragraph above – I agree that your analogy to the two persons being executed shows the exact same situation. Two people, one must be killed (in this example). Neither one will want to be killed. Both will feel like you are killing the “one and only ME”. This is true for your transporter example as well. And that is why it makes no difference to the “pre-transporter” me which “post-transporter” clone/original you kill – either one will be EXACTLY as bad for the one that is killed, and whether that being is made from the original or new material, each one will feel like he was the one that was the original that went into the transporter.

  63. 63. Vicente says:

    Kar Lee, Craig[62] has made me think that the teleportation system is not just placing atoms in the space… the chemical bonds have to be created, the blood and other fluids have to flow, the brain cells and molecules have to be in the same states, otherwise is not that they diverge from the second they are created, they diverge straight away. The more I think about the teleportation the more unfeasible I find it. If a thought experiment is not feasible by any means, is not a thought experiment anymore and becomes useless and meaningless for philosophical or scientific purposes… it is just fiction, entertainment…. it is like the time travel paradoxes, or what would happen if my grandma were a bicycle.

  64. 64. Kar Lee says:

    Craig [62], Great! I think we are getting closer. Let’s take one more look at the crux of the entire issue. You said,

    ““YOU” is the state of your brain at any point in time, including all it’s memories,…”

    I noticed that you used the description “Your brain” to refer to one piece of gray matter over millions of other similarly structured materials. What ties that one particular piece of meat to “you”, to earn it the title “yours”? Now, I will also preemptively state that from a third person point of view, there is no such problem of “why one piece of meat is tied to you” because from a third person point of view, there is always one brain located in the same head that also has a mouth on it. When I do something to that piece of meat (say, your brain) that is inside the head, the mouth that is on the same head yells, “Stop it!”, this is completely mystery free because the brain and the mouth are located at the same head after all. But from a first person point of view, the question of “why is this my brain?” is completely mysterious, as mysterious as questions like “Why am I a man?” “Why am I not a woman?” “why do I have this particular piece of meat as my brain?”, “why am I me?”

    Hope I am making sense here.

  65. 65. Craig from Az says:

    Kar [64] – yes, you make perfect sense. I’ve spent the past year or so dabbling with Zen; zennies don’t think “you” exist at all, but is an illusion (if I get their drift, which is not always simple!). However, for the sake of this discussion I have been assuming a material stance (ME = the piece of meat labeled Craig). I thought the whole point of your example was to prove that ME cannot be materially generated, and that you would show that via your teleportation example. IMO, the teleportation example doesn’t show that at all – instead (again, IMO), it shows that it might be possible for there to be numerous ME’s that all think they have the same material past. While this is weird, I don’t see why this is not possible (at least, not if your teleportation is possible)

  66. 66. Kar Lee says:

    Craig [65], now I think I finally understand your point. If you forgo the concept of ME, indeed, there can be millions of me, each thinking it is me. I think I am converging onto this point as well, though from a very different path. Interesting!

    By the way, I think the transporter argument will only work if the sense of self is “real” (however you interpret what “real” means).

  67. 68. Trond says:

    Vicente, thanks for the references, I’ll read them when I get the time. But blood flow and such don’t seem like deal breakers. Why can’t you just give the particles the proverbial push in the right direction? And even though you may not be able to replicate certain stuff on the quantum level, that may not matter to conscious beings in general, or may not matter psychologically to the person who wants to be teleported.

  68. 69. Kar Lee says:

    Interesting that I actually used the no-cloning theorem and quantum teleportation to argue that consciousness has to have a critical quantum component. If we assume that quantum effect is not important for consciousness, then the classical model, i.e., looking at a physical human body as a structure made of Lego block (ok, blood is liquid Lego blocks), applies. In principle, then, you can take it apart and put it back together and clone it, and that results in a crisis in personal identity: What makes you “you”?

    But quantum mechanics provides a way out. First of all, you cannot clone a person (this time a person as a quantum mechanical system). So, the scenario that one person gets transported into two is forbidden. Not only that, once quantum teleportation is performed, the original system cannot remain in its old state (the entangled system Alice has is now in an undetermined state), and Bob the receiver now has a system that is identical to Alice’s original system. Because identical quantum mechanical systems are indistinguishable, Bob now has Alice’s old system. So, this again guarantees that the person to be transported cannot stay unchanged on the starting platform. Paradox resolved.

    That’s why I argued (in the book) that quantum effect must be a critical component in generating consciousness because the whole thing fits so well together, and that personal identity is determined by information (pattern) instead of material because quantum systems in the same state are, materially speaking, indistinguishable.

  69. 70. Trond says:

    Kar Lee, it does fit very well into the teleporter experiment, but what doesn’t sit right with me about it is that it would mean that consciousness is even more general than atoms. And that only magnifies the problems of having the atoms, cells or other material things generate it, because how does the high level functions of the brain get mapped to such a low level thing as quantum states? It seems more like consciousness knows the brain on a higher level, like the source code of a program knows the compiled program on a higher level.

  70. 71. Vicente says:

    Kar Lee, OK with endorsing the likely intrinsic quantum nature of the physical conscious substract (whatever this statement means 🙂 ). What I don’t buy is the use of the teleportation thought experiment in the argument, because I don’t even consider it a thought experiment.

    Trond, what I “meant” is that as KL pointed out, the teleportation for living (conscious beings) is not like moving Lego blocks. That could apply to teleport, maybe… a tiny crystal or similar… you have to replicate the exact state of the brain when the teleportation started, or the poor guinea pig in the star trek ship will be very disoriented when landing. That means replicating the quantum state of many many molecules inside the neurons (for example the tubules), that some smart guys like Penrose or Hameroff believe involved or necessary for consciousness…

    Second, forgetting about teleportation, from a physical, chemical and physiological point of view, tell me how are you going to build (in seconds?) an adult body (which is not like growing a crystal), put it in a living state, and off you go… just think of it with the most simple procariot bacteria, or an algae…

  71. 72. Vicente says:

    Trond, I forgot, actually your view of source and compiled code, combined with KL CPU Universal Mind and teleportation, could be the solutioun for eternity, neverending terrenal existence. Once you have your body coded, or re-coded, you just have to rebuild it once in a while, and consciousness will reconnect to the brand new brain. It will be like keeping the source code, and recompiling it for new hardware… don’t they call it reencarnation?

  72. 73. Craig from Az says:

    Vincente [67] – I think I know what you mean, but I admit it cracked me up to see a post that starts out with “for those of you who want to see what teleportation really involves…”


  73. 74. Trond says:

    Vicente, I think I’ve always thought of the teleportation as replicating molecules and their more superficial properties. So I agree that it doesn’t make sense if you require the copy to be physically identical. But at least you can force people to acknowledge that consciousness is either quantum-mechanical or metaphysical.

    And yes, I really like the computer metaphors. If only you could come up with an empty universe out of which such things could emerge …

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