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Hawking says we must leave the Earth
Posted: 03 November 2006 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Hey, wait a minute, PhD in Philosophy.  I thought “Begs the Question” was an error in critical thinking in which the conclusion was implicit in one of the premises.  How does that apply to the two statements in which you accused me begging the question?

In the first, I merely said I made an assumption, not that I reached a logical conclusion.  In the second (geez, I thought I was a nitpicker :D ) I should have said “the person would have an observationally identical consciousness.”  LOL

[q]“But how is this different from you dying of cancer while your identical twin survives? I mean, it’s very nice for your twin, but OTOH you’re dead!”[/q] 

There’s a big difference.  Only if I died at the moment the zygote separated would my identical twin be really identical.  After a lifetime only our DNA would be the same, not our personalities.  Again, to be precise, an observationally identical me would survive, and while the actual transportee would have ceased to exist, I (the transported) would be quite certain that I was he. (neglecting the time delay for the various therapies).

Occam

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Posted: 03 November 2006 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]In the first, I merely said I made an assumption, not that I reached a logical conclusion.  In the second (geez, I thought I was a nitpicker :D ) I should have said “the person would have an observationally identical consciousness.”  LOL

Hmm ... well in the first case, the assumption you made (e.g. that the atom was the same) begged questions—whether or not the atoms are the same is part of what we’re wondering about. (One could say, “same atoms, same consciousness”, but I don’t want to beg questions by making the problem so easy to solve :wink:).

In the second case, I don’t know what you mean by “observational consciousness”. Consciousness is something one is only aware of subjectively, unless you are a closet behaviorist ...

The question I’m after is what goes on from the inside, subjectively. We all agree on the observational stuff.

[quote author=“Occam”]There’s a big difference.  Only if I died at the moment the zygote separated would my identical twin be really identical.  After a lifetime only our DNA would be the same, not our personalities.  Again, to be precise, an observationally identical me would survive, and while the actual transportee would have ceased to exist, I (the transported) would be quite certain that I was he. (neglecting the time delay for the various therapies).

Well, I don’t think you’re appreciating the force of this argument. Imagine there is some parallel world to earth (call it “earth2”) where parallel you does all the same things you do and is in all ways observationally identical to you up until some time T. The only difference is that earth2 is off somewhere in another galaxy halfway across the universe.

Now, if you die at time T but your twin survives on earth2, it’s all well and good for your twin, but you’re dead.

From the outside someone might say “well, now we know what Occam’s life would have been like had he survived”. But unfortunately you’re not around to see this. Your subjective consciousness has ended.

That, in a nutshell, is the issue with these transporter thought experiments. We all agree that you appear to survive, or maybe two of you appear to survive. But what would it be like to go through the transporter from the inside? Would your consciousness cease once you pressed “transport”? Or would you survive? And so on.

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Posted: 04 November 2006 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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I recall listening to a “conversation” between my youngest step-son when he was nine and my mother.  I realized that neither had the slightest idea what the other one was talking about, but they very nicely waited for their turn to make their statement.  In solid geometry one could describe their conversation as two non-coplanar lines.  It didn’t matter how long it went on or the directions it took, they would never intesect.

I feel the same way about this thread.  Quite possibly, if we were in the same room and discussing it orally, where we could insert quick provisos, conditions, and definitions, we could understand each other. 

I recognize from your comments that I’ve been totally inadequate at communicating what I mean.  I just don’t know where to go from here, verbally.

Oh well, I’ll try one more time.  If someone placed a stick of dynamite just behind your head and detonated it.  Your brain would be totally destroyed on less than a millisecond.  Would you know your consciousness ceased?  It seems you are asking whether one’s {original} consciousness {really, really} ceases when one is transported and picks up again as one is reconstituted.  While I think this is the “angels on the head of a pin” kind of argument, it appears that it depends on how one envisions consciousness - is it merely an artifact of the brain [like someone answering “111” when asked how much is three times thirty-seven] or is the consciousness an entity wth a life of its own or its own consciousnessLOL

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Posted: 04 November 2006 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]I recall listening to a “conversation” between my youngest step-son when he was nine and my mother.  I realized that neither had the slightest idea what the other one was talking about, but they very nicely waited for their turn to make their statement.  In solid geometry one could describe their conversation as two non-coplanar lines.  It didn’t matter how long it went on or the directions it took, they would never intesect.

I feel the same way about this thread.  Quite possibly, if we were in the same room and discussing it orally, where we could insert quick provisos, conditions, and definitions, we could understand each other. 

I recognize from your comments that I’ve been totally inadequate at communicating what I mean.  I just don’t know where to go from here, verbally.

Yes, it can be a bit confusing. There are a number of other things we could go through to motivate the issues ... talk about qualia (subjective feelings) etc. But really this discussion is sufficiently far afield already that I don’t feel any real need to push the issue.

[quote author=“Occam”]Oh well, I’ll try one more time.  If someone placed a stick of dynamite just behind your head and detonated it.  Your brain would be totally destroyed on less than a millisecond.  Would you know your consciousness ceased?  It seems you are asking whether one’s {original} consciousness {really, really} ceases when one is transported and picks up again as one is reconstituted.  While I think this is the “angels on the head of a pin” kind of argument, it appears that it depends on how one envisions consciousness - is it merely an artifact of the brain [like someone answering “111” when asked how much is three times thirty-seven] or is the consciousness an entity wth a life of its own or its own consciousnessLOL

I do believe that consciousness is an artifact of the brain. That’s not at issue, and none of the case studies I’ve raised call that into question.

So: let us, if you like, assume that consciousness is an artifact of the brain.

There still remains a separate question: one of personal identity over time, i.e. under what circumstances do you persist, and under what conditions do you die, does your consciousness cease to exist.

Clearly consciousness cannot be identical to certain physical atoms of the brain, because we all know from elementary science that you may well change every atom in your body over time, and yet your consciousness persists.

So consciousness, personal identity, persists through physical changes in the brain. Would it also persist through teletransportation, or not? What would it be like to teletransport? Would it be like going from here to the moon very quickly, or would it be like dying? What about cases where the transporter malfunctioned? How could we discover the answer to such questions?

Consider them philosophical brain teasers. But if you can’t get the hang of them, no biggie.

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Posted: 08 November 2006 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Possibly this isn’t within the limitations of philosophical discourse, but I’ve decided to obviate the question by a shift in the putative engineering equipment on which it’s based.  We’ve assumed that the transporter disassembled the atoms of the transportee and reassembled them at the destination.

I suggest that the transporter forms a quantum entanglement at the the originating site and the destination.  Then, the person walks through the portal at the first site and emerges at the destination without having to traverse the intervening space and without having anything done to his/her constituents.

Since it’s exactly the same person who started and who ended there is no loss of indentity, even momentarily.  All that has changed is the location of the person.

[I feel like the acolyte who dropped a one and a two pound weight and found they fell at the same rate.  When he reported this he was banished for contaminating the logical arguments   LOL ]

Occam

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Posted: 22 November 2006 03:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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It seems that doug is really trying to get at questions of the mind and the self here more than questions of the practicality of transporting people.

I think that if I were put into a transporter and accidentally duplicated, that there would then be two of me with equal claims to my “selfhood.”  Both of those selves might think, “I’m the original and that other guy is just a very good copy.”  They’d both plan to go home to my wife at the end of the day, etc.

As time went on these two selves would diverge as they had different experiences.  What if one stayed in the same job and town, while the other one suddenly embarked on a two-year tour of the world?  Would people start to say, “The one who stayed behind is the real Yonts, and the one who took off is the copy.”?

I don’t really know how much about this area, but it seems that the transporter thought experiment often comes up when people are arguing that there’s no such thing as mind or self.  For instance the Infidel Guy recently interviewed a Buddhist who brought this up.  I’m reaching way back, but I think Hofstadter and Dennett included some transporter stuff in “The Mind’s I.”

It seems reasonable to me that the mind is nothing but a convenient shorthand for the processes that take place in the brain.  As you have mentioned in other posts, doug, when specific parts of the brain are damaged, specific parts of the mind can go away.  But there might be some good arguments on the other side.

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Posted: 24 November 2006 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Good points, Yonts. I think you’re getting the flavor of the thing.

[quote author=“Yonts”] Would people start to say, “The one who stayed behind is the real Yonts, and the one who took off is the copy.”?

This is actually a separate question from the one I was asking: my concern was what it would be like from the inside to go into a transporter. Would it be like dying? Or like going somewhere else?

A separate question is how other people would treat the transportee ... and I think it’s pretty uncontroversial that they would treat it as the same person. ... unless there were two copies. But in that case things get complicated. Say Yonts robbed a store and then jumped into the malfunctioning transporter. Would both the Yonts who stayed behind and the one on the moon be subject to arrest and imprisonment for the crime?

[quote author=“Yonts”]I don’t really know how much about this area, but it seems that the transporter thought experiment often comes up when people are arguing that there’s no such thing as mind or self.  For instance the Infidel Guy recently interviewed a Buddhist who brought this up.  I’m reaching way back, but I think Hofstadter and Dennett included some transporter stuff in “The Mind’s I.”

Haven’t read the Hofstadter/Dennett book but it wouldn’t surprise me if they used such thought experiments. They are very prevalent in philosophy. FYI they are best explicated in Derek Parfit’s book Reasons and Persons, which takes a very Buddhist view of personal identity. I don’t recall if Parfit is himself Buddhist, but his view is quite similar.

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Posted: 27 November 2006 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Would it be like dying? Or like going somewhere else?

Right, presumably there would be a time period where there would be two of the person, so that it could be confirmed that one arrived safely at the destination.  So would you step into the thing knowing that one copy of you would be killed?

I think the time it takes would matter to most people.  If it’s a fraction of a second, then fewer people would be bothered by it.  If the “original” stands in the transporter chamber for an hour while the “copy” is being examined by a doctor, that would be pretty different.  The original is pleading for his life and we’re going to disintegrate him?

Of course there’s no place to draw a reasonable line.  What about a three-second overlap?  It would certainly be a terrible three seconds for the person it happened to.

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Posted: 27 November 2006 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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[quote author=“Yonts”]Right, presumably there would be a time period where there would be two of the person, so that it could be confirmed that one arrived safely at the destination.  So would you step into the thing knowing that one copy of you would be killed?

This also depends on how you tell the story. In Star Trek, for instance, the transportee’s body is de-materialized before being re-materialized on the planet’s surface.

Now, de-materialization in other circumstances kills you. (Think of a ‘destructor beam’). Shouldn’t you be a bit concerned about using such a device?

[quote author=“Yonts”]I think the time it takes would matter to most people.  If it’s a fraction of a second, then fewer people would be bothered by it.  If the “original” stands in the transporter chamber for an hour while the “copy” is being examined by a doctor, that would be pretty different.  The original is pleading for his life and we’re going to disintegrate him?

Of course there’s no place to draw a reasonable line.  What about a three-second overlap?  It would certainly be a terrible three seconds for the person it happened to.

We can also imagine that from the POV of the Yonts on the moon, he doesn’t know whether the Yonts on the earth is still around or not. Maybe Yonts on the earth was destroyed in the transporter, maybe not.

And some would want to say that if the Yonts on the earth was destroyed, its consciousness will be transferred to the Yonts on the moon. But how can that depend on the destruction of the Yonts on the earth? If it hadn’t been destroyed, its consciousness would have stayed on the earth.

Very confusing stuff.

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Posted: 28 November 2006 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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To me, though, a transporter that disintegrates you and then puts you back together someplace else, while it might be terrifying and dangerous, doesn’t seem as creepy as one that duplicates you.  You might look at it as being similar to major surgery:  you’re going to go to sleep, and you might or might not wake up.  Not something you’d do just for fun, but you’d probably endure it if there was a good reason.

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Posted: 01 December 2006 04:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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To get back to the topic that originated this thread:

Check this out . Apparently Hawking is saying it again.

Here’s a short clip:

LONDON (Reuters) - Humans must colonize planets in other solar systems traveling there using “Star Trek”-style propulsion or face extinction, renowned British cosmologist Stephen Hawking said Thursday.

Referring to complex theories and the speed of light, Hawking, the wheel-chair bound Cambridge University physicist, told BBC radio that theoretical advances could revolutionize the velocity of space travel and make such colonies possible.

“Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out,” said Professor Hawking ...

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Posted: 01 December 2006 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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It’s an odd thing to say, isn’t it, more like something you’d hear from a high-school sci-fi fan than from the guy that’s got Isaac Newton’s old job.

I mean, sure, who knows what technology might exist in the distant future, and what it might mean for space travel.  But if you have the ability to survive a six-year space trip, do you need a planet to live on?

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Posted: 01 December 2006 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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I’m inclined to agree with you, Yonts. It’s a little juvenile. We’re so far away from making this sort of SF into reality, that I’m not clear what the point is, unless Hawking just enjoys being oracular.

OTOH one never knows if this hasn’t been taken out of context ...

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Posted: 01 December 2006 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Could he have reached the point in his career, like some of his predecessors, where he feels compelled to expound on issues outside his expertise?  The physical constraints on space travel, such as the speed of light, are pretty well known.  At this point, manned space exploration is more of an engineering, economic, and political problem.

You probably know more about this than me, doug, but didn’t Newton write a lot about God later in his career?  And didn’t Einstein spend more time writing political tracts in his last years?

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Posted: 01 December 2006 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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[quote author=“Yonts”]You probably know more about this than me, doug, but didn’t Newton write a lot about God later in his career?  And didn’t Einstein spend more time writing political tracts in his last years?

Newton got very involved with nutty Biblical numerology and the like. Einstein, Russell and others spent their later lives writing more for public consumption than doing important cutting-edge work. It certainly seems similar with Hawking, but I don’t know if he’s doing good cosmology as well.

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