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 Post subject: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 12:49am
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I've been thinking about reincarnation for the past few months without really looking anything up since Google returns a bunch of spiritual, non-scientific crap that is useless, and then I stumbled upon this thread.

Is reincarnation even possible? That is, the survival of your consciousness upon death into a new body? How would that even work? The atoms in your brain would have to be reassembled into another brain. What are the chances that all of those atoms will somehow get reabsorbed into the new body as it ages, and then find their way into the new brain?

Some people in that thread claim that given an infinite period of time it is bound to happen at least a few times. I think it's more likely that the atoms of the brain will end up spread out in other forms of life.

With that in mind, what would be the best death ritual to ensure reincarnation? Cremation? Burial? Mummification? Brain in a jar? Cryogenic freezing?



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 01:07am
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I remember Carl Sagan once pondered the possibility of this happening through natural randomness (and by the way, it does not require the exact atoms that make up your body at this time and in fact most of them will cycle their way out of your body within your lifetime anyway) but noted that besides the probabilities being so low it won't happen for longer than the universe has been around (but then, quantum. Yes, literally, he invoked the quantum foam for this pondering), but that assuming an infinite universe, as many times as it happens and you end up in a state of being that is more pleasant than this one, there will be at least as many where you end up in some sort of hell inhospitable to your life or just plain unpleasant for whatever reason. So ultimately, even if its based on good science, its no substitute for the religious ideas of an afterlife. Better to just forget about it and accept that you will die and cease to exist, or look into extending your life as much as humanely possible if you just can't deal.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 05:17am
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Reincarnation is not really a possibility as you imagine it, Joe.

Now, something like cryogenic freezing might let you "reincarnate," assuming your frozen body remains undisturbed, AND assuming technology is developed that lets people scan brain contents from a frozen body and create a new brain 'programmed' with those contents, AND that the future will contain a society generous enough to do this for you despite your not having any particularly useful skills or (in all probability) any meaningful amount of money. It's kind of a gamble, I'd say.

Otherwise, to believe in reincarnation you have to believe in souls. Which is up to you and I'm not going to try to convince you to believe in them or not believe in them.

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 06:37am
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Since consciousness is a result of the workings of the brain, when the brain dies, our consciousness dies along with it.

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 12:38pm
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[shrugs]

I don't know what you'd call a reboot from a saved backup, then. And that might actually be within the realm of technological possibility in a century or two. Maybe.

But more generally, and in terms of the way people customarily mean the word- well, like I said, to believe in reincarnation, you really have to believe in souls. Take it as axiomatic that souls do not exist, and "reincarnation does not exist" becomes so inevitable that it won't even occur to you to think twice about it.

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 12:56pm
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D.Turtle wrote:
Since consciousness is a result of the workings of the brain, when the brain dies, our consciousness dies along with it.


What if we can replace parts of brains with nanobots or whatever people can invent in the future? Can our consciousness be transferred to some computer, or are we simply making a copy of our consciousness into a computer?



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 03:07pm
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Otherwise, to believe in reincarnation you have to believe in souls. Which is up to you and I'm not going to try to convince you to believe in them or not believe in them.

From reading the (first page of) the link he provided, it seems he is allowing anything that allows your consciousness to continue after your "death". From this definition, it is in fact possible for a Boltzmann Brain to appear that has all of your memories and personality traits, and everything else that is required to be conscious and to be "you". There is even a famous thought experiment called the Swampman that explores the implications of this possibility. However, the problems with it (besides the ones I already pointed out) include: philosophical issues of whether it counts as "you" or just a copy (as in the Swampman thought experiment, a copy could appear during or even before your lifetime rather than after it); variations on the simulation argument-- that is, how do you really know you weren't born yesterday and all your memories are false? notably, as you may know if you've ever seen Blade Runner, this is also an issue with artificial intelligence and simulated brains; and lastly at the cosmological scale there are issues related to the anthropic principle stemming from the Boltzmann Brain paradox that I'm not sure if I am able or qualified to explain properly.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 05:43pm
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ray245 wrote:
What if we can replace parts of brains with nanobots or whatever people can invent in the future? Can our consciousness be transferred to some computer, or are we simply making a copy of our consciousness into a computer?

If we can (ever) do that, of course it changes the calculation. But - as Simon Jester pointed out - that is not what generally runs under the header of reincarnation.

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 10:48pm
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Formless wrote:
I remember Carl Sagan once pondered the possibility of this happening through natural randomness (and by the way, it does not require the exact atoms that make up your body at this time


I don't understand this. You don't need the same atoms? How can that be? You can't just take some other atoms and assemble them into the same structure as your original brain because it'll just be a copy. Your consciousness isn't surviving. It's being duplicated. Correct? From what I understand, for the survival of consciousness to occur, the atoms that were present at death must be the ones put into a new brain. Doesn't that make sense?

And I wouldn't necessarily care about having the exact same brain as the original. With the very limited knowledge I have of the brain, I'm assuming that if you reassembled the brain's atoms into another working brain (but not the exact same brain) your consciousness persists, even if it is effectively a new personality. You get the chance to wake up as a new person.

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and in fact most of them will cycle their way out of your body within your lifetime anyway)


How many atoms are original atoms throughout your lifetime? I've wondered about this. Especially when put into the context of that post by Chronos from the thread I linked to, about gradually replacing your brain with synthetic neurons and not knowing the difference. This leads me to wonder if the atoms that were cycled out of your brain were accumulated over your lifetime and reassembled into another brain...would that be a persistence of consciousness or a creation of a new consciousness?

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but noted that besides the probabilities being so low it won't happen for longer than the universe has been around


I figured the odds would be pretty damned low. Good thing that when it does happen, you'd be unaware of how long it took for it to happen.

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(but then, quantum. Yes, literally, he invoked the quantum foam for this pondering), but that assuming an infinite universe, as many times as it happens and you end up in a state of being that is more pleasant than this one, there will be at least as many where you end up in some sort of hell inhospitable to your life or just plain unpleasant for whatever reason. So ultimately, even if its based on good science, its no substitute for the religious ideas of an afterlife. Better to just forget about it and accept that you will die and cease to exist, or look into extending your life as much as humanely possible if you just can't deal.


I have accepted the fact that I will die and cease to exist since around 2003 when I became an atheist, thanks to this message board. Only recently have I actually gave reincarnation serious thought. The very possibility, however slim, of being a new...lifeform is interesting to say the least. I know that if it were to happen I'd never know that it happened to me, just like I have no idea if it already happened to me thousands or millions of years ago. It's a better substitute for a religious belief in an afterlife, because it is grounded in science. In real possibilities. It's a more hopeful thought than accepting that I will never ever wake up again after death.



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 10:54pm
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Reincarnation is not really a possibility as you imagine it, Joe. ... Otherwise, to believe in reincarnation you have to believe in souls. Which is up to you and I'm not going to try to convince you to believe in them or not believe in them.



No I agree that that is impossible. There is no such thing as a soul. What I'm talking about is your physical brain being reassembled in the future somehow into a new brain, so that your consciousness is restored.

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Now, something like cryogenic freezing might let you "reincarnate," assuming your frozen body remains undisturbed, AND assuming technology is developed that lets people scan brain contents from a frozen body and create a new brain 'programmed' with those contents, AND that the future will contain a society generous enough to do this for you despite your not having any particularly useful skills or (in all probability) any meaningful amount of money. It's kind of a gamble, I'd say.


But would the new brain be made from the old one or merely copied?



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

"In the unlikely event that someone comes here, hates everything we stand for, and then donates a big chunk of money anyway, I will thank him for his stupidity." -Darth Wong, Lord of the Sith

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 11:07pm
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Why does it being made from the new one or not even matter ?

Once you died, anything produced later is a copy. The source of the atoms used to produce the copy doesn't make any difference.

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 11:18pm
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Because your consciousness is only made up of the atoms of your brain. If it's not recreated or remodeled from the same material, how could you "wake up" again? It would be like having a twin or a clone; they aren't the same people. They are made from different atoms, thus have different consciousnesses.



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

"In the unlikely event that someone comes here, hates everything we stand for, and then donates a big chunk of money anyway, I will thank him for his stupidity." -Darth Wong, Lord of the Sith

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 11:20pm
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I don't understand this. You don't need the same atoms? How can that be? You can't just take some other atoms and assemble them into the same structure as your original brain because it'll just be a copy. Your consciousness isn't surviving. It's being duplicated. Correct? From what I understand, for the survival of consciousness to occur, the atoms that were present at death must be the ones put into a new brain. Doesn't that make sense?
No. It doesn't. If you ripped someone apart to their constituent atoms, and then put them back together with the same atoms, it would still just be a copy. The old consciousness would have been destroyed with the destruction of the brain, and even if the rebuilt one had the same memories and the same atoms it would still just be a duplicate. The original was killed, from its own perspective, the moment its brain was shredded into its constituent atoms.

Atoms don't make you who you are. You have different atoms in your body now than you had when you were born, or than you had five years ago. You are, atomically speaking, a completely different person.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 11:22pm
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Simon_Jester wrote:
[shrugs]

I don't know what you'd call a reboot from a saved backup, then.

A hackneyed mockery of one's deceased self, perhaps?

Not that I'd dream of holding it against you for doing it for whatever reasons you like, but I'm rather content not to have copies of myself running about.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-17 11:42pm
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SilverWingedSeraph wrote:
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I don't understand this. You don't need the same atoms? How can that be? You can't just take some other atoms and assemble them into the same structure as your original brain because it'll just be a copy. Your consciousness isn't surviving. It's being duplicated. Correct? From what I understand, for the survival of consciousness to occur, the atoms that were present at death must be the ones put into a new brain. Doesn't that make sense?


No. It doesn't. If you ripped someone apart to their constituent atoms, and then put them back together with the same atoms, it would still just be a copy. The old consciousness would have been destroyed with the destruction of the brain, and even if the rebuilt one had the same memories and the same atoms it would still just be a duplicate.


"Copy"--I don't think that word means what you think it means. The original atoms taken apart and then reassembled is just that, not a copy. A copy would be another set of atoms arranged into an identical assembly.

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The original was killed, from its own perspective, the moment its brain was shredded into its constituent atoms.


But then it was reassembled into its same form (I'm assuming the brain atoms were reassembled back into the brain again), so it's not really a copy. Do you say a person who dies and stays dead for a few minutes but then was revived with medical treatment has a new consciousness? I've never heard this argument before.

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Atoms don't make you who you are.


As far as I know, atoms are the only thing that makes you who you are. What else is there?

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You have different atoms in your body now than you had when you were born, or than you had five years ago. You are, atomically speaking, a completely different person.


That is the really weird part I can't quite grasp. Does this mean that technically my consciousness has died over and over again? I've asked questions earlier in this thread related to this somewhat.



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:08am
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IRG CommandoJoe wrote:
SilverWingedSeraph wrote:
Quote:
I don't understand this. You don't need the same atoms? How can that be? You can't just take some other atoms and assemble them into the same structure as your original brain because it'll just be a copy. Your consciousness isn't surviving. It's being duplicated. Correct? From what I understand, for the survival of consciousness to occur, the atoms that were present at death must be the ones put into a new brain. Doesn't that make sense?


No. It doesn't. If you ripped someone apart to their constituent atoms, and then put them back together with the same atoms, it would still just be a copy. The old consciousness would have been destroyed with the destruction of the brain, and even if the rebuilt one had the same memories and the same atoms it would still just be a duplicate.


"Copy"--I don't think that word means what you think it means. The original atoms taken apart and then reassembled is just that, not a copy. A copy would be another set of atoms arranged into an identical assembly.

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The original was killed, from its own perspective, the moment its brain was shredded into its constituent atoms.


But then it was reassembled into its same form (I'm assuming the brain atoms were reassembled back into the brain again), so it's not really a copy. Do you say a person who dies and stays dead for a few minutes but then was revived with medical treatment has a new consciousness? I've never heard this argument before.

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Atoms don't make you who you are.


As far as I know, atoms are the only thing that makes you who you are. What else is there?

Quote:
You have different atoms in your body now than you had when you were born, or than you had five years ago. You are, atomically speaking, a completely different person.


That is the really weird part I can't quite grasp. Does this mean that technically my consciousness has died over and over again? I've asked questions earlier in this thread related to this somewhat.


the actual atoms are irrelevant - the consciousness lies in the pattern between them. For all intents and purposes, if you put the brain back together exactly the same but with different atoms - it's the same pattern but a copy. the actual practical difference is nill however, (and given some percentage of the atoms in your bran will have undergone radioactive decay, by your definition, reassembly without copying is impossible.)

As for the other point - I've had this broom 15 years. It's had ten new heads and 3 new handles.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:27am
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madd0ct0r wrote:
the actual atoms are irrelevant - the consciousness lies in the pattern between them.


Sure, consciousness depends on the pattern of atoms. But...


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For all intents and purposes, if you put the brain back together exactly the same but with different atoms - it's the same pattern but a copy. the actual practical difference is nill however,


...a copy of consciousness is not the same as the original consciousness, and thus is not what I'm interested in. So yes, the actual, original atoms are very relevant for my intents and purposes.

What I am is the atoms in my brain. If my brain's atoms aren't reassembled into another brain, I'm not going to be me anymore. So why would I care if a copy of my brain was made with different atoms after I die? It wouldn't be me experiencing consciousness again.

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(and given some percentage of the atoms in your bran will have undergone radioactive decay, by your definition, reassembly without copying is impossible.)


Now that's why I posted this thread here. I haven't thought about that. My understanding of what happens to atoms after they decay due to radioactivity is very poor. Could you explain this a little more? What would they decay into? How long would it take for that to happen?

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As for the other point - I've had this broom 15 years. It's had ten new heads and 3 new handles.


It's a bit unsettling how simple you made that seem: New broom, new consciousness.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:34am
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...a copy of consciousness is not the same as the original consciousness, and thus is not what I'm interested in. So yes, the actual, original atoms are very relevant for my intents and purposes.


Lets say you have a machine which makes a perfect copy of whatever is put in. Stuff is put in one chamber and a copy is assembled in an identical chamber from a separate source of atoms.

Say someone went through this machine, then there was some mixup which means you lost track of who came out of which chamber. It also knocked them unconscious while they were in the chamber, meaning they don't know which chamber they were pulled out of. The people who pulled them out didn't survive the incident, neither did any recording devices placed there.

If there is something important about the atoms in the original, then there will be some difference between the original and the copy. So what is the difference, and how can you use it to identify the original ?

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:47am
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Commando, I think that one thing we should define first is how we're defining a copy.
It seems to me that you're defining a copy as an identical state made with non-original parts, and from that definition a person who was atomized and reassembled would be just as much that person as a reassembled car would remain the same car.

However, what such a definition does not encompass is that while the reassembled state is identical to the original, and is thus physically not a copy, the mental state is still a copy, as there has been a discontinuity between the original state and the reassembled state.

In the case of just hardware (for example, the hard drive of my computer) the original atoms are irrelevant, if I were to get my laptop's HD disintegrated and have a new one made in exactly the same state, just with different atoms, they are for all practical purposes the same object.

Now let's extend it up a level, say I had a program, maybe a simple counter or logic analyzer, running and I then had the entire computer disintegrated. Then I had the computer rebuilt twice, one with the original atoms, and another with new atoms. Under your definition, the one with the original atoms is the same device, and the one with the new is not. However, the big difference here is that the program that was running is in both cases an entirely new instance of the old program, so when one considers the entire system, neither laptop is the original, they are both copies.

The big thing about consciousness, to my understanding, is that there must be continuity of that state in some manner or form, such as when one sleeps, your conscious mind hasn't stopped, it has merely slowed down and shut itself out from most of its regular inputs. Likewise, as one's brain grows over time, the atoms and cells and neurons likely cycle over into new iterations many millions of times, yet the mind is the same one the entire span, as its state of continuity has remained unchanged.

To use the example of repairing an object, say I have a computer that I overhaul each part of every few years, and different times. After each overhaul, old parts are removed and new ones inserted, to improve it over time, yet it remains the same machine. I consider it the same machine not because there are original parts in it (I may have even replaced the case) after ten or so years, but because I can draw a direct line of continuity of its current configuration to the original. Most importantly, I've been a naughty techie and haven't wiped it clean and done a fresh install for all those years, only changed the software a bit here and there, yet in the end I can also draw a direct line of continuity to relate the current and previous software states back to the original, such that they can be considered to be the same state. Yes, each new state is different, yet there are enough similarities that the relation between the new state and the previous shows them to be the same process over time.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:48am
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bilateralrope wrote:
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...a copy of consciousness is not the same as the original consciousness, and thus is not what I'm interested in. So yes, the actual, original atoms are very relevant for my intents and purposes.


Lets say you have a machine which makes a perfect copy of whatever is put in. Stuff is put in one chamber and a copy is assembled in an identical chamber from a separate source of atoms.

Say someone went through this machine, then there was some mixup which means you lost track of who came out of which chamber. It also knocked them unconscious while they were in the chamber, meaning they don't know which chamber they were pulled out of. The people who pulled them out didn't survive the incident, neither did any recording devices placed there.

If there is something important about the atoms in the original, then there will be some difference between the original and the copy. So what is the difference, and how can you use it to identify the original ?


There is nothing important to outside observers or to the duplicate person. It is entirely important to the original person that the atoms are the same since that is his or her one and only consciousness in the entire universe. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here.



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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 12:52am
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IRG CommandoJoe wrote:
bilateralrope wrote:
Quote:
...a copy of consciousness is not the same as the original consciousness, and thus is not what I'm interested in. So yes, the actual, original atoms are very relevant for my intents and purposes.


Lets say you have a machine which makes a perfect copy of whatever is put in. Stuff is put in one chamber and a copy is assembled in an identical chamber from a separate source of atoms.

Say someone went through this machine, then there was some mixup which means you lost track of who came out of which chamber. It also knocked them unconscious while they were in the chamber, meaning they don't know which chamber they were pulled out of. The people who pulled them out didn't survive the incident, neither did any recording devices placed there.

If there is something important about the atoms in the original, then there will be some difference between the original and the copy. So what is the difference, and how can you use it to identify the original ?


There is nothing important to outside observers or to the duplicate person. It is entirely important to the original person that the atoms are the same since that is his or her one and only consciousness in the entire universe. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here.

My point is that, since there is no way to tell the difference between the original and the copy, there is no reason to treat the original differently to the copy. Which means that there is no reason to care about the individual atoms.

If there is a reason to care about the original atoms, then there must be some measurable property on the original atoms that is different on the atoms of the copy. So what is that property ?

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 01:11am
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IRG CommandoJoe wrote:
I don't understand this. You don't need the same atoms? How can that be? You can't just take some other atoms and assemble them into the same structure as your original brain because it'll just be a copy. Your consciousness isn't surviving. It's being duplicated. Correct? From what I understand, for the survival of consciousness to occur, the atoms that were present at death must be the ones put into a new brain. Doesn't that make sense?

No. That makes not one damn sense, if you understand what I'm saying. Atoms do not have identities, and they certainly do not share your identity. Every time you eat a sandwich, you are taking new atoms into your body. Every time you take a piss or a shit, you are saying goodbye to atoms that were once "you". Some of those atoms were once bits of you brain. Now they are not. You, however, are still you, because the arrangement of your nervous system has remained constant and self aware of those changes that have occurred.

But back to the statement "atoms don't have identities". Philosophical discussions about copying vs continuity of existence aside, none of these arguments apply to atoms themselves. Quantum physics states that no two atoms can be distinguished. Literally, as long as two atoms are of the same element, isotope, and electric charge (among other properties) it is fundamentally impossible to tell them apart. And if you want to talk about subatomic particles like electrons, this fact is indisputable. This leads into the Uncertainty Principle, which is what makes quantum physics chaotic, and why the so called "quantum foam" exists from which hypothetical entities like Boltzmann Brains can spontaneously pop into existence from an apparent vacuum.

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And I wouldn't necessarily care about having the exact same brain as the original. With the very limited knowledge I have of the brain, I'm assuming that if you reassembled the brain's atoms into another working brain (but not the exact same brain) your consciousness persists, even if it is effectively a new personality. You get the chance to wake up as a new person.

What the fuck are you rambling on about? Alternatively, what the hell have you been smoking? If an entity lacks your memories, it is not you. You are dead. Your consciousness has stopped. Again, every time you take a shit, atoms that were once you are now not you. Some of those atoms will later fertilize plants that will grow into foodstuff for other animals, some of which may be human animals. In your lifetime, other entities will be walking around with your atoms. You will still be alive, and therefore cannot be said to have been "reincarnated" by any definition. But those atoms are still in another entity's body. Now do you understand why it is irrelevant whether or not the same atoms are involved for your consciousness to continue? If it were otherwise, the whole idea would fall prey to absurdity. Like homeopathy.

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How many atoms are original atoms throughout your lifetime?

Zero. Zilch. None of the atoms. None of them. They are not original to you. You are literally walking talking dinosaur shit. Literally, all of your atoms were once living beings in their own right. They will eventually be living beings again after you die. The atoms have no memory of this. They will not remember you either. They are just atoms. In fact, all atoms can trace their lineage back to the stars. Their existence can all be attributed to supernovae and stellar fusion. The only exception is hydrogen and helium and a very small amount of lithium, which are the precursors to all other atoms. These were present at the dawn of time, the Big Bang. Some of those hydrogen and helium atoms fused in the cores of stars and became things like oxygen, carbon, iron, and everything else. As Carl Sagan liked to say "we are made of star stuff". But they are not stars now. They are people. And eventually, they will not be. Dust to dust. Atoms to atoms. From atoms we came, to atoms we remain, to atoms will shall be again.

Conservation of mass. Have you heard of it?

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I've wondered about this. Especially when put into the context of that post by Chronos from the thread I linked to, about gradually replacing your brain with synthetic neurons and not knowing the difference. This leads me to wonder if the atoms that were cycled out of your brain were accumulated over your lifetime and reassembled into another brain...would that be a persistence of consciousness or a creation of a new consciousness?

Neither. In the end its all just the cycle of energy through the ecosystem and an increase of entropy. You really shouldn't overthink this.

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I figured the odds would be pretty damned low. Good thing that when it does happen, you'd be unaware of how long it took for it to happen.

Actually, provided that you have the knowledge that someone like Sagan did, you would know because you could look up at the sky and see that entropy in this universe is extremely high. This is, basically, why Boltzmann Brains create headaches for the Anthropic Principle. Looking up with a telescope, you would see that everything that isn't in your own solar system would be a diffuse cloud of barely lukewarm gas. On these timescales, the heat death of the universe would (probably) already happen before a Boltzmann "you" appears, let alone one living in an environment like a planet which could support "your" continued existence.

You would know because there would be no stars in the sky at night.



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"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

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Last edited by Formless on 2012-06-18 01:16am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 01:14am
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Imperial528 wrote:
Commando, I think that one thing we should define first is how we're defining a copy.
It seems to me that you're defining a copy as an identical state made with non-original parts, and from that definition a person who was atomized and reassembled would be just as much that person as a reassembled car would remain the same car.


Good definition.

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However, what such a definition does not encompass is that while the reassembled state is identical to the original, and is thus physically not a copy, the mental state is still a copy, as there has been a discontinuity between the original state and the reassembled state.


Again, I ask this: If there is no brain activity during surgery or some medical procedure for some period of time and the person later has brain activity and survives, do we consider that person to be a copy and not the same person as before?

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In the case of just hardware (for example, the hard drive of my computer) the original atoms are irrelevant, if I were to get my laptop's HD disintegrated and have a new one made in exactly the same state, just with different atoms, they are for all practical purposes the same object.

Now let's extend it up a level, say I had a program, maybe a simple counter or logic analyzer, running and I then had the entire computer disintegrated. Then I had the computer rebuilt twice, one with the original atoms, and another with new atoms. Under your definition, the one with the original atoms is the same device, and the one with the new is not. However, the big difference here is that the program that was running is in both cases an entirely new instance of the old program, so when one considers the entire system, neither laptop is the original, they are both copies.


So then the hardware is analogous to the brain and the program is analogous to consciousness. Are you saying that the consciousness will be different somehow in an identical brain? You might have to explain that a bit more.

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The big thing about consciousness, to my understanding, is that there must be continuity of that state in some manner or form, such as when one sleeps, your conscious mind hasn't stopped, it has merely slowed down and shut itself out from most of its regular inputs. Likewise, as one's brain grows over time, the atoms and cells and neurons likely cycle over into new iterations many millions of times, yet the mind is the same one the entire span, as its state of continuity has remained unchanged.

To use the example of repairing an object, say I have a computer that I overhaul each part of every few years, and different times. After each overhaul, old parts are removed and new ones inserted, to improve it over time, yet it remains the same machine. I consider it the same machine not because there are original parts in it (I may have even replaced the case) after ten or so years, but because I can draw a direct line of continuity of its current configuration to the original. Most importantly, I've been a naughty techie and haven't wiped it clean and done a fresh install for all those years, only changed the software a bit here and there, yet in the end I can also draw a direct line of continuity to relate the current and previous software states back to the original, such that they can be considered to be the same state. Yes, each new state is different, yet there are enough similarities that the relation between the new state and the previous shows them to be the same process over time.


Again, if someone dies on the operating table for a few minutes and is revived, is that continuity broken or preserved? Are we to say that that person has a new consciousness despite having the same brain?



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"In the unlikely event that someone comes here, hates everything we stand for, and then donates a big chunk of money anyway, I will thank him for his stupidity." -Darth Wong, Lord of the Sith

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 02:15am
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Formless wrote:
No. That makes not one damn sense, if you understand what I'm saying.


Clearly I don't.

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Atoms do not have identities, and they certainly do not share your identity. Every time you eat a sandwich, you are taking new atoms into your body. Every time you take a piss or a shit, you are saying goodbye to atoms that were once "you". Some of those atoms were once bits of you brain. Now they are not. You, however, are still you, because the arrangement of your nervous system has remained constant and self aware of those changes that have occurred.


Then are you saying that once your brain dies and is revived again (as described earlier) that you have a new consciousness?

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But back to the statement "atoms don't have identities". Philosophical discussions about copying vs continuity of existence aside, none of these arguments apply to atoms themselves. Quantum physics states that no two atoms can be distinguished. Literally, as long as two atoms are of the same element, isotope, and electric charge (among other properties) it is fundamentally impossible to tell them apart. And if you want to talk about subatomic particles like electrons, this fact is indisputable.


Maybe I'm slow, but I don't see the importance of atoms and subatomic particles being indistinguishable. The ones that are currently in my body and brain may be indistinguishable from everything else, but they are still separate from everything else. They are what make me me.

The only way this could be important is if what you're trying to say is that if all of a sudden every single subatomic particle in my body were instantly replaced with another one, my consciousness would still survive and not be considered a new one. Is that what you're saying? Because then I could understand why you mentioned earlier that it doesn't matter if the original atoms would be used to create a new consciousness.

I would have trouble trying to understand how that works though...

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What the fuck are you rambling on about? Alternatively, what the hell have you been smoking? If an entity lacks your memories, it is not you. You are dead. Your consciousness has stopped.


This hinges upon the earlier point you made about indistinguishable atoms not mattering in the "revival" of consciousness, but if the same raw material that your brain was made out of is implemented in a new brain, shouldn't that consciousness come into existence again? It's not the old you, but a new you. A new identity. Consciousness does not require that you have the same memories or personality or anything else from the old brain. The only requirement is that you are aware of yourself and of your environment.

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Zero. Zilch. None of the atoms. None of them. They are not original to you. You are literally walking talking dinosaur shit. Literally, all of your atoms were once living beings in their own right. They will eventually be living beings again after you die.


Not what I asked. By "original" atoms I meant I wanted to know how many atoms in your body from conception remain with you until you die.

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Conservation of mass. Have you heard of it?


Yes.

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Neither. In the end its all just the cycle of energy through the ecosystem and an increase of entropy. You really shouldn't overthink this.


How could it be neither? If the new brain is conscious, it wasn't created?



Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him? -Obi-Wan Kenobi

"In the unlikely event that someone comes here, hates everything we stand for, and then donates a big chunk of money anyway, I will thank him for his stupidity." -Darth Wong, Lord of the Sith

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 Post subject: Re: Survival of consciousness (reincarnation) PostPosted: 2012-06-18 03:07am
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Maybe I'm slow, but I don't see the importance of atoms and subatomic particles being indistinguishable. The ones that are currently in my body and brain may be indistinguishable from everything else, but they are still separate from everything else. They are what make me me.

No, they are not. They are not what make you an individual, and they are not separate from everything else. We're talking about quantum mechanics here. Leave common sense at the door.

The uncertainty principle states that it is impossible for you to know both a particle's position and momentum at the same time. That means that if you know the momentum of an atom currently in your body, it is impossible to say whether it is, in fact, inside your body or all the way off on the fucking moon. Seriously. You can't know.

And as stated, they are still part of the larger system we call "the universe". Once upon a time, your atoms belonged to someone else. That will be true once again before you even die.

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The only way this could be important is if what you're trying to say is that if all of a sudden every single subatomic particle in my body were instantly replaced with another one, my consciousness would still survive and not be considered a new one. Is that what you're saying? Because then I could understand why you mentioned earlier that it doesn't matter if the original atoms would be used to create a new consciousness.

Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. That is exactly what everyone has been saying since you started this dispute.

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I would have trouble trying to understand how that works though...

Its quantum mechanics. If you think you understand it, you don't. Its all about probabilities, and blowing human intuition into quivering blobs of molasses.

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Not what I asked. By "original" atoms I meant I wanted to know how many atoms in your body from conception remain with you until you die.

None of the atoms...

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How could it be neither? If the new brain is conscious, it wasn't created?

You have this obsession with the atoms. You shouldn't be obsessed with the atoms. That is what I am saying, grasshopper. Because what you propose does in fact happen all the time. Like I said, you are literally walking talking dinosaur shit, and before that star-stuff. Atoms aren't agents of creation, they just are what they are. Building blocks that can be used to make anything. So when they get re-used by the environment to make a new brain, that isn't creation or persistence or any other bullshit. The atoms themselves are irrelevant. Consciousness is a process, not a thing. It is entropy in action. Now tell me what that action looks like.



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"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

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