Posts Tagged 'identity'

Existence, the Self, and Immortality

I recently finished reading David Brin’s latest novel:  Existence.   It is brimming with ideas – overflowing, entertaining, thought-provoking, and imagined in hugely creative and insightful detail.   See http://bit.ly/PfuFFh

It  explores acres of fascinating questions and hypotheses, including the possibility that in the near future (next 30 to 100 years) humans will be able to make copies of themselves.

This raises a question that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and that can only be answered by a thought-experiment.

Question: 

If you make fully-working and conscious copies of yourself, does that mean that you will continue to live through those copies?  – That you won’t die?

Additional Context:

Ray Kurzweil, important prophet of the Singularity, has said very emphatically that he wants to live forever, and that everyone who says that they “accept” death is kidding themselves.

Thought-experiment:

Well, let’s say that before you die you can upload all your DNA and your entire neural connectome, and whatever else would make  the upload into a complete working copy of you.

So then when the organic body you’ve been hanging out in for all these years dies, will the existence of the version of you that is created from all your data mean that you will not have died?

That is, will it be any different from what we now know as dying?

Here are more ruminations that can shed some light:

Let’s say you create 2 copies, or heck, 2000 copies of yourself.

Immediately after these copies are “activated” they will be identical to you – at the time the copy was made.  They will each “wake up” and for them at that moment it will be like having been asleep during the time between making the copy and activating it (waking it up).

But now they will each also start having new experiences, which will be entirely different.  Some of them will get sick, some of them will die, some will have good luck, some will not.

(And don’t forget they’ll all have to share your single set of possessions, relatives and friends and bank accounts as they gradually start differentiating and ‘making their own way in the world.’)

So how is this kind of “waking up” in a new copy of your body any different than waking up each morning (after some time of unconscious sleep) in your current body?

I’m not sure it is any different.

So, what that tells me is that if you die in your sleep it makes no difference to the copy of you that died, because that copy is now dead.   Other copies may continue to live, but that doesn’t change the fact that another copy of you died.

In other words – you who are now living in your mother-born body will not continue to exist – you will die – even if copies of you continue to live.   That is, those copies won’t really be you.  They will each have their own you.

So the tragedy of death isn’t really such a great tragedy to those who have died (as we all have said many times) – it is only an event that affects those who know you and continue to live.  That is, the copies can be some comfort (or maybe continued torment) to those who loved (or feared or disliked) you.

So why is our own personal death such a big deal?   Again, I think this thought-experiment shows that it is not.

People accept death for a number of reasons – most of which have to do with the fact that they identify with something larger than their own ego, mind, body and set of memories.  For example:

  • They believe they will live in heaven with God after they die.
  • They are able to directly experience their own inner Self as pure Consciousness which they experience as unbounded, unchanging, and as the source of all creativity and intelligence.
  • They have had some other but related type of mystical experience.
  • They’re inspired by children and continual new life and they’re willing to let others take their turn.  (They aren’t greedy.)
  • They accept death along with birth, sex, and the pursuit of knowledge and happiness – all as important parts of Life on Earth – and throughout the Universe.
  • They feel their life has been fulfilling and they’re ready to move on to whatever mystery awaits.

(This thought experiment also raises another metaphysical question:  What if your body and living mind is actually — startlingly to some —  associated with a soul that lives after death and is repeatedly reincarnated – or that goes finally to its reward, or elsewhere.

So, given the existence of a soul of some kind, will all the copies of you have to share the same soul?  If so, will the soul get confused when one or multiple copies of you die – e.g., not know when to reincarnate, or cause some mental/psychical instability in all the different copies? 

Or instead, will each new copy of you somehow automatically generate a new soul?  This question is in parenthesis because I know it isn’t so important to people who don’t believe in souls or reincarnation or heaven or hell.  But no one of us can really be sure, until you die, or maybe have a near-death experience.   So it’s definitely an interesting question to pose.  And I definitely don’t have a final answer to it.)

Collective vs. Collected Intelligence

There are two types of intelligence:  Collected and Collective.

There is no such thing as “all by yourself” intelligence.

“Collected intelligence” is when one person or group collects intelligence primarily for its own use and benefit.   It doesn’t require other people’s permission or even awareness that their data is being collected, or how it is being used.

“Collective intelligence” is intelligence collected from or contributed by many people who are aware (or have the ability to be aware) of what is being collected and how it is being used – and where those people have rights and abilities to use the intelligence for their own purposes,subject to agreed on constraints, privacy rights, etc.

Collective intelligence, according to this description, is absolutely required for reducing social fragmentation and for increasing social coherence, innovation, and prosperity for all.  Collective intelligence is also required for producing anything that could be called “collective consciousness.”

Collective intelligence can also be described as “connected intelligence” which might be a good idea, since many people still use the term “collective intelligence” when they really mean “collected intelligence.”

(For more thoughts, see  also 2008 post “When is Collective Intelligence also Collective Consciousness?“)

The Web of Meaning

“Meaning” is about causes and effects, attributes and relationships.   Meaning gives rise to all ideas of good and bad, help and harm, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, smart and dumb,  and context and relevance.

All meaning comes from a web of relationships.

Relationships exist in nature: expressed in the “laws of nature” and in and between all non-living substances and objects, and in and between all living beings, including relationships in and between our bodies, our ideas and minds, our societies and cultures and sub-cultures.

The combination of all webs, known and unknown, is called the World, the Universe.

An identity is defined by a particular combination of webs of relationship, which gives rise to a particular perspective.  “I” am one such perspective.  “You” are another.   The intersection  of my perspective and yours is our perspective.  Everything else is theirs, or unknown.

Words with essentially the same meaning as these have been expressed over and over, beginning no later than three thousand years ago.  More recently, similar ideas have been expressed by at least a few million people.

The ideas have been expressed in abstractions like these, and in rich, moving detail in myth, stories and reflections, in philosophies, religious texts, poems, novels, blog posts.  To some, abstractions are dry; to others they are juicy.   Having many expressions is vital.

What are the implications of this understanding?  What can we do and achieve with it?

An answer:  The more we understand this, individually and collectively, the more likely we will be to honor other perspectives, and to want to work together to come up with better perspectives, giving rise to better solutions.  Our future depends on this happening.

Is this true?

If so, what actions and transformations are necessary to bring this about?

my ego

I am my body
I am my memories
and interests
experiences
abilities
skills
knowledge
relationships

loves
likes  dislikes
aversions  fears
aspirations
responsibilities

If I want to be, I am even
my money
my prestige
my title
my reputation
my tribe, and my position in it
my power over others
others’ power over me
the grandness or puniness of my house
and possessions
my ‘brand’
my blog

I am my boundaries
which I either choose or don’t choose
And when I experience no boundaries
I am unbounded

The Sanskrit word for ego means ‘I amness

There is an understanding that:

When we transcend the limitations of the ego
The ego doesn’t disappear.  It expands to unboundedness
while also maintaining useful boundaries
and shedding useless limitations.


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