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    Thread: A Falsifiable Solution to the Star Trek Problem...

    1. #1
      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      A Falsifiable Solution to the Star Trek Problem...

      The Star Trek teleporter problem is well-known: if you are deconstructed bit by bit, then reconstructed exactly, where does the consciousness go?

      In it's most extreme form, the problem is as follows (see: I am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter): If you're deconstructed by a teleporter, and then one copy of you is sent to Venus, and the other to Mars, where does the "you" go?

      Here's a novel answer to the dilemma (as far as the chairman of philosophy at my uni says):

      Premise 1: Matter != Consciousness. Consciousness can arise from matter, it is an emergent property of matter, but matter alone is not conscious. How can an atom "experience green"? We are software running on hardware. (This is not a dualist view.) Patterns running on matter, is another way to say it.
      Premise 2: If two brains are indistinguishable on the level of chemistry/biology and neural patterns, the only thing to distinguish them is their physical location.
      Premise 3: Consciousness does not necessarily have a physical location.
      Premise 4: If Premise 2 is true (as a thought experiment, though technology isn't quite there yet, imagine two identical brains. Not twins, since even those genes are altered in the womb. Imagine these brains are hooked up to the same sensory inputs), then their mental patterns should be the same, since there is no difference in input or software or hardware. (The technology to scan mental outputs is already being developed.)

      Conclusion: Leibniz's Law of Indiscernability of Identity (google it) is flawed and Spinoza perhaps was onto something (both the man on Venus and the man on Mars would become independent individuals as soon as their inputs changed; each would have equal claim as to which was the original), or consciousness has a physical location (every mind pattern is unique and dependent on its physical location, ie. you die when you teleport).

      Also, colons errwhere. Additionally I'll probably edit this eventually after you guys rip it apart (to make it more easily understandable).
      Last edited by Abra; 07-16-2012 at 05:43 AM.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

    2. #2
      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      How can an atom "experience green"?
      By interacting with green.

      I agree with your premise though, except you're still setting arbitrary parameters to consciousness.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      Yeah I wrote this at like midnight after my third day of 7 hour shifts. :I
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      But if it's an emergent property of matter then doesn't it essentially have a physical location?

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      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by ♥Mark View Post
      But if it's an emergent property of matter then doesn't it essentially have a physical location?
      Ok. Point to which set of atoms specifically house consciousness. What about people who have had part of "the conscious matter" destroyed (and regain their identity)?
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Specifically, of course I don't know, but I would point to those who have had all of "the conscious matter" destroyed and... stopped being conscious (or being much of anything else, for that matter.)

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      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      That's like claiming a school of fish needs a leader.

      By definition of Emergence, consciousness would not need a singular location.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      No it isn't. That's like claiming a school of fish needs a bunch of fish.

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      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by ♥Mark View Post
      Specifically, of course I don't know, but I would point to those who have had all of "the conscious matter" destroyed and... stopped being conscious (or being much of anything else, for that matter.)
      If I was with Omnis, I would argue that if someone's brain were to explode, or be split completely in half (including the peripheral nervous system), each bit of brain would be a new identity, though they wouldn't have "equal claim to the original," since they can't recall all of the original's memories.

      Also, not technically arguing for one or the other. My conclusion is an "or" statement. It just so happens we will be able to test this some time in the future.
      Last edited by Abra; 07-17-2012 at 02:49 PM.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      I like your eloquent description of how consciousness is an emergent property of matter!

      I agree that the two copies would be identical consciousnesses until both experienced different inputs (so almost instantaneously, I imagine).

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      Also, not technically arguing for one or the other.
      Nor am I, really. I was just wondering out loud. It just seems easy to see it as no matter how much you cut it up or rearrange it, the consciousness is still tied to some bit of matter somewhere.

      If I had to guess, though, I'd say if we did truly understand what happens in these cases it'd probably do more to rewrite (or erase) our ideas of individuality and personal identity than it would the mechanics of consciousness.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      both the man on Venus and the man on Mars would become independent individuals as soon as their inputs changed; each would have equal claim as to which was the original)
      Ah, so as soon as they begin receiving sensory input from the two different locations, the sum of all their past experiences becomes minutely different, therefore they become different people.



      It still wouldn't explain exactly what consciousness is/where it resides, but it would certainly answer some questions.
      Abra likes this.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      If I was with Omnis, I would argue that if someone's brain were to explode, or be split completely in half (including the peripheral nervous system), each bit of brain would be a new identity, though they wouldn't have "equal claim to the original," since they can't recall all of the original's memories.

      Also, not technically arguing for one or the other. My conclusion is an "or" statement. It just so happens we will be able to test this some time in the future.
      My argument is just because an emergent system has a gestalt aspect to it, it doesn't have any more claim to an identity than the individual atoms that make it up.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


    14. #14
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Personally, I have never been satisfied with explanation in the form of "X is an emergent phenomena" which is not really an adequate explanation at all. I'm worried that problems like this one suffer from the same problem of the Sorites paradox, which is the problem of vagueness. If a man has one hair on his head then we can rightfully declare him bald and if he has two, three, or four hairs on his head we can hold this assertion. Yet if the man has a thousand or ten thousand hairs on his head we cannot rightfully call him bald. So the question is (and I apologize for the long-windedness of this explanation to those who have heard of this before) when how many hairs qualifies a man as being bald?

      If it is 10, 000 hairs which qualifies a man as being hirsute then why not 9, 999 hairs? It might seem to be a rather boring answer to someone who is not trained in analytical philosophy but the problem doesn't really have an adequate answer because of the ambiguous definitions we employ to these phenomena (as Omnis mentioned). Of course if you ask a philosopher a question many will foolishly (imo) assume that the question has an answer in the first place but I believe that often it is the definitions we utilize and the and the fact that we are asking the wrong questions in the first place which is the "plaque" in the heart of many philosophical problems.

      My problem with emergentism is deeper than this however. You (Abra) are right to point out that an individual neuron does not have any qualitative experiences yet a neural network does somehow give rise to these qualitative experiences (which I will henceforth just call qualia) in an organism which is host to them. If we define emergence as just a physical system which exhibits novel properties which are the result of the interactions of simpler components of the system yet this "emergent property" of the system is not reducible to them (individual components). In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. If this is the case with consciousness, then a physicalist who postulates emergentism as an explanation for the emergence of qualia in a physical system cuts off the branch they are sitting on because if indeed the sum is more than the whole of the parts, then under Leibniz's law, the mind and brain are not identical thus token physicalism seems false....

      Of course the mind is always embodied in a biological organism, I'm not asserting that the mind can exist without a nervous system just that there seems to be more to the mind than just simply the brain. I think it wise to not only consider the brain but the nervous system as a whole, the body and its interaction with its respective environment.



      With this preliminary tangent aside, on to your argument.

      The dilemma has two horns both of which seem counter-intuitive and undesirable to concede as explanations. So the first horn (Ill just call P) as I understand it, concludes that the man is split into two identical men (in qualitative experience and quantitative neural structure) who would become different people with different experiences as soon as they touched Mars and Venus respectively. The question is which would be the "original one"? This violates our common sense intuitions about personal identity because we consider the physical properties which constitute our bodies and minds to be unique; we cannot exist in two places at once and we cannot say that different physical locations qualify as properties because location is not an intrinsic (necessary) property of an entity. This leads to the assumption that personal identity cannot be ascertained objectively and (gasp) there might just be more to personal identity than just the physical body....more on that later...

      The second horn (which I will call Q) concludes that consciousness has a discrete physical location (which again challenges our common sense intuitions) and furthermore does not follow from the first premise. But as Mark pointed out, conscious experience is an embodied phenomena, its seems to be intrinsically connected with physical matter. I also agree as he pointed out that this problem has more difficult repercussions for personally identity than the hard problem which is true considering that Derek Parfit was the one who originally posed this problem as a thought-experiment regarding the continuity of personal identity over time.

      Im afraid the problem gets even worse because a substance dualist would have absolutely no problem in dissolving this problem. According to the dualist, personal identity is not grounded by the body (or any physical substance for that matter) or even memory (as Locke would assert) but is constituted by the immaterial soul. Because the soul is unextended (does not occupy space) it cannot be divided up into discrete units (in this case two identical yet different men) and is not intrinsically connected to the body so the problem does not arise for the dualist but only for those who seek to ground personal identity in physical properties. Of course substance dualism is very problematic yet very rigorous defenses have been offered by philosophers such as Richard Swinburne so I would not simply dismiss the dualist conception of PI out of hand.

      Now I want to get back to the issue of vagueness. What constitutes a "person"? If I were to speculate I would say that a person is indeed constituted by their objective physical properties but also by their own phenomenological introspection. So in a sense I would reluctantly agree with the likes of Hume that personal identity is in part a construction of not only the subject but the subjects interaction with the external world. As Wittgenstein said "The subject does not belong to the world, but it is a limit of the world." If two identical persons are subject to different perceptions they would perceive themselves as respective persons and perceive each other as separate persons so for now, for the sake of answering your question, I am willing to bite the bullet and accept P, in that in a way, the two duplicates are separate persons although I dont feel right about this assertion (most likely because it is contrary to my own intuitions). I suppose I will stop here and wait for responses. Hopefully this will be enough to bring Xei out of his dungeon (and I mean that in the best possible manner, he always demonstrates my ineptitude at dealing with philosophical problems).
      Last edited by stormcrow; 07-18-2012 at 02:41 AM.

    15. #15
      widdershins modality Taosaur's Avatar
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      Premise 4 in the OP relies on the absence of any intrinsic indeterminism in the way minds respond to environments, and the same absence in fields of stimuli sufficiently complex to develop and sustain consciousness. We cannot create complex developmental environments that are sufficiently identical to satisfy your experiment; the determinist would say it's a limit of our abilities, but it may well be a limit of our reality.

      Regardless, so long as you have some means of knowing that you have two brains/people, they are discernible and Leibniz is satisfied.

      The simpler answer to the basic problem is that "you" were only ever a confluence of causal streams with a shifting sense of continuity. An identity with fixed boundaries and variables never existed and cannot be duplicated, but the causal streams can proceed along diverging paths. Neither path will have 'complete' identity with their shared past self, but the pre-teleport individual never had 'complete' identity with its past selves, either. Their identity is no more nor less problematic than pre-teleport.

      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      Im afraid the problem gets ever worse because a substance dualist would have absolutely no problem in dissolving this problem. According to the dualist, personal identity is not grounded by the body (or any physical substance for that matter) or even memory (as Locke would assert) but is constituted by the immaterial soul.
      Don't you have that backwards? The physicality of personal identity is immaterial (pun somewhat intended). Anyone asserting that a discrete unit of identity exists pre-teleport must find a home for the soul in just one of the post-teleport individuals or in neither; both is not an option because as you say, the soul cannot be split. The other answers are going to be deeply problematic for the dualist.
      Last edited by Taosaur; 07-18-2012 at 03:38 AM. Reason: clarity
      stormcrow likes this.
      If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficulties and problems. With this strength, your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.Dalai Lama



    16. #16
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Taosaur, allow me to clarify. I was reciting Swinburne’s argument not my own (if that was not already established) although you are right that I am certainly mistaken that the dualist would “have no problem dissolving the problem”. Certainly the dualist position is problematic, I was trying to convey that the dualist postulates an entity (the soul) which is intended to ground personal identity which (in a very post hoc way) sidesteps the problem other philosophers are confronted with in grounding personal identity in physical substance or psychological continuity.

      Memory and bodies change over time yet the soul (according to Swinburne and Descartes) does not; Swinburne thinks the continuity of the body and psychological states are evidence for personal identity but that the soul is the essential, irreducible component that ultimately grounds personal identity. Furthermore Swinburne denies that there is a logical necessity between the soul and the body so the option that the pre-teleport self (P1) does not persist in either is available to the dualist although as you pointed out we have no sufficient reason to accept this explanation as it seems implausible. In conclusion I misspoke (wrote) the dualist in a way sidesteps the problem but does not answer it in a satisfactory way which is what I should have said but meant.

      The problem with the thought experiment is the dilemma that arises from being forced to choose one of the options which all seem counter-intuitive.

      1a: P1 dies; P2 &P3 survive autonomously
      2b: P1= P2 &P3 (P1 persists as two persons)
      3c: P1=P2; P1 =/=P3 (P1 persists as one but not the other)

      There is no sufficient reason to accept 3c because we have no reason to think that P1 persists as one post-teleport self but not the other. 2b seems equally implausible in part because it contradicts the notion of personal identity which is the persistence and unity of a person through time. A person is the boundary and unity of their own experiences and cannot be identical with two persons with distinct experiences. 1a asserts that P1 does not persist and somehow P2 and P3 persist autonomously which seems the most plausible option but still seems problematic; why does P1 die and if P2 and P3 are still alive what constitutes their personal identity?

      I think there is a fourth option which I alluded to but Taosaur articulated most clearly and elegantly which from my understanding is that there is no persistence of the self because there really is no self. This is another counter-intuitive explanation (perhaps the most) but I think that this seems to be the best one (as in the least problematic) because it dissolves the problem rather than answering it.

      As Taosaur mentioned the P1 was never identical to its own past self (say 10 minutes or 10 years ago) and thus neither of the divergent selves (P2&P3) would be identical to P1 (nor the past self of P1) so as he eloquently put it “Their identity is no more nor less problematic than pre-teleport.”

      From what I understand this seems more or less to be David Hume’s position on personal identity, that the self is a bundle of impressions (perceptions, experiences) and since we only perceive the contents of consciousness and not the very self that is doing the perceiving; Hume concludes that the self is neither an impression or an idea (a copy of an impression, like a memory) but is a multiplicity of impressions which have no reference to an entity like a self therefore there is no self. The self is according to Hume simply a flux of impressions over time and does not have an eternal, unchanging essence of any kind that constitutes personal identity. And if I am not mistaken certain Buddhist philosophies assert that the notion of a self as a unified identity persisting through time is an illusion. Of course Buddhist thought has never been my strong suit feel free to correct me on this.

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